After releasing two albums during 1978, Heart waited until February of 1980 to issue their fifth studio album. Bebe le Strange was their highest charting album to date, reaching number 5 on the Billboard Magazine album charts.
It was their first album without lead guitarist Jeff Fisher, and he was missed. Nancy Wilson and Howard Leese were a competent guitar duo as their electric work together is very good. What was missed, though, was Fisher’s acoustic playing which was always a highlight of Heart’s music.
The Wilson sisters moved front and center. They co-wrote all ten tracks. Songwriter Sue Ennis was back as the co-author of seven songs. She also contributed some guitar and piano work as well. These three women lyricists produced an album of more personal songs, continuing Heart’s transformation toward a female-dominated rock band.
Bebe le Strange may not have yielded any big and memorable hits but it was a very solid release. It was also their last true all-rock album as they soon began moving in a more polished pop/rock direction.
The title song was the first track and set the tone for what was to follow. It was a hard-rocking song with lyrics telling a story from a groupie’s perspective. It was followed by what may be the album’s strongest track, “Down On Me,” which is a nice and slow blues tune.
There are a number of other very good tracks. “Even It Up,” the only single from the album to crack the American Top 40, is a female rock song about a woman who wants more effort from her male partner. “Rockin’ Heaven Down” is a powerful rocker and a fun-filled romp. “Strange Night” has a jam feel which is different from most of Heart’s precisely constructed material. “Sweet Darlin’” is a nice ballad with another brilliant vocal by Ann Wilson.
Bebe le Strange remains a very good if not one of their best albums. It may not be one of their essential albums but it is still a good listen thirty years after its initial release.
Article first published as Music Review: Heart – Bebe le Strange on Blogcritics.