Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Heart ~ Red Velvet Car

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Style: hard rock
Label: Legacy
Year: 2010
Home: Seattle


Members: Ann Wilson ~ vocals/flute
Nancy Wilson ~ guitar/autoharp/dobro/mandolin/vocals
Craig Bartock ~ dobro
Ric Markmann ~ bass
Ben Mink ~ guitar/lap steel/viola/b. vocals

Opening with an acoustic number ("There You Go") that is reminiscent of the Wilson Sister's 90's group the Lovemongers one doesn't know if Red Velvet Car is going to be something old & heard before or reinvigorated new ... but that is forgetting the path Ann & Nancy Wilson have taken under the Heart banner for the last 40 years. They've done an amazing job at recreating themselves to match the times, never quite letting go of the past though. In the 70's they were sexy demons of hard rock, their role greatly under-rated in rock histories, while in the 80's they became AOR synthesizer-laced rockers, when grunge hit they were there most prominently on the Singles Motion Picture Soundtrack with an acoustic interpretation of Led Zeppelin's "Battle Of Evermore" that fit in perfectly with the new music scene. While Red Velvet Car might open with something expected the second track "WTF" brings us right to the present with a blaze of glory thanks to jagged dirty guitars & even vocals obviously reworked behind a computer. Ironically, it's not that far from the music that Heart chugged through the 70's with so this is probably one of the most comfortable sounding albums Heart has done for awhile, not about the radio or commercial success but playing what they're best at. Red Velvet Car is full of catchy songs, mixed with highs & lows (i.e. "WTF", "Red Velvet Car") of wandering guitar sounds the band hasn't played around with since the 70's & well-thought out & unexpected arrangements & as always great lyrics. But, while the sound might sound both fresh & classic its also obvious that it's been 40 years. The songs are a bit slower & Ann is no longer the singer she once was ... & I'm not referring to her obvious weight gain as I still see the lusting beauty she always was & one of the reasons I bought my first Heart album in high school. The dynamic voice that once could have brought own buildings with a single cry has lost some of its roar & it's high range, falling into a mellow deeper range. Her tone is still as beautiful & tender as ever & she has a recognizable phrasing that comes through, but its not the same voice as is immediately obvious from the first song. There's an obvious throaty strain on "WTF", perhaps why the voice is hid behind echo, though maybe this is Ann's imitation of Courtney Love. But, letting go of past voices, the album is a delightful listen that far outweighs any weaknesses. It's also full of that trademark Heart diversity, something lost in their 80's output & pushed almost too far in the 90's. The title-track opens with strings to bring in the guitars later with a short & rough solo that never overruns the mood. It's a soft ballad a la their classic Dog & Butterfly & even ends with delightful church bells echoing in the background clinching the mood. The key to Heart has always been the understated aspects of their music. Yes, they used to play Led Zeppelin's "Rock'N'Roll" in concert & yes, they've had some real all out rock songs but Heart was never about in your ace guitar rock though they are definetly one of the first female fronted hard-rock bands, let alone with one of the first male rock guitarists, but it was always about texture often lost in the hard rock genre. It was about moods over riffs, ambiance over attitude, sex over ... well, heavy metal guys aren't always known as sex gods. Red Velvet Car never rocks out too hard, which might be said to keep the music safe, but this is rock for adults more than 18 years. Heart knows whose probably going to listen to the album so it's not full of over the top guitars & wild three chord cliched punk rock that's become the standard. Red Velvet Car has everything you thought was missing from modern music: memorable melodies, key changes, melodies over riffs, lyrics you can understand, well played parts, layers of sound & textured rhythmic variations. Unlike older Heart albums in the last few decades Nancy Wilson has discovered her singing voice, that is more suited to a folk sound than rock. She sings the acoustic rocker "Hey You" that has a slight country under-pinning. A soft interlude much like the Keith Richards sung songs on a Rolling Stones album. Also like Keith who takes an obligatory two tracks, Nancy returns on the similiar "Sunflower" only to end the album on a folksy acoustic rocker ("Sand") bringing it all back home. When you listen to this album you'll probably feel compelled to break out your old Heart albums. So, make sure you have a day free! As for is this a great Heart album? Yes, Ann's voice is not at its best, but on the other hand it's hard to compare because everything they do is so different. I'd just say go & get it cause it's definetly a highlight. You won't regret it.


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