While the mainstream media are losing their minds over the fact that in 2023 The Rolling Stones have a number one album, and The Beatles are causing queues outside record stores at midnight for the release of what is reported to be the “last Beatles song”, an artist celebrating their seventh decade in the music industry is quietly going about the business of releasing a brand new studio album that is the best thing that they have attached their name to in the last thirty years.
Simply put, Ann Wilson does not release anything subpar. The four studio albums released by Heart in the 2000s are all noteworthy (especially 2012’s ‘Fanatic’, and 2016’s ‘Beautiful Broken’ which saw the band re-interpreting material from earlier albums), and the solo material released – a mix of originals and covers – all hit the spot. Still, you would have to go back to 1993 and Heart’s 11th studio album ‘Desire Walks On’ to find something that can go toe-to-toe with ‘Another Door’ – the debut album from Ann Wilson & Tripsitter.
It takes almost a minute of soft, laidback instrumental music before the unmistakable vocals of Ann Wilson are first heard on the album’s opening track ‘Tripsitter’, and as soon as she offers up the opening line of “I was born inside a hurricane…” it is like coming in from the cold to find a roaring fire already lit. It’s instantly warming. The subtle percussive sound in the background is almost World music-like and is quietly hypnotic as the vocals begin to fill the room. Never one for over-reaching or over-singing, Wilson makes it sound effortless, and any day now the School of Rock will confirm that the entire next semester will be devoted to studying the finest voice in rock music today (still). One of the intriguing aspects about ‘Another Door’ is that although the vehicle’s star is Ann Wilson, it sounds very much like a band in the proper terms, rather than a name and a handful of session players, and with its whimsical music fills (especially the work of bassist Tony Lucido) ‘Tripsitter’ is an early indication of how the remainder of the album will unfold.
With a trip sitter being someone who acts as the designated driver when others are experimenting with hallucinogens or other psychedelic drugs, the name of the band and opening track makes sense (although, it could be purely coincidental), because when the album is at its mellowest (on ‘Tripsitter’, and the utterly charming ‘This Is Now’ and ‘Still’) it is the perfect soundtrack to a blissful trip. ‘This Is Now’ in particular is a towering slice of slow-building rock music that defies the decades. The trip takes a turn on the sinister side with the gnarly opening riffage of ‘Rain of Hell’ and as the narrative of war unfolds, it is stark and sadly all too familiar in current times. The mind-bending, shimmering guitar work from Paul Moak, Ryan Wariner, and Tom Bukovac is exemplary and perfectly sets a scene of destruction. How to follow that up? With the breezy ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ that’s how. The layered backing vocal harmonies are particularly effective, as are the soft piano tones that give the track a bit of a classic Carly Simon feel, or to use today’s terminology: lush.
There is a great deal of variety to be found within ‘Another Door’, and along with the lighter, more mellow moments (‘Miss One & Only’), and the harder, heavier moments (‘Rusty Robots’), there are full-pelt out-and-out rockers in a Foo Fighters-style such as ‘Waiting for Magic’, Zeppelin-tinged moments (‘Ruler of the Night’, where Ann adds her trademark flute sound to great effect, and parts of ‘What If’), and the almost-spoken-word, personal tale of ‘The Little Things’ which could be a tour-de-force when played live….that guitar sound as the song grows to a conclusion…oooft! It’s easy to imagine that the majority of these tracks will take flight on the live stage, with the guitar work especially being fleshed out into towering jams where each player gets their chance to shine. After all, as touched on earlier, this is the sound of a band in the truest meaning of the word.
The only surprise in Ann Wilson delivering one of the top 5 albums of the year is if people are surprised that she has. With the last batch of UK live dates cancelled because of the other “C” word, is it too much to hope for some live dates in 2024? On that, the last words go to Ann herself:
“In these turbulent 600 days we made this. Some parts required great patience but the muses can’t be bought or rushed. It’s got to be real! Thank you, my band brothers, for believing in me.”
Review – Dave
‘Another Door’ is available now with the vinyl version landing November 24th, pre-order information here.
Ann Wilson socials: