With an unlikely resurgence in 2010 with the sleeper hit Red Velvet Car. Heart keep the train rolling with Fanatic. The album features ten new songs including “Walkin’ Good” which features Sarah McLachlan). It comes on the heels of the band’s memoir, Kicking and Dreaming, and is a particularly good companion piece, intentionally or not.
While Red Velvet Car may have had you convinced that Heart’s last real rocker would be “WTF?” and that they would ride into the sunset gracefully playing folksy jingles and mid-tempo modern rock (although great songs nonetheless), Fanatic will prove otherwise. I’m hard pressed to a name a time when the band has sounded more aggressive than they do here. The gritty, almost grunge-tinged, guitars on the title track are perfectly accentuated by Ann’s Zeppelin-esque wail. “59 Crunch” and the timely “Dear Old America” back up this idea wholeheartedly by delivering pure rock and roll goodness complete with distorted guitars and dynamic vocals.
The band also deliver a slightly softer side here sporadically. While working out aggression appears to be the main goal here, the band’s softer side is represented well with the string-laden “Walkin’ Good” which, as I mentioned earlier, also features vocals by Sarah McLachlan. In a way it seems to be celebrating the bands ties to Canada. This is a theme that also pops up on “Rock Deep (Vancouver),” a song that pays beautiful tribute to the band’s adopted home and the one where they really got their start, as we learn in Kicking and Dreaming.
For me, the highlight here is “A Million Miles.” The tinge of programming and U2 inspired guitars are topped off by what I would safely consider to be Ann Wilson’s most powerful vocal performance ever. It’s a reigned in rocker that lets loose at all the right times and brings a completely new dimension to the Heart sound. Which was something completely unexpected to me in their fourth decade of bringing their music to the masses.
Fanatic is fantastic! Heart are in the prime of their career right now, whether you believe it or not. This album easily stands toe to toe with any of their classic albums. It wonderfully incorporates the dirty guitars of the seventies, the bombast of the eighties, and the more introspective moments of the nineties and early new millennium works. This is the sound of Heart coming full circle and delivering a must have album…yet again. Fanatic is by far one of the best releases of 2012 and is absolutely essential to your music collection.
Review by Mark Fisher
Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, soul, and Rock and Roll
Ann & Nancy Wilson
Kicking and Dreaming is the official memoir of sister rockers Ann & Nancy Wilson. The book follows their journey from humble beginnings to mega stardom, from crashing and burning to an unlikely new millennium rebirth. Setup as a series of stories as told by both sisters, former band members and managers, and close friends, Kicking and Dreaming reads much more like a collection journal entries than a proper book. It’s that approach that makes this such a strong offering though as you gain insight into the very private world of Heart as well as what was happening in each of their lives that caused them to unite, and sometimes divide, throughout their legendary career.
Heart is one of the few bands that can very neatly be categorized into decades. So, if you are a fan of a particular decade but not another, it’s easy to just pick and choose what interests you here. I will say though that as a fan who grew up on eighties Heart albums, I was particularly fascinated by the portions of the book that deal with the seventies. The band were much more of…well….a band…in the seventies than they ever were in the eighties and as someone pushing forty, it’s much easier to appreciate that reading this now. I love how both sisters spend so much time discussing how Roger Fisher, and his brother Michael (their one time manager), were such an integral part of Heart and it’s shaping in the formative years. As a matter of fact, the sisters do their past proud through the entire book by giving credit where credit is due and not downplaying the contributions of others. This book could easily have focused entirely on them.
Overall, this book is certainly primarily for Heart fans. In a bigger way though, this will appeal to any fan of biographies or memoirs that loves music. The Wilson’s have a fascinating personal story and their take on the music industry is spot on. These ladies may not have seen it all but when they were seeing things they were entirely aware of what was happening. A great example of this are their thoughts on their eighties work (best summed up with the phrase “Leave it to cleavage”!). This is a great read from start to finish and their recent albums leave me with high hopes that this is just Volume 1 of Kicking and Dreaming!
Reviewed by Mark Fisher