August 10, 2016 Heart – Beautiful Broken (Album Review)
Female fronted Rock-n-Roll bands have been making history for many years now with influential acts such as Janis Joplin, Fleetwood Mac, Joan Jett, and Pat Benatar, just to name a few. Although, one could not mention pioneering female rockers without speaking of Canada’s Heart, which feature sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson. Rising to prominence in the late ’70s with such hits as “Crazy On You,” “Magic Man,” and “Barracuda,” these timeless songs are still just as popular four plus decades later. Sustaining their share of ups and downs, Heart re-surged in the mid ’80s, dominating Rock radio. A testament to their love for Rock-n-Roll and determination to live their dreams, the Wilson sisters keep coming strong in the new millennium as they continue to tour and write new music.
Overall, Heart has produced fifteen studio albums as they still turn out hit after popular hit while keeping that classic Heart appeal in a modern world. Back for album number sixteen, on July 8, 2016, Heart sent out their latest diverse masterpiece, entitling the effort Beautiful Broken. Their first on Concord Bicycle Music label, the album contains ten tracks, mixing new and re-worked past releases. In addition, their first album since their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2013, the lineup for Beautiful Broken features Ann Wilson on vocals/autoharp, Nancy Wilson on acoustic/electric guitars/mandolin/vocals/marxophone/autoharp, Craig Bartock on guitars, Chris Joyner on piano/synthesizers, Dan Rothchild on bass, Moog bass/Hammond B3/background vocals/additional piano/lap steel guitar, Ben Smith on drums/percussion, Paul Buckmaster on string arrangements, and finally, Ken Sluiter on textures.
Opening with the title-track, “Beautiful Broken,” Metallica’s James Hetfield joins on guest vocals. Just under two and a half minutes long, the song was originally featured on 2012’s FANatic and has all the makings of a Heart hit. Aside from this opening, overall, the fabric of Beautiful Broken is pretty mellow and on the lighter side of Rock-n-Roll while mixing Folk acoustic editions. That being said, “Two,” which of course is the second track, is a beautiful ballad that has a heartfelt tone throughout that brings on a very calming effect to the listener. Another successful and interesting track is “I Jump,” which exemplifies the sheer power and range of the Wilson Sisters’ vocals. One of the two new compositions on the album, it has a modern flair in its interpretation, which will thus make it appeal to a younger generation as well.
Next up, “Johnny Moon,” originally released on 1983’s Passionworks, is another exemplary work of the sisters beautiful vocals as well as their soul soothing lyrics. Also, the same must be said for “Heaven,” originally featured on 2003’s Alive In Seattle DVD/album where Heart provide a very powerful adaptation. Continuing on with reworked older material, 1982’s Private Audition cut “City Is Burning” is basically a modernized, more mellowed down version that was originally very guitar heavy versus the new interpretation that loses much of its electric guitar Rock elements. This is the general theme for most of the reworked songs of Beautiful Broken, and it is appreciated as well as interesting, despite the fact that the originals versions were also great. It shows the band’s depth and dedication to want to reinterpret classics and is in no way to be considered a cop-out.
Furthermore, the mixing and matching from previous albums can be described as a good eclectic mix, and as much as the dirty Rock-n-Roll elements of their past albums was a strength to their sound, this more modernized instrumentation interpretation is valued. That in mind, “One Word,” also originally from Private Audition, is a very mellow Folk style song with the same calming yet intriguing sound as on a few of the previous tracks. And finally, Passionworks’ “Language Of Love” can be described as a magical rendering of what was again an already beautiful song.
Overall, this modernized interpretation is quite the experiment and it is, at the very least, a lesson in one’s own mind in terms of mastery and re-mastering of music. Finding the voice of today, Heart keeps it timeless and true, something they have become known for over their lengthy career. As for the supporting current tour with Cheap Trick and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, it would be compelling to hear Heart play both versions of some of these songs because it would be a unique effect to witness two different methods to the same general madness. After a thought-provoking consideration, CrypticRock gives Beautiful Broken 4 out of 5 stars.