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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Heart

Fanatic

Review by Gary Hill

I really like this album a lot. There are moments that seem so much like vintage Heart that you’ll feel like you’ve been taken through a time machine. Still, there is a more modern tone to a lot of it. That makes this a great continuation of the musical legacy of Heart. It should be mentioned that Sarah McLachlan guests on one tune here.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Fanatic

This is a classic Heart sound. The music pounds out and there’s a cool bass line. The whole arrangement just oozes classic rock and this feels like it could have come out of the 1970s. This is the kind of hard rocker people expect from Heart. The instrumental section mid-track has almost a funky fusion kind of texture and the Fender Rhodes that was featured in the backdrop throughout, rises up just a bit after that point.

Dear Old America
There’s a short classical string opening section. Then it gives way to a bluesy rocker that’s quite tasty. This has a more stripped back arrangement. That’s particularly apparent early, but even when it fills out a bit, it’s got less layers of sound than the previous tune did. This is just great bluesy roots rock. Somehow the instrumental section makes me think of The Amboy Dukes at first. Some symphonic instrumentation is added to that mix after a time. When it fires out into the more powered up movement after there are more layers of sound and I’m really reminded a bit of Led Zeppelin. This is a smoking rocker. There’s a short drop to more old time music for a reading of the title at the end.
Walkin' Good (featuring Sarah McLachlan)
Symphonic elements open this and gives way to a balladic approach. The combination of the two vocals really adds a lot. This gets a lot of oomph added in a powered up version of the arrangement later.
Skin and Bones
This one is unexpected and unusual. There are stripped down sections that seem almost like guitar oriented jazz. The powered up sections also have a fairly sparse arrangement, but feel more like blues. This is reasonably effective and has a pretty catchy chorus, but just doesn’t work as well as the first three tunes did.
A Million Miles
Here’s another surprise. The instrumental movement that opens this makes me think of progressive rock, perhaps a bit like Tangerine Dream or Pink Floyd. The vocals come in over this backdrop and the cut grows out gradually from there. It’s about a minute and a half in before it fires out into a harder rocking jam that’s more like something one expects from Heart. It’s another section that is a bit Zeppelin-like. That doesn’t hold it for long, though, and there’s a lusher arrangement on that prog sound that returns from there. They seem to combine those sounds as it continues. Then it drops back to something that feels like a restart of the tune. While this doesn’t really feel like Heart in some ways, I really like it a lot.
Pennsylvania
There’s basically a complex balladic approach to this number. It’s another that seems like it doesn’t fit badly under a “progressive rock” heading. I rally like this tune a lot. In fact, it’s one of my favorites of the set.
Mashallah!
This fires out hard rocking, but the symphonic instrumentation that augments the arrangement lends a different edge to it. This is clearly another effective hard rocker that feels like vintage Heart. It’s another that I like a lot.
Rock Deep (Vancouver)
Is it 1976? When I listen to this classic Heart ballad, I really feel like it might be. This really seems like a lost track from the 1970s era of the group. I like this one a lot. It’s got a lot of emotion packed in the vocal delivery and the acoustic guitar and symphonic overlayers really bring a lot to the table. They rock it out a little more as they continue, but it never really rises to the point of being a real rocker.
59 Crunch
There’s a killer retro sound on this rocker, at least at first. Then some modern hard edged elements are heard in the mix. As this works out it’s a bit more unexpected. Parts of it feel like classic rocking Heart. Other parts have a modern edge, but there are hints of fusion and certainly a lot of blues resides here.
Corduroy Road
It would be quick and easy to describe this as “a classic Heart power ballad,” but that only goes so far. The arrangement, with layers of symphonic instrumentation and a fairly complex song structure, really lends a lot more than that. The Led Zeppelin comparisons are obvious and links to something like “Kashmir,” but a more organic “Kashmir” are worth noting. This gets a lot of other things in play, though. There are points where I can make out some minor nods to the Beatles, too. Whatever you call this, though, it’s a great piece of music that is epic in scope. I can’t imagine a better way to close this disc.

 

 
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