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Non-Prog DVD/Video Reviews

Heart

The Road Home DVD

Review by Bruce Stringer

One of my all-time favourite bands, Heart, has finally released The Road Home DVD in the UK with a few bonus items. The DVD is of fantastic quality and in 5.1 surround sound. The selection of songs has been well conceived and, given that it is an acoustic performance, sits just fine apart from other Unplugged releases. Recorded at the Moore Theatre, Seattle this is an intimate representation of the music assisted by members of the Seattle Symphony.

The DVD begins with The River with some beautiful orchestral backing and the Wilson sisters in fine form. Their performance is heartfelt and emotional. Dog and Butterfly is rounded and spatial, giving the song a new lease on life with spot-on vocal harmonies. The stage is set up in a comfortable atmosphere that is both welcome and warm. As Nancy would say: "Welcome to our living room".

(Up On) Cherry Blossom Road has a kind of slower, moodier country feel and is broad in it's sonic capacity. Interesting to note that Denny Fongheiser (ex-Suzanne Vega band) plays hand percussion instead of drums throughout much of this show. A newer classic in line with some of the older Led Zeppelin sounding acoustic pieces is Back To Avalon and is a real foot stomping piece with a great chorus and, once again, those perfect vocal harmonies. It is rhythmic and conceptually very cool. One of the better of Heart's 80's songs is Alone and here we are provided with a full acoustic rendition taking it away from it's dated sound and breathing life into it. The crowd obviously like what they hear and so do I.

These Dreams was always kind of kit-or-miss for me, however this arrangement with string introduction does for it what the acoustic parts do for Alone. It is a pity that these tracks weren't originally arranged as they are here as they have greater depth. Nice to see Ann playing 12-string and obviously enjoying herself as Nancy's vocal work is brought to the forefront and are fitting alongside her sister's backing as they reverse their roles briefly. Dreamboat Annie (Fantasy Child) is a classic from a classic album and this version is a great testimony to the amazing song-writing abilities of the sisters and Heart as a whole. Ann plays some beautiful flute and the song is one of the best on this release.

One track which I do not think overly exciting is Seasons, which looks to be a filler (or for diehard fans), but it's songs like the incredible Dream of the Archer from Little Queen which stand out over most other songs of the performance with duelling mandolins and smooth vocals. One of my all-time favourite songs and a brilliant version - well worth buying the DVD just for the inclusion of the tracks from Little Queen! Love Alive is next with Ann getting intimate with her auto-harp and is a great alternative to the electro-acoustic version from the original album. Once again, Ann's flute work demonstrates a deeper understanding of her place not only as a singer but as a musician within the group. The crowd obviously love it as the middle section explodes into the spotlight. I never really had a grasp on the lyrics from Heart's mid-70's era (bad trips?) and I still haven't - maybe that's part of their magic?

One song I used to hate is All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You and although this version is far superior to the pop-rock version the lyrics don't really grab me (-there's one for equality!). It is well placed musically and is a nice arrangement, though. Straight On is cool and funky. It's the up-tempo numbers that really drew me to Heart's work and in this version Fernando Saunders' (Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend) fretless bass work really stands out.

Mistral Wind is another odd classic that the sisters have brought to life again with it's lightly dis-chordant eeriness. Piano doubles up parts of the weird guitar theme and the choruses are wide and apt to the arrangement. As the wind dies off the rocking Barracuda bursts onto the screen and, although almost totally acoustic, it still has the energy one would hope. Cool to hear the outro guitar parts and the riff throughout on acoustic without the electric guitars of the original.

So, what would one be able to follow Barracuda with? In this case, Love Hurts, the old classic. Nice and full of feeling.

Although containing a nice string arrangement, I really feel that Crazy On You needs that guitar riff to sustain it's energy. In this respect I am two minds however the bottom line is that I did enjoy this version for its slower All Along The Watchtower type of feel. Maybe a future mix of both acoustic and electric would work well… Hang on, isn't that what Heart used to do?!

The Road Home ends the concerts performance and is a nice piece along the lines of Back To Avalon, though unfortunately it is used more as a film-clip/ credits visual aid. Overall a superb concert presentation.

Bonus features include an electronic press kit (a 10 and a ½ minute promotional video with interviews and behind the scenes footage) which is really informative - especially considering Led Zeppelin band mate John Paul Jones' involvement; Crazy On You from Lay Leno; and The Road Home from Later with Greg Kinnear.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

 
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