There are comebacks and then there are comebacks. Heart’s career was in decline July 6, 1985, when they released their 8th studio album. Millions of albums and four top ten singles later, everything was fine and dandy.
Heart would reach the number one position on the Billboard Magazine Pop Chart and remain on the chart for 92 weeks. It would receive a platinum award for sales four times over. The single, “These Dreams,” would top the singles chart, and “What About Love,” “Never,” and “Nothin’ At All” would all make the top ten.
Heart had been struggling since the departure of guitarist Jeff Fisher. He had been a key component of their early gritty rock/blues sound. Their previous two releases, in retrospect, can be viewed as transition albums, as the band dealt with the loss of two more members, and moved toward a new style and sound.
Heart was a shiny and sophisticated pop/rock album that was very radio friendly. While some long term fans may have lamented their departure from a harder rock sound, they created some of the best pop/rock of the 1980s. Many of the songs still receive radio airplay and are instantly recognizable a quarter of a century later.
The personnel were the same as their previous release. Lead vocalist Ann Wilson, guitarist Nancy Wilson, guitarist/keyboardist Howard Leese, drummer Denny Carmassi, and bassist Mark Andes were all back, which gave the band some needed continuity.
“What About Love” is probably the Heart song I have listened to the most times down through the years. I am always amazed that Ann Wilson could hit some of those high notes. Grace Slick provided some background vocals, and she possesses one of the few voices in rock music that is equal to Ann Wilson’s. When you put the two together, the results are spectacular.
The album’s lead track, “If Looks Could Kill,” was released as the fifth single and stalled at number 54. It has since become a Heart staple. It contains tough girl lyrics set against a rock background.
“These Dreams,” “Never,” and “Nothin’ At All” complete the singles releases. All are power type ballads or a little faster, and they build as they go along, but are ultimately centered on Ann Wilson’s voice.
There are several other very good tracks that tend to go unnoticed. “The Wolf” contains one of the better guitar performances by the duo of Howard Leese and Nancy Wilson. “What He Don’t Know” is another excellent ballad that is somewhat ignored because of what surrounds it. “Shell Shock” is a nice hard rocker and a welcome counterpoint to much of the other material.
One very good decision by the band was to use some outside material. “If Looks Could Kill,” “What About Love,” “These Dreams,” and “Nothin’ At All” did not contain any band member in the writing credits.
Heart remains a career defining album. It is polished and well-crafted rock/pop at its best. Heart’s career flows through this release.
Article first published as Music Review: Heart – Heart on Blogcritics.