Sibling rivalry is well known but sometimes it can have positive results. When Ann Wilson starting playing guitar her sister Nancy vowed to play it better. Eventually, Ann lost interest but Nancy kept practicing and it paid off, big time.
The Seattle based Heart started out as the Army with Ann Wilson (vocals) Howard Lesse (guitar/keyboards), Steve Fossen (bass), Michael Derosier (drums) and Roger Fisher (guitar). They did standard Hard Rock material but showed a decided preference for Led Zeppelin.
The band played all over the Northwest and finally changed their name to White Heart. After a try at college, Nancy joined the group. They then re-located to Vancouver, Canada. There were a couple reasons for this. At the time the Vancouver music scene was much more vibrant. Secondly, safely in Canada the male members of the band didn't have to worry about the draft.
In '75 Heart released "Dreamboat Annie" which featured "Crazy On You," "Magic Man" and the title track. They jumped on one of the 70's major Rock trends Rock trends - blending acoustic and electric instruments. But contractual problems with their record label, Mushroom, kept Heart from capitalizing on their success. Once the dust cleared they were on Columbia Records and that led to their most successful period including the "Little Queen" album with "Barracuda," one of the most blistering Rock tracks of the decade.
Romantic entanglements and band pressures caused Fisher, Fossen and Derosier to leave after the "Private Audition and "Passion Works" LPs in the early '80s. That looked like the end of Heart. Not so, they returned as a five-piece group that included veteran Mark Andes on bass. Andes had been in Spirit in the early '70s with Randy California and Jay Ferguson. From there he went to the highly forgettable Firefall. Heart was certainly a step up. This line-up was primarily known for ballads ("What About Love," "Alone" and "These Dreams") but they could still Rock with "Who Will You Run To" and "There's The Girl" from the "Bad Animals" CD.
In the 90's, Ann and Nancy Wilson performed as part of the Lovemongers. "Jupiter's Darling," released in '04, marked Heart's first album of original material in over a decade.
Ann Wilson's debut solo album "Hope & Glory" arrived in '07. The set's first single was a remake of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song." "Our version starts a little like a little dot on the horizon, but by the time it's done you've been overrun by all the barbarians," said Wilson. The covers album contained "Goodbye Blue Sky" (Pink Floyd), "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" (The Animals) and "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" (Bob Dylan). Sister Nancy, Wynonna, Lucinda Williams and k.d. lang contributed.
Late '07 turned out to be a relatively active period for Heart. They performed on the ABC special Frosted Pink. Proceeds benefited organizations that focused on cancers that affect women. Ozzy Osbourne's wife, Sharon, also appeared on the program. Just a few days later, "Dreamboat Annie Live," a CD and DVD documenting a Heart concert in L.A. that featured the group performing their entire debut album, was issued. The disc also had covers of songs originally recorded by Led Zeppelin, the Who and Pink Floyd.
Heart made a high profile appearance on the '08 edition of Idol Gives Back, American Idol's charity effort. The group played a shortened version of "Barracuda" with pop singer Fergie. "'Barracuda' is usually five minutes long, so we were sweatin' it with the arrangement," said Nancy Wilson. U2's Bono, former Idol contestant Chris Daughtry and actor Brad Pitt also appeared. Though the show failed to earn the previous year's ratings it did raise millions of dollars for various U.S. charities that help disadvantaged children.
Also, the Wilson sisters performed at an Artist for the Arts Foundation benefit to garner funds for the continuation of Music Education in SoCal schools. The event was filmed and posted on the AFTA Foundation website.
In '10, both Ann and Nancy took part in We Are The World: 25 for Haiti to aid the earthquake ravaged nation. A few months later (August) Heart issued their first studio album in six years, "Red Velvet Car." The twelve track set included a reworking of the Lovemongers' song "Sand" and was promoted by an extensive North American tour. It became the group's first album in two decades to crack the Top 10 on the Billboard 200 chart. Not only was the album Heart's highest charting debut effort to date it was also the band's first Top 10 recording since '90's "Brigade," which reached #3.
The "Red Velvet Car" DVD, filmed at a Seattle show earlier in the year, came out soon after.
The Wilson sisters appeared in the 2010 VH1 Divas Support the Troops, along with Katy Perry and Paramore. They performed "Crazy On You" with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Following an '11 summer co-headlining tour with Def Leppard, Heart unfurled a career spanning box set, "Strange Euphoria." '12 saw the Wilson's publish their autobiography, Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll. The book was co-written by Charles L. Cross (Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain). Just weeks later, Heart's 14th studio album, "Fanatic," with the title track and "Walkin' Good," came out.
It was a long time coming but Heart was finally inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
"It never occurred to us that Ann and Nancy Wilson were women existing in a world dominated by men," said Soundgarden's Chris Cornell during his Heart induction speech. "They blasted any sexist barriers in front of them."
1976 Dreamboat Annie
1977 Little Queen
1978 Dog And Butterfly
1980 Bebe Le Strange
1982 Private Audition
1987 Bad Animals
1993 Desire Walks On
2004 Jupiters Darling
2010 Red Velvet Car
2011 Strange Euphoria (box set)
Like a handful of '70s bands, Heart is known for melding acoustic and electric instruments. "Greatest Hits/Live" does an excellent job of demonstrating their prowess, especially on the live material. They rip into Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll." It's a great overview of the group's '70s output.
"Dreamboat Annie" (with "Magic Man" and their all time best track "Crazy On You") and "Little Queen" (containing their second best Rocker "Barracuda") are Heart's signature studio albums. The band went through a rough spot in the late '70s and early '80s. They returned with the hit ballad "What About Love" from "Heart." The album also contains the mid-tempo "Never." Overall, the next album "Bad Animals" has their best '80s performances.
"Jupiter's Darling" harks back to the '70s Heart. Ann and Nancy, backed by recent additions (no one from the 70s through 90s line-ups), shows there's still some power and glory left in the old group. When they Rock, as on "Oldest Story In The World" and the hot "Vainglorious," they do an admirable impersonation of their younger selves. The songs aren't as good as they once were since the group now lacks the ability to attract top drawer songwriters. But having hits doesn't seem to be the point. This CD is a group (or at least Ann and Nancy) reclaiming their legacy.
Though Heart was a major '70s act Ann Wilson came of age in the late-60s. "Hope & Glory" uses that era's songs as a commentary on current events - including an unpopular war.
The low-key acoustic yet urgent renditions often give additional weight to the songs. On nearly every track Wilson is joined by another vocalist ranging from Elton John to Shawn Colvin, with Rufus Wainwright in between. The album works best when the subject matter and arrangement lightens and the tempo picks up. This is especially true on the "Immigrant Song," "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" and "Bad Moon Risin'," which has an irresistible Country shuffle.
In much the same vein as "Hope & Glory," "Red Velvet Car" leans hard toward acoustic songs. It could almost be called "unplugged." Anyone hoping for the raucous highs of "Crazy On You" or the manic energy of "Barracuda" will not find it here. "WTF," "Wheels" and "Queen City," an ode to growing up in Seattle, are as fired up as the Wilson sisters get. They are superb songs but are a long way from overdrive. The remaining midtempo tracks and ballads are led by the smoky opener "There You Go" and "Hey You."
The best songs on "Fanatic" (the title track, "Dear Old America" and the power ballad "59 Crunch") could have been on "Dreamboat Annie." Thanks to Ann's vocal range and emotional depth and Nancy's electric-acoustic blends, Heart's ballads are usually noteworthy. For a change up, reminiscent of "These Dreams," the mid-tempo "Walkin' Good" has synth strings and Nancy sharing lead vocals with Sarah McLachlan. "Rock Deep (Vancouver)" is Ann's acoustic road trip through the band's old stomping grounds.