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HEART – ‘BEAUTIFUL BROKEN’ REVIEW

HEART – ‘BEAUTIFUL BROKEN’ REVIEW



My first encounter with Heart was seeing them on the back of a 1978 KISS poster from Sweden and I remember thinking back then that they looked like a cross between ABBA and the New Seekers.
 
I pinned up my KISS poster, and that was the last I saw of Heart… until I heard Barracuda and thought, “Who the hell is this? This is just awesome!” When I was told it was a band called Heart, I took down the KISS poster, turned it over and couldn’t believe that THAT song had come from THIS band!
 
Going by the way they looked, I found it inconceivable that they had produced the song I had heard , but they really had – and from that moment I was hooked on Heart.
 
I went out and bought “Dreamboat Annie” and “Little Queen”.  .
 
After that I bought everything they produced and with Dreamboat Annie being my favourite – I eventually bought it on single gatefold, double gatefold, picture disc and finally CD for my music collection.
 
As you can imagine, I was very much looking forward to hearing the new CD, “Beautiful Broken”
 
Beautiful Broken opens with the title track – a full on pounding song with great in your face riffs and featuring dual lead vocals with James Hetfield.
 
My first thought was it could easily have passed as a Metallica track, attention grabbing from the off and making you want to keep on listening to more of the same.
 
I have recently seen a few bands, including Delain, and Within Temptation, who feature a member of another band in their songs, which gives the song a welcome added dimension. Layering Ann’s powerful vocals with the voice of Metallica‘s James Hetfield works brilliantly well in Heart‘s favour – making this, one full on attack on your senses.
 
The blend of Metallica’s vocal aggression and Heart‘s feminine rocky side on Beautiful Broken was a clever combination which really worked …but at a fraction over two and half minutes, you are just getting into the rocky groove when it suddenly ends, leaving you wondering, “What happened? That was short! Why couldn’t they have made this longer?”
 
The next song on “Beautiful Broken” takes you straight into classic Heart with a new love song, simply called “Two”, a strong statement piece with defiant lyrics about standing up to the world, and beautifully sung by Nancy.
 
As familiar as we are with Ann’s superb vocals, tone and range, it’s always nice to hear Nancy’s quieter and softer voice, and she more than does this song justice. It’s a track that can stand up there with the best of Heart‘s love songs.
 
As with the opening track, the 3rd song is another re-take. This time on their classic slow ballad “Sweet Darlin’”, from “Bebe Le Strange”, which, to be honest, does not really improve on the original simplistic stunner of a song.
 
Perhaps I was too used to the way the original 1980′s track reminded me of Kate Bush‘s style of singing at the piano. Like many of Kate’s songs , Sweet Darlin’ only really needed powerful vocals, plus the soft keys of the piano building up to a crescendo of an ending.
 
I could never imagine Kate Bush re-doing “Feel It”, “Under the Ivy” or “This Woman’s Work” by changing the structure slightly and tweaking what were already established and memorable songs, and bringing them out on a “new CD” with very little that was actually new.
 
For some reason, Heart has wanted to do this and to be honest, I’m unsure of how Heart’s fans will view this “new” CD. Personally I was beginning to feel a little let down already, especially as I glanced through the track list and saw almost all of the songs were ones I knew very well.
 
“I Jump” has a great riff but I found the chorus very repetitive with Nancy’s continual “Ah Ha’s” following suit. It didn’t immediately call to me and when it had finished I had no particular desire to hear it again.
 
“Johnny Moon” is another re-take and I was starting to realize that most of these re-takes were really just improvements in sound quality, being clearer, and sharper with stronger production, rather than there being a major change to their 80′s originals. Instead of them being re-done and noticeably differently from their original versions, they were all very similar to them with only slightly differing arrangements.
 
“Heaven” opens with a sitar sounding guitar, whereas in the original version played live, Nancy plays her acoustic guitar like a cello with a cello/violin bow in that famous Jimmy Page style. This version has a definite Bon Jovi / Young Guns feel to it, and as you drift along with the rhythm and lyrics the great driving bass line makes you feel like you are being carried across the wilds of a distant vast landscape. This track is Heart personified, it could easily have come from Dreamboat Annie or Little Queen; it’s so 70′s – you can almost smell the Patchouli oil.
 
“City’s Burning” is another re-take of an already established track from “Private Audition” but having dropped the tempo this time round, the track loses its rough, slightly fast paced rocky 80′s edge, and this new version tends to drag its heels a little.
 
To me, the song “Down On Me” evokes the feeling of sitting late into the night in a smoky bar, drinking a JD. While the newer, cleaner production of “Down On Me” keeps the slow, bluesy tone the original had, it loses that “JD, late night smoky bar vibe” that gave Ann’s passion filled lyrics a deeper feeling.
 
“One Word”, another old song from “Private Audition” is a slow love song that has been given a slightly higher pitch intro and backing soundtrack, and what sounds like a very smooth double bass (fretless bass), with Ann’s vocals more upfront.
 
It’s not all that different from the original version and again I found myself asking myself why they had bothered going to all the trouble of re-doing these songs, which any Heart fan is already intimately familiar with.
 
“Language of Love” is the last track and the last of Heart‘s ventures into their back catalog. From “Passionworks”, it is a slightly softer version of its 1983 counterpart. Once again, another love song from the Wilson sisters, but with slight changes that really do it no justice.
 
Filled as it is with 80’s retakes, Heart have taken this CD right back to their 70′s roots, a little too far back to be honest, and you almost feel you’ve re-visited the 70′s, with little signs along the way of the sort of chart topping hits they enjoyed in the 1980′s .
 
I’ve been a Heart fan since ‘78 , and I saw them live in ’88. In fact when it came to playing in my own band and we each had to choose a song that all the band had to learn and play and out of all the songs I could have chosen, I chose Heart’s, “How Can I Refuse” . That’s how much I loved and admired Heart‘s music.
 
This is Heart‘s 16th album, and at just over 40 minutes long and with the majority of these tracks re-recorded, albeit slightly altered, previous songs, it feels rather cheeky to call this “a new CD”.
 
It’s rather more of an short EP (Extended Play – Single) with a selection of re-mixed bonus tracks thrown in from their own collection – rather than a “new” LP/CD with “new” songs.
 
With the exception of the powerful re-take, “Beautiful Broken”, the CD is overall a mostly slow, jazzy retro offering with a strong bluesy 70′s feel.
 
Very easy listening, and, for 10 songs, is over rather too quickly, even more so as you will likely have heard most of the songs before.
 
Many of the re-done tracks just feel a lot cleaner with a few small adjustments on each. They have been given an overall sharper clarity with more pronounced lead vocals up in the mix – nothing less than you would expect to find in a music CD made in today’s digital age.
 
Vocally and musically, this is Heart at their best – but it’s certainly not their finest of offerings – or their most productive in showcasing new material.
 
Words by Dixie
 
Tracklist:
 
1 Beautiful Broken
2 Two
3 Sweet Darlin’
4 I Jump
5 Johnny Moon
6 Heaven
7 City’s Burning
8 Down On Me
9 One Word
10 Language Of Love