Mitchell: Heart keeps on surfacing

It has been a big year for Heart who seem to be working on phase three of a lengthy career.

Heart: Fanatic (Sony)

It has been a big year for Heart who seem to be working on phase three of a lengthy career.

They were the late seventies folk, pop and rock duo of hits such as Dreamboat Annie, Magic Man and Barracuda.

After a few fallow years Heart returned in 1985 with a self-titled and streamlined arena rock album that featured blockbuster hits like What About Love, These Dreams and Never.

A couple of years ago Heart released Red Velvet Car that became a surprise top-ten album seller and this new disc titled Fanatic, is also shifting units at a brisk pace, while earning some very good notices.

The group, or make that Anne and Nancy Wilson, have published a memoir Kicking And Dreaming: A Story Of Heart, Soul And Rock ‘n’ Roll while they have also released a four CD career retrospective titled Strange Euphoria.

Fanatic finds the Wilson sisters returning to the harder guitar rock of yesteryear with the edgy and angular rhythms of the title track as well as the rootsy and bluesy Skin And Bones.

Heart always cited the rock and folk side of Led Zeppelin as a major influence and this can be heard again on 59 Crunch which, as the sisters say in their liner notes, has “free associated psycho-surfer lyrics”.

There are folky fond memories from Heart of their days living in the lower mainland with Rock Deep (Vancouver) while they team up with Sarah McLachlan for the ballad Walkin’ Good which sounds like an updated personal assessment with the line “anyway, I’m OK.”

Producer Ben Mink of k.d. lang fame produces and accentuates a lot of the songs on Fanatic with strings as played by him that sweetens the sound making Fanatic a much better album than anticipated.

I don’t hear a killer single here but old Heart fans will be delighted with this solid album.


Jackie Evancho:

Songs From The Silver Screen (Columbia)

Jackie Enavcho became quite the little cottage industry last year with three releases and a video that all sold very well.

The petite 12 year old from Pittsburgh with her amazing fully grown adult voice took the pop/classical music scene by storm and her handlers seem to be aiming for even more crossover success with this album of songs made popular from movies (the movies where each song comes from follows the song title on the liner).

Almost all of the songs are age appropriate meaning there is nothing sung that might be construed as being too mature or adult oriented for a pre-teen but you can imagine the platonic romance a young girl entering puberty might feel in songs such as Some Enchanted Evening (South Pacific) and

When I Fall In Love (Sleepless In Seattle).

One song even explores, at least tenuously, romantic, and perhaps sexual awakening with The Summer Knows (Summer of ‘42) which was about a young lads loss of innocence.

The rest of the songs here are bon hommie tunes with absolutely no inappropriate overtones and explorations in the wonderment of Pure Imagination (Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory), Can You Feel The Love Tonight (Lion King), What A Wonderful World (Good Morning Vietnam), My Heart Will Go On (Titanic) and The Music Of The Night (Phantom Of The Opera).

Songs From The Silver Screen makes for solid family entertainment but I still wonder where the little girl went to in the mix when I hear a Jackie Evancho recording.

These songs are done with reverence and maybe a little too much gravitas to the material and I wonder where this comes from…the handlers or the wee lass herself.

Fans should note that this 12-song CD also comes as a CD/DVD.


Jerrod Niemann:

Free The Music

(Arista Nashville)

I remember reviewing the debut album from Zac Brown a few years back where I announced my coverage as something of a public service.

In my opinion, at the time, I thought Brown’s fine first album was excellent singer/songwriter fare with strong country overtones but that normally ultra conservative country radio would probably overlook it as Brown was just a little too odd for their xenophobic tastes.

Zac Brown looked more like a hippy-slacker with his laidback music while his album titled Homegrown suggested pot more than pick up trucks and Jack Daniels.

My fears were unnecessary.

Country radio got all over Brown and he has had a huge and very prolific career.

Maybe the country music biz is evolving into a less conservative milieu with more open minded airwaves and this might also be illustrated by Jerrod Niemann and his sophomore album conveniently titled Free The Music.

Niemann has been a successful Nashville songwriter over the years penning songs for the likes of Garth Brooks and Neal McCoy amongst others and he scored a No.1 hit with his first solo single Lover, Lover.

This sophomore effort really lives up to its title with an eclectic set of songs that dabbles with New Orleans horns, funky beats, atmospheric synths, reggae and a hint of hip hop on the opening title track.

His new single Shining On Me co-written with Lee Brice is a breezy country beach song with a minor Bo Diddley backbeat while the fade out has a sly reference to The Band’s evergreen The Weight.

I’ll Have To Kill The Pain is a fine sister song to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville while It Won’t Matter Anymore marries a little New Orlerans horns with an old Roger Miller vibe.

But for left of the dial sounds check out the subtle psychedelia of Guessing Games and the Coldplay sonics on Only God Could Love You More.

The obvious second single is the sensuous duet with Colbie Caillat on I’m All About You.


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