Triple ‘Heart’ Attack Review – Kicking and Screaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll / Fanatic / Strange Euphoria
Well guys this will be a first for your 80’s Guy..try and review three HUGE releases by Heart in the same post. These include: Kicking and Screaming A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll a very moving tell all written by Ann and Nancy Wilson with Charles R. Cross, Strange Euphoria a 3 CD/1 DVD Box set retrospective spanning nearly 40 years of Heart music and Fanatic, the brand new 2012 Heart Studio Album. Talk about your cardiac alert due to sensory overload! I may need a defibrillator and CPR when all is said and done but knowing I’m paying my own tribute to the dynamic sister duo of Ann and Nancy Wilson maybe just what the doctor ordered.
Beyond being just a bold account from the points of view of two sisters who went though the same trials, tribulations, sufferings, highs, lows that we all do in life was the brutal honesty each seemed to display in describing events sometimes very personal and not very flattering to either one. Ann’s battle with stuttering in school brought on by her own misgivings about her weight, Nancy having a personal relationship with Roger Fischer then breaking it off to start one with drummer Michael Derosier while still trying to keep the band afloat, both sisters describing how life early on as daughters of a Marine and the constant traveling and toll it places on them personally are just a few that come to mind.
Most rock n roll biographies or memoir type books I have read do try and describe things to the best of their ability as that person remembers that event. What’s so refreshing about this book is that you may get a different perspective on the same story from not only Ann or Nancy but maybe older sister Lynn, former guitarist Roger Fisher, long time songwriting contributor Sue Ennis, former manager Michael Fisher (“Magic Man” himself), longtime band mate Howard Leese and others.
There are several accounts of how the girls had to deal with becoming respected musicians to a field long dominated by men. That runs the gamut from club and bar owners, record company executives, band members to producers. Remember, the 70’s were filled with days when sexual harassment and innuendo were not only deemed acceptable by those days’ standards but commonplace. The vision that these two sisters had not only for their music but for what needed to be down in terms of dealing with this type of “macho” attitudes without compromising their integrity is what separates the Heart story from many others and what is so appealing about the girls in general as woman and not just legendary musicians.
There are plenty of laughs along the way too, the band being referred to as an early incarnation as “Led Zeppelin with tits” does have a distinct ring to it. Their love of the Beatles in the mid 60’s and how 10 year old Nancy didn’t want to be a “Beatles wife” in 1964 but wanted to be in the band when she talked about it with her school friends was a sure sign of things to come. Geoff Foubert was one of Nancy’s first boyfriends and recalls a moment where older sister Ann grabbed his shoulders threw him up against the way and said “When are you going to fuck my sister?” Geez… talk about your pushy sibling rivalry..Ann takes it to a different level for sure.
The relationship that they both had with their Mom and Dad and older sister Lynn was touching throughout the book and at the various stages of their lives and certainly kept them both grounded, something that has carried them through a few marriages and now as mothers with their own families.
These ladies have survived a lot and have come through on the other side as strong women creating new music and touring more than ever before. This was such a fun read and very informative as well as we learn about the origins of certain hit songs and why they are so personal in addition to how they become tougher to perform as the years go on. This book will not only resonate with Heart fans everywhere but moreover it’s a real story of two sisters who knew what they wanted to do from a pretty young age and would not let anything get in their way. That theme is universal and who knows maybe attract a reader in the library who sees the book as a gateway to the sister’s music..which is really at the HEART of the matter anyway.
Some box sets are just collections of songs taken from one album to the next with maybe an extra track thrown in or a live song tossed along the way to get that hard core fan to buy it while still having an appeal to the average fan who may have for no reason at all ever bought more than that one hit album in the band’s catalog. “Strange Euphoria” gives Heart fans the first song Ann Wilson ever performed on, early demos, rare live tracks, and some previously unreleased material along with a DVD from 1976 taken from a performance at Washington State University. Because these tracks were all handpicked by Ann and Nancy themselves, that fact (without question) separates this from anything chosen by a record label in the hopes of knowing what a Heart fan might want or expect. These girls do and the box set delivers big time and will bring hours of enjoyment for years to come.
Included in this set is a booklet with a track by track memory from either Ann or Nancy or both describing the song or a story about it. It also includes dozens of terrific photos both color and black and white of not only the girls themselves but the entire Heart band through the years as well. That’s something I think you take away from this is the contributions that others have made to shape the Heart sound over the years and that it was always a band environment and always will be.
The DVD really captures the Heart lineup of the first few records at their height including hits such as “Crazy On You”, “Dreamboat Annie” and “Magic Man”. You have to love the beards, long hair, Nancy’s boots, Howard’s mullet and some of the special effects used during filming. Very indicative of the 70’s and that’s what makes it the perfect choice for inclusion in this set. A small intimate audience but the band has some major fire on stage without any flash pots or smoke.
Rock fans if you don’t own any Heart recordings in your collection first of all SHAME ON YOU but do yourself a favor and pick up “Strange Euphoria” it will leave you with a very “Familiar Intoxication “of all of those Heart songs you have loved over the years, most you’re familiar while others maybe not so much. Ann and Nancy Wilson have done their best over the years to entertain you, move you, rock you and this box set is the essence of all of these emotions wrapped up in one collection.
Can Heart still move a guy in 2012 the way that they did in 1985 when I was seventeen and looking for a band to entertain me and rock out? Yeah, the self-titled Heart album is my favorite and was the first time I got to see the band live which is why it is my favorite but the new “Fanatic” does have it’s ROCK moments for sure with Ann and Nancy not looking to slow down at all and maybe even pick up the tempo and pace with studio effort number 14. There is a little bit of everything on “Fanatic” with the band again working with Ben Mink (KD Lang, Geddy Lee, Barenaked Ladies) who not only produces the album but also contributes songwriting, guitars, banjo and keyboards.
The album starts off with “Fanatic” - the first single/video - and right away you get rocked by the Wilson sister’s right out of the gate, heavy, aggressive and tons of guitars. One thing is for sure: Ann has lost NOTHING from her vocals as she has aged. This is my favorite song on the album.
“Dear Old America” deals with the Wilson sisters and their experiences having a Marine Dad and dealing with that separation he had with the family. It’s a very personal track but still rocks hard. Nancy is playing with a fury I have not heard in a long time.
“Walkin’ Good” includes Nancy along with Sarah McLachlan sharing vocals. It’s oody, slower tempo and seems to be a leg slappin banjo feel to it, some really incredible harmonies from the girls on this one.
“Skin and Bones” appears to be Ann in a reference to her issues with her body weight that she talked about at length in the past. It starts off slow but then the tempo picks up a bit then slows down again – catchy chorus and Nancy again rips. (Update: Thanks to Felicia for helping to fill us in on the true story behind the song, read about it here.)
“A Million Miles” is haunting and rocks as hard as any track on the album. My favorite drum track from Ben Smith is on this track. Interesting mix of keyboards from Ben Mink here as well.
“Pennsylvania” has a much slower pace than the others and you get that Ann style ballad vocal on this one. Just raw Annie on this one!
On “Mashallah!” Ann hits some serious high notes. Not much to the lyrics in terms of substance but those screams are worth it anyway!
“Rock Deep (Vancouver)”recounts the bands early days playing in Canada and hoping to make it big in the States. Deep story telling from the girls here pace similar to Pennsylvania.
“59 Crunch” is the best Nancy has to offer both on guitar and vocals. The Wilson sisters both share vocals here and harmonies. Very melodic but heavy at the same time. My second favorite behind “Fanatic”.
“Corduroy Road” is very bluesy. Get Nancy and Ann sharing vocals again. You see the Zeppelin influence on the girls on this track for sure. Slow but still heavy.
Can the Wilson sisters still rock out? No question. Can they still write from past experiences and resonate with their audience? Yes. I hope older fans give “Fanatic” a good listen because they may be missing out on a great mix of well crafted new music while at the same time missing out on vintage Heart as well.
And for additional viewing pleasure, check out our gallery of live Heart photos: