Review :­ Heart – 'Beautiful Broken'

Bands re-imagining or revisiting past albums is not a new idea. Many have gone back and refreshed previous albums using technology that wasn’t available to them at the time of the original recording. I would have been sceptical had Heart decided to go back and reboot the likes of ‘Crazy On You’,’Magic Man’, or ‘Barracuda’, songs that need nothing new added to them, but the fact that the band chose a particular period in their career to cherry pick songs from had my spidey-sense tingling in anticipation. The period in question is from 1980­-1983, and the three studio albums that the band had released during this time, ’Bebe Le Strange, ’Private Audition’, and ‘Passionworks’ all having tracks represented. It was also the time of a band in transition as ‘Private Audition’ was the last album that featured original members Steve Fossen and Mike DeRosier, who gave way to Mark Andes and Denny Carmassi on bass and drums respectively. Current bassist Dan Rothschild, who also served as co-­producer with Nancy Wilson, perhaps sums it up best by saying, “On these classics, some of which had suffered from an eighties ­era over-­editing ­production ­curse, we stripped the paint off and found the beauty underneath,” The album, however, opens up with a more recent reworking. The title track was originally a bonus track on Heart’s last album ‘Fanatic’, but this new version sees James Hetfield lend his instantly recognisable voice to this barnstorming rock track. The running time is just over two minutes, so it’s short, sharp, and punchy as hell. Heart have always been revered in the metal community with bands from Seattle especially paying homage (check out ‘Ring Them Bells’ from ‘Desire Walks On’, which features Layne Staley on guest vocals, or the Alice In Chains VH­1 tribute to Heart), and this is just another example of how respected they actually are amongst their peers. Hetfield sounds like he’s having a blast, and the band are clearly enjoying themselves on a track that begins like a garage band, and features a soaring chorus without any actual words. Many of the seven reworked tracks benefit from some incredible orchestral arrangements, thanks to Paul Buckmaster, who has also worked with The Rolling Stones, amongst others. ‘Sweet Darlin”, for instance, sounds completely re­energised with the added strings, and is perhaps the album’s standout track.. Always a fan favourite, this deep cut from ‘Bebe Le Strange’ sounds incredible. Also from the same album, we have ‘Down On Me’ which has a live vibe to it, and sounds way heavier than the original. The strings are also featured on ‘Language Of Love’, subtle and effective, without being overpowering. The track is lighter than the original, and has a Carole King/Carly Simon romanticism about it. The ‘Passionworks’ album is represented by a new version of ‘Johnny Moon’, which features some stunning vocal harmonies from Nancy that sound almost spirit-like, especially through a pair of cans. Again, the track feels ‘live’.
‘City’s Burning’ is perhaps the track that sounds the most different from the original. It’s slower than the 1982 version, which was steeped in 80’s sheen and sounded confused in which direction to go. Here, despite it being a much slower tempo, it’s way grittier and has a grungey guitar sound that sounds massive. Also from ‘Private Audition’ is ‘One Word’. One of Nancy’s most underrated moments, this is laidback and has a slow burning feel to it. Nancy also takes over on one of the three new tracks that make up the album. ’Two’ was written by R&B star Ne­Yo, and he kindly handed it over to Heart after Nancy registered her interest in the track. An old fashioned piano led ballad, that is unashamedly romantic. The two other new tracks are anything but ballads. Both ‘I Jump’ and ‘Heaven’ tip their hats in a show of respect to Led Zeppelin. The latter begins with some psychedelic sitar before the band gradually come in to build on the trip atmosphere. An understated, yet sublime, vocal performance from Ann Wilson, and the guitar work from Craig Bartock is stunning. ’I Jump’ has a ‘Kashmir’ guitar sound that gets the head bobbing, and drummer Ben Smith brings the thunder on a track that sounded massive on the recent live dates. Despite featuring seven reworkings, this is not an album that sounds nostalgic at all. It sounds fresh, relevant and above all, classic Heart. ‘Beautiful Broken’ is released July 8th   Review: Dave Stott

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