Heart Beats back time on new box set

Heart Beats back in time on new box set

"Strange Euphoria" Heart FOUR STARS

"Strange Euphoria" Heart FOUR STARS

— When Ann and Nancy Wilson were growing up in Seattle, their rock and roll aspirations were fueled by a deep love and respect for hard-edged, emotionally-charged music that inspired them to pick up guitars and put together a band of their own. Despite the fact that the music scene was primarily dominated by male performers before their debut, the Wilson sisters formed Heart and proved that rocking out with flair and conviction wasn't just a man's game.

Ann Wilson could sing like Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant better than most of her male contemporaries. But she and her sister Nancy could also harmonize sweetly while strumming acoustic guitars. The band's star rose in the 1970s with hits like "Magic Man" and "Barracuda." Those songs made them a staple of rock radio playlists. They enjoyed a career resurgence in the 1980s thanks to their photogenic exposure on MTV and such radio-ready singles as "Never" and "These Dreams." Now with nearly 40 years of history behind them, Heart takes a panoramic look back with the release of the lavish box set, "Strange Euphoria" (Epic/Legacy).

This impressively designed package isn't merely a by-the-numbers compilation of their greatest hits. While there is a considerable number of crowd-pleasers ("Straight On," "Even It Up" and "Alone"), the set proves to be a far-reaching treasure trove of rarities. Fascinating demos of early hits like "Magic Man" and "Crazy On You" offer a look at Wilson sisters' creative process. A BBC performance of "Barracuda" casts a different yet highly detailed light on Ann Wilson's unrelenting vocal approach. The acoustic demo of "Dog and Butterfly" is even more chilling in its unadorned arrangement.

There also are previously unavailable live performances, the most notable of which is a version of "Never" that features Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones. Tracks from the Wilson's side project, the Lovemongers, as well as solo tracks by both Ann and Nancy round out the song selection. There's also an excellent DVD that features a stunning 1976 concert performance. But perhaps what sets "Strange Euphoria" apart from other career retrospectives is that both Ann and Nancy Wilson dug deep into their personal archives and served as the project's curators, ensuring that not only was every one of these fifty one tracks thoughtfully selected, every performance here is most definitely all Heart.