There have probably been thousands of box sets released during the last three decades. Heart has taken the road less traveled with their Strange Euphoria set. It is not just a regurgitation of their greatest hits, but also includes some deep album cuts and a number of true rarities. It you just want their best or most popular tunes, there are a number of greatest hits sets available. If you are a hardcore fan of the band or want to dig a little deeper into their history, then this is a set worth owning.
The career of Heart, with Ann and Nancy Wilson, has reached the four decade mark. They have released 13 studio albums and over a dozen live and compilation albums. Strange Euphoria represents the first time the Wilson sisters have opened up the vaults for demos and obscure material. The set also includes song-by-song annotations, anecdotes, and commentary by the Wilson sisters.
Disc one contains six previously unreleased demos and two early live performances. “Magic Man” is almost like a folk song and it’s interesting to compare it to what it would eventually become. “Crazy On You” contains some of the best acoustic guitar playing of Nancy Wilson’s career and this demo makes it available for the first time. The acoustic demo of “Dog & Butterfly” is another early song that serves as a history lesson for the version that would finally be released.
Unreleased live versions of “White Lightning and Wine” and “Barracuda” are included. The first was one of the foundations of their early concerts as it contained serious lyrics encased in music that makes you want to get up and dance.
The first track is “Through Eyes And Glass” by Ann Wilson & The Daybreaks. It was Ann and Nancy’s first original recorded song, released on the small Topaz label in 1968. It may have not changed the music world, but it is historic as it catches the Wilson sisters at the beginning of their career.
Disc two offers up some familiar and some obscure. Well known songs such as “Bebe le Strange,” “Even It Up,” “These Dreams,” and “Alone” follow Heart’s middle career transition from hard rock to a smoother brand of music that would sell tens of millions of albums and singles. The most unique track is a live version of “Never” with John Paul Jones. This simple and almost unplugged version also features Jones lending a hand on the mandolin.
Disc three contains three songs by the Wilson sisters’ side group, The Lovemongers. It was a different sound and two tracks from their Whirlygig album, “Kiss” and “Sand” are included. The first was left out of the Meg Ryan movie French Kiss and the second was later included on Heart’s 2010 album Red Velvet Car. They present the gentle side of the Wilson sisters. “Friend Meets Friend” is a rare unreleased live Lovemongers track.
The oddest track in the set may be the unreleased demo version of “Boppy’s Back.” It was a tongue in cheek acoustic tale about Ann Wilson’s dog.
The accompanying DVD is a live performance from February-March, 1976, recorded for KWSU, Washington State University. The ten song, 57 minute performance catches the band just after the release of Dreamboat Annie. They are in their developmental phase as a band, but Ann Wilson’s voice still soars on such songs as “Crazy On You,” ”Soul Of The Sea,” “Magic Man,” “Silver Wheels,”, “Devil Delight,” and “Heartless.”
Strange Euphoria is an essential release for Heart fans as 20 of the 51 tracks (not counting the DVD) are previously unreleased. It includes material from all 13 of their studio albums and makes for an interesting and career-spanning listen.
Article first published as Music Review: Heart – Strange Euphoria [3 CD + 1 DVD Box Set] on Blogcritics.