Given the shaky state of the recording industry these days, many veteran bands aren’t spending the time or money to create new albums to coincide with their tours. “Why would I make a record?” the Who’s Roger Daltrey asked hypothetically in a Rolling Stone interview. “There’s no royalties, so I can’t ever see that happening.” What we’re getting instead are packages like Paul McCartney’s “Pure McCartney,” a cherry-picked compilation of his post-Beatles music, and this new Heart album, which includes a couple of new songs among seven tracks from the archives. But at least Heart bothers to redo those songs, with often beneficial results
And the new songs are strong. Ann Wilson, who remains as powerful a belter as just about anyone in the arena-rock world, rips into “I Jump,” a Led Zeppelin-infused rocker about taking a leap of faith into a new romance. The guitars explode, and there’s a simpatico string arrangement by Paul Buckminster, who has done similar work for the Rolling Stones and Elton John. Another new track, the tasteful piano ballad “Two,” was written by R&B star Ne-Yo, and features a warm lead vocal from Ann’s sister, Nancy. It also mines the intimacy of love: “So let them say what they want, but all that matters is you and me.”
As for the revisited older tunes, they’re principally drawn from the early ’80s, but “fell through the cracks” at the time, Ann claims. Two are from the album “Bebe le Strange” (1980), two from “Private Audition” (1982), and two from “Passionworks” (1983). All were released by Epic Records; curiously, there’s nothing here from Heart’s subsequent six albums for Capitol.
The most anticipated new treatment is for “Beautiful Broken,” which features a punky cameo by James Hetfield of Metallica. He adds one new line (”She’s beautiful and broken just like you and me”), but his appearance is brief and not especially notable.
Otherwise, most of the revised songs — many are high-energy power ballads — achieve better quality than the originals. Lyrics are tweaked here and there, and some keys are changed to accommodate the drop in Ann’s voice. She’s still a force of nature on the psychedelic, Jefferson Airplane-influenced “Johnny Moon” and the passionate “Heaven,” which has a Zeppelin-like Middle Eastern feel as she belts “hang on strong to me and let me show you how sweet the strong can be.” She’s still vocally uninhibited after all these years, and Heart devotees should appreciate these new updates on their classic sound.
Heart performs with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Cheap Trick at Xfinity Center, Mansfield, July firstname.lastname@example.org