Album of the Week 40-2012: Heart – Fanatic

The hiatus between ‘Jupiter’s Darling’ and ‘Red Velvet Car’ was 6 years. Luckily it took Heart only two years to finish ‘Fanatic’ and if that wasn’t enough, it turns out to be one of the band’s better albums. After the relatively folky ‘Red Velvet Car’, the Wilson sisters’ main concern on ‘Fanatic’ seems to show the world they still can rock. Maybe not as bombastically as in their seventies heyday, but the distinct Led Zeppelin vibe present on those albums is the main focus on ‘Fanatic’ as well, combined with a rootsy, American swagger.

The first thing that stood out upon first listen is how amazing Ann Wilson’s voice still is at 62. It has aged remarkably well. Especially the power in her delivery is simply astounding. Many singers – male or female – a third of her age wish they had a voice like that. Also, the ladies seem remarkably comfortable with the music they have written for this record with producer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Mink. Listening to ‘Fanatic’ can lead to only one conclusion: this makes sense. This is the music Ann and Nancy Wilson want to make at this point in time and they do it with all the conviction needed to deliver a great Rock record.

So ‘Fanatic’ rocks, albeit in a semi-psychedelic, yet accessible fashion. Check out my favorite track ‘A Million Miles’, to see what I mean. There’s this laidback, relentlessly infectious groove carrying the song, but it’s decorated by this almost hypnotizing keyboard line that gives the song an atmosphere reminiscent of Robert Plant’s ‘Tin Pan Valley’. The rhythmic delay effects and awesome build-up do the rest of the work. Nancy Wilson and Ben Mink do a great job on the guitars as well; their dirty, fuzzy sound lends this album its distinct vibe and I think Nancy’s dirty, rhythmic guitar work is severely underrated.

Besides ‘A Million Miles’, other highlights of the album include the obvious nod to Led Zeppelin that is ‘Mashallah!’, the heavy stomp of ’59 Crunch’ and the Funky Blues of ‘Skin And Bones. The title track is the ideal opening statement to the album, with its urgent riffs and catchy chorus, ‘Pennsylvania’ is a powerful semi-ballad in the best Heart tradition and closing track ‘Corduroy Road’ is a little work of psychedelic Hardrock art, not unlike the stuff their fellow townsmen of Pearl Jam or prime influence Robert Plant did around the beginning of this century.

While ‘Red Velvet Car’ wasn’t a bad album by any means, to these ears, the folky touches were a bit too dominant on that record. ‘Fanatic’ restores that by rocking deep (yes, that is a reference to one of the song titles). Furthermore, ‘Fanatic’ is just a collection of awesome Rock tunes like only my favorite two women of Rock music could make them. ‘Fanatic’ is the proof that Heart is still relevant almost four decades after their debut on the scene. Let’s just hope a record like this brings them back to the Dutch stages: I need my fill of Heart live!

Recommended tracks: ‘A Million Miles’, ‘Mashallah!’, ‘Corduroy Road’, ’59 Crunch’

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