Back To The Future With The Women of Heart

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Classic rock powerhouse Heart is embracing their roots. In this case, that means plans for their next album are taking them back to the days before all-things-digital became the norm.

Although the group has been touring for a while, they have also been logging some studio time in between dates to work on a new album, which is being produced by Ben Mink. Mink also worked with lead singer Ann Wilson on her solo album Hope & Glory.

Little is known about the new album beyond what Nancy Wilson recently revealed to Spinner. There are said to be ten songs pretty well finished up, with a couple more to work out before the album is completed. The group hopes to release it in the spring, but what’s most interesting is Wilson’s statement revealing that “We’ve been approaching it on a really human level. There’s not a digital construct anywhere.”

In addition, the recording is a return to a more old school methodology where all of the musicians are playing at the same time in the same space. “We are putting up baffles and playing together at the same time: drums, bass and guitars, all at once, in the same room, looking at each other and jiving off each other, so that it’s really a conversation in process,” Wilson adds.

Hearing this news can really raise expectations for fans like myself who consider Heart’s debut album, Dreamboat Annie one of the greatest rock albums of all time. That’s due, in part, to the quality of the recording, which, needless to say was 100% analog back on the mid-1970’s. It was recorded on an old Ampex MM1000 16-track tape machine (for the engineering geeks out there), which the technical crew somehow coaxed an astoundingly beautiful mix from.

For my money, it’s one of the best recordings I have ever heard, and I’m hoping that the folks in the control room can at least come close to the exemplary work done by Patrick Collins and Rofl Henneman, who are credited for the mastering and engineering on Dreamboat Annie.

If I may borrow some terminology from the world of sports, I envision my Heart “fantasy band” in the studio with some or all of the original musicians from the early days, with the result being something that really sounds like material from the 1970’s version of the group.

That may be the sound they are shooting for with this new album, and I’d love for them to hit the bull’s-eye, but as other enduring groups have discovered, the old magic can be very elusive. That is especially true when only two original members remain in the group.

I don’t want to come across as a wet blanket, but even though this analog-only thing sounds like a cool idea, for this fan, Heart will always be that group that blew my mind with Dreamboat Annie; not the band I’ve seen and heard more recently which the enormously talented Wilson sisters have been fronting.

I’m content to leave it at that. I know there are still legions of loyal fans out there who still love the group in its current form, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt and wrap this up by saying I will let the new album speak for itself when it is released.

3 Comments

  1. Kevin December 3, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    To get a sample of what the current version of Heart sounds like in the studio, check out 2004’s “Jupiters Darling” album. It was surprisingly good, with both the hard rock/metal and folk/acoustic elements from the 70’s version of the group. It was easily their best work since Bebe Le Strange, and head and shoulders above their popular hair metal albums of the 80s. I imagine this new album will be just as good now that they seem to be focused on quality music instead of the MTV cameras.

  2. C.D. December 4, 2009 at 11:14 am

    “We are putting up baffles and playing together at the same time: drums, bass and guitars, all at once, in the same room, looking at each other and jiving off each other, so that it’s really a conversation in process,” Wilson adds.

    This being said, I can only imagine what the results will be. Shiver me. Mic placement and folks who dare to engineer beyond the norm always seem to capture what unfurls in any room filled with genuine artists, poets, musicians and voices. Analog sound or not, what gets recorded is gonna be good. Listeners of music will hear the spirit of what goes into a recording no matter what. Two original members plus four other bandmates make the band a group. Heart. That is what I have always admired about Heart. Nothing has stopped them and nothing has torn them apart. Nothing. I believe what we are going to hear from them in years to come will surprise many and keep others grinning, rocking and singing their hearts out!

    • Real Rock News December 4, 2009 at 12:00 pm

      Indeed! Getting back to the “old ways” in the studio sounds like it could have very positive outcome. If it sounds anywhere as good as Dreamboat Annie, it will be great.

      As for the group. Well. I’m open to hear what they have in the works, but I sure do miss the Heart I listened to back in the 1970’s.

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