Where does the time go? It has already been 3 years since Heart's last studio album, the fine Jupiters Darling. Fans waiting for the next one can tide themselves over with several projects, both band and solo.
First, there's the just-released Dreamboat Annie Live, which is exactly what the title says. Similar to Eagle Vision's TV-on-DVD series of "Classic Albums," Shout! Factory has launched a DVD (and CD) series of "Legendary Albums Live," from shows first aired on DIRECTV. But whereas the Eagle Vision DVDs examine the original studio recordings, the Shout! Factory idea is to focus on a contemporary concert of an entire album, track by track, in the original running order.
And the first entry, Dreamboat Annie, certainly qualifies as
a legendary album. Home to "Magic Man," "Crazy on You," and so much
more, Heart's 1976 debut (now 31 years old!) has proved hugely influential. On Dreamboat Annie Live, Ann and Nancy Wilson and their current band (left) are seen playing the
album at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles on April 17, 2007. Of
course, "current band" means that the original guys who helped create the Heart sound — guitarist Roger Fisher, keyboardist/guitarist Howard Leese, bassist Steve Fossen, and drummer
Michael Derosier — are nowhere to be found. Which, in turn, means that
things here lack much of the finesse that those musicians brought to
So, yeah, this is a different-sounding and different-looking band,
but one thing has barely changed: the power of Ann's voice. How did she
ever take such good care of her instrument?
Further, true fans will relish the first encore here: "Mistral
Wind." I will never forget that in a Rolling Stone interview many years
ago (probably conducted by Nancy's then husband-to-be, Cameron Crowe), the
band cited "Mistral Wind" as the one track that, it hoped, would
stand the test of time as the band's own "Stairway to Heaven," or
something along those lines. And even though it thuds a bit here, it
still sounds great. Speaking of Led Zeppelin . . . since another idea of
this series is to have the band encore with covers of artists that
influenced it at the time, Heart's encore continues with "Black Dog"
and "Misty Mountain Hop" as well as Pink Floyd's "Goodbye Blue Sky" and
the Who's "Love, Reign O'er Me."
The DVD is in 16:9 widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.
Extras include reflective interviews with Ann and Nancy and a gallery
of vintage photos/clippings. The concert alone is also available on CD.
Next up: Alive in Seattle — back on Aug. 8, 2002. Yes, this
is the same gig that was released in 2003 on an Image DVD, an
Epic/Legacy CD, and even an Epic/Legacy surround SACD. But Image has
reissued it on HD DVD — which is only fitting, as the concert was shot in high-def. Alas, I haven't found time to live with
the HD DVD yet, but I can tell you that what was once Dolby Digital and
DTS surround sound on the standard DVD is now Dolby Digital Plus and
Dolby Digital TrueHD. Unfortunately, it's all still in 5.0 channels —
yup, no subwoofer. But you do get 16:9 widescreen.
"Magic Man" and "Crazy on You" are here, of course, as are "Mistral
Wind" and "Black Dog" (and a different Zeppelin cover, "The Battle of
Evermore") as well as Elton John's "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters." Plus
"Barracuda," "Love Alive," "Straight On," "Dog and Butterfly," "These
Dreams," "Alone," and more on this career-spanning set — all the way up
to several then-new tracks ("Sister Wild Rose," "Heaven," "Break the
Rock"). Meanwhile, the band here (above)
— sharing only drummer Ben Smith from the Dreamboat Annie Live lineup — sounds decidedly friskier than what Heart would become 5 years later.
And finally: Ann Wilson's first solo album, Hope & Glory,
released by Zoë/Rounder in September. It's a collection of covers, and
some of the familiar suspects are here: Elton John (who actually duets
with Ann on "Where to Now, St. Peter?"), Pink Floyd ("Goodbye Blue Sky"
again), and, natch, Led Zeppelin (a nicely deconstructed "Immigrant
Song"). But then there's stuff like Lucinda Williams's "Jackson" (with
k.d. lang) and Neil Young's "War of Man" (with Alison Krauss) — stuff
that helps give this album, as produced by Ben Mink, a rich, organic
Sister Nancy stops by for the Pink Floyd track as well as two
Youngbloods numbers — not just "Get Together" but also "Darkness
Darkness." There's a lot of darkness on this album, because Ann has Iraq and other troubles on her mind. Thus, we
also get John Lennon's "Isolation," Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad
Moon Rising" (with Gretchen Wilson), and Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's
a-Gonna Fall" (with Rufus Wainwright and Shawn Colvin) — not to
mention, hell, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," the old Animals track
in a performance with Wynonna.
It all wraps up with one new original track: "Little Problems,
Little Lies," which, according to Ann, is about "a soldier in Iraq
laying down to die, bewildered and summing things up." And it's
a powerful end to a genuinely affecting, beautifully sung album. No bludgeony covers here,
folks — just real interpretations.
So, you have to wonder: With Jupiters Darling and Hope & Glory
being the last two all-new releases from the Heartfront, can we expect
another fresh-sounding band effort soon? Here's hoping. —Ken Richardson
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