Heart

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, April 13, 2016 8:23 PM

I remember fondly my discovery of the group Heart when I was in high school. I was a freshman and Dreamboat Annie had been out for nearly a year. I was instantly fascinated with the guitar riff on Crazy on You, the flute on the title track, the venerable Magic Man. And Ann Wilson’s voice. During my freshman year, the band released their second album entitled Little Queen. I bought it immediately. It had Barracuda, which was great, but Love Alive was my favorite. It started slow and built in passion. And the voice. Before my family moved from Columbia, Maryland after my freshman year, my friend Pam took me to Baltimore to see the group. It was amazing. I remember it well. I saw Heart several times in Boston over the next few years and once again in Southern California. The latter wasn’t a good show. By that time, the group had descended into 80s big hair pop, and as much as I love 80s big hair rock, I prefer the male big hair bands. 

Sexist, I know. 

For years, I listened to debates about who the best female rock and roll singer was. Most people’s immediate answer was Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane and then the Jefferson Starship, and eventually just plain old Starship. I never agreed. Maybe because I wasn’t a big Airplane fan, though I did become a Jefferson Starship fan. I just didn’t think Slick had very much same range. Her voice always seemed almost one note. I loved Janis Joplin but she never had a great voice, just a distinct voice. I would listen to everyone and then I would tell them that the best female rock and roll singer ever was Ann Wilson. Most of the time people would stop and look at me and then say, yeah, you know, you’re right. Chick’s got pipes. 

She did and she does. 

I loved Nancy Wilson’s guitar work and I know she was always known as the pretty one, but the front (wo)man was the dynamic one. Some have referred to her as the female Robert Plant, and she and her group did a killer rendition of Stairway to Heaven at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony several years. She put her own signature voice to it and it rocked. 

The band evidently still tours in the same way that bands from the 70s all still tour. They don’t really make much new music anymore, existing off of their old hits. I haven’t listened to them in years. I still have that Dreamboat Annie album, and Little Queen, and all of the others that I bought over the years. I also bought several CDs in the 80s when I was still trying to like them even though they had lost their magic, man. 

Today I got an invitation to like a page on Facebook. It was called The Ann Wilson Thing. Naturally, I liked it. Evidently Ms. Wilson who is now 65, has a new group and she’s touring small cities around the country. She comes to Tucson on the 18th. Next week. 

I listened to several tracks on her album, appropriately called The Ann Wilson Thing. From what I had read, I thought the music would be substantially different than Heart and truth be told, it is different than Heart now but not necessarily Heart then. The music seems tinged with blues. The songs are by Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Buffalo Springfield. She’s had guest performers with her like Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss, and Shawn Colvin. I read where she’d like to have Lucinda Williams join her for a song or two. In concert, she’s not doing Heart songs, opting for covers of Neil Young, Peter Gabriel and more instead. 

The idea is to challenge herself, expand her repertoire, and do something different. But still with that voice. That voice. Still the best female rock and roll singer around, and ever, in my opinion. She had heart. Now she’s got heart, and I may be becoming a fan all over again. Next week, at the Rialto.

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