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Archive for June 6th, 2012

Review: Heart, “Strange Euphoria”

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You’ve gotta have Heart.  For over forty years, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson have been rocking and rolling, singing and strumming, and did I mention rocking?  Often considered the female answer to Led Zeppelin, Heart has outlived that famous band, incorporating Zeppelin’s furious attack into music also influenced by pop and folk.  The new 3-CD/1-DVD set Strange Euphoria (Epic/Legacy 88691 93736 2, 2012) is the first collection of Heart’s catalogue selected by the Wilsons and the band’s first multi-disc box, drawing on their thirteen studio albums, live recordings and original demos.  With over 20 previously unreleased tracks, it offers a wealth of material for collectors and fans alike.

It’s both strange and euphoric, though: the latter because of the sheer power of the music.  The former, because it’s neither fish nor fowl.  Though taken from songs recorded between 1969 and 2010, it’s not quite a true, all-encompassing career retrospective, as it’s lacking key hits such as “What About Love” and “All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You.”  Other favorites are heard in alternate versions: “Barracuda,” for one, is heard in a live version rather than the hit single.  But it’s not a strict “from the vaults” outing, either, with some major cuts such as “Alone” and “These Dreams” represented in their familiar versions The result is a personal, incomplete and idiosyncratic journey through the music, with its creators as your tour guides.

When Heart burst onto the scene early in 1976, the top female artists of the day were Ladies of the Canyon (Linda Ronstadt), soul sisters (Minnie Riperton, Patti LaBelle) and an Australian pop queen (Olivia Newton-John).  Needless to say, there was no other prominent band quite like the one formed by the sisters from Seattle.  With guitarist Roger Fisher, keyboardist/guitarist Howard Leese and bassist Steve Fossen, drummer Michael Derosier, lead vocalist Ann and lead guitarist Nancy first made a splash with the Dreamboat Annie album, released appropriately enough on Valentine’s Day, 1976.  But Strange Euphoria begins much earlier, and Disc One covers the period between the 1969 single “Through Eyes and Glass,” as performed by Ann Wilson and the Daybreaks, and the 1978 album Dog and Butterfly.  The spare, haunting folk-rock melody of “Through Eyes and Glass,” adorned with acoustic guitar and flute, doesn’t seem to have much in common with “Magic Man” or “Alone” at first glance.  But by eschewing many full productions in favor of raw, stripped-down demos, the box set makes the case that the song was always the thing with Heart.

Hit the jump to dig deep with the Wilson sisters! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 6, 2012 at 13:57

Posted in Box Sets, Compilations, Heart, News, Reissues, Reviews

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Almighty Fire: Five Lost Aretha Franklin Albums Reissued, Expanded For First Time On CD

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The old Second Disc Crystal Ball is back in action!  We’ve looked back to March 30, 2011, when our Reissue Theory column was dedicated to a hypothetical box set containing Aretha Franklin’s five “lost” Atlantic albums, all released between 1974 and 1979.  Now, over a year later, we don’t have to imagine any longer, for a reissue of all five albums is upon us!  Roger Friedman has broken the news at Showbiz 411 and that Franklin’s label, Aretha’s Records, has entered into a deal with Universal Music Group for the expansion and reissue of With Everything I Feel in Me (1974), You (1975), Sweet Passion (1977), Almighty Fire (1978) and La Diva (1979).  The Queen of Soul’s deal with Universal will not impact her recently-announced contract with Sony’s Clive Davis (a mastermind of her successful 1980s “comeback”) for new material, but Friedman states that the Universal agreement might encompass further vault material and even new artist signings in the future.

These five albums have never before appeared on CD, despite a true “Who’s Who” of songwriters and producers befitting a Queen, among them Lamont Dozier, Jerry Wexler, Curtis Mayfield, Barry Mann, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Van McCoy, Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager. Though none of these LPs were pop smashes, all were successful on the R&B charts (the first three going Top Ten) and most importantly, all have something to offer not only for fans of Aretha but all pop and soul enthusiasts.  Though a date for the reissues has not been announced yet, bonus tracks have been confirmed.  Hit the jump for more details including the full track listings! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 6, 2012 at 10:06