SISTER ACT, Part 13!
HEART: “Red Velvet Car”
The estrogen-fueled band known as Heart has been making classic American rock/pop for decades. They established their place on the charts with such enduring songs as “Barracuda” and “Crazy on You“ in the ‘70‘s, and found their biggest success during a seemingly endless hit-producing renaissance in the mid-80’s (“These Dreams“, “Alone“, “Never“). The women of Heart– sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson— have actually never stopped making music through the years, both separately and together… but this is their first CD as Heart in six years. How will these bona fide rock queens (Ann is 60, Nancy is 56.) survive in Lady Gaga territory? Well, pop culture tastes change, and the American music buyers are a fickle bunch… but true talent in any form will ALWAYS prevail. And classic rock lovers will agree: These two still got it! Ann’s voice has become noticeably more raspy but no less powerful, and Nancy’s guitar is as impressive as ever. “Red Velvet Car“, Heart’s 13th album, is a mix of both power ballads like the title track, and bona fide all-out rock performances like “WTF” and “Wheels”. Throughout most of the CD, it’s largely the two women’s voices adorned with Nancy‘s guitar, plus drums and bass– and little else competing with the musical purity. The stripped-down final track “Sand“ is a perfect example of how organic musical skills can stand on their own. There’s no electronic trickery or other musical gimmickry on the album– right down to the Wilsons’ straightforward, no-nonsense lyrics.
Heart welcomes us into their rock palace with the mid-tempo “There You Go”, but after that rather genteel intro, it’s time for the hard stuff. Borrowing an overused phrase from the new American lexicon, the second track is named “WTF”, and it’s reminiscent of 1977’s take-no-prisoners “Barracuda”– performed with abandon and featuring a pulsating, throbbing, occasionally haunting guitar interlude. Nancy takes the lead vocals for the folk-flavored “Hey You”, which features a more relaxed, youthful style (Picture a quiet Saturday afternoon in the park with your lover.). “Death Valley” gives us a heavy beat; it‘s as darkly seductive and self-indulgent as the title suggests, right down to the lyrics. Ann roars on this one, but Nancy also rivals her big sis for vocal dominance while showing her guitar magic again. “Wheels”, the most hard-hitting track on the CD, deserves to become the next big Heart hit; it certainly aroused my vintage leather jacket-and-motorcycle fantasies.
For better or worse, Heart doesn’t experiment or deviate too far from their hit-making rock/pop formula with “Red Velvet Car”. That‘s actually a bold move in this era of artists blending musical genres together. As I‘ve said many times before, good music is good music, regardless of style. “Red Velvet Car“ is more than just good music; it‘s a reminder that women can– and do– rock!