Once more your rockin’ writer felt the urge to resurrect his “Listen Again” series. For those of you just joining us, the “Listen Again” series is a series in which we revisit albums that for one reason or another didn’t receive the attention or acclaim they deserved when they were originally released. Whether it was the recording was ahead of its time, broke away from the artist’s usual style, was poorly publicized or initially misunderstood, the “Listen Again” series urges music fans to listen again. This time we revisit Heart’s Greatest Hits/Live.
For those not in the know, Heart is a US rock group that became popular in the 1970s. While their roster has gone through some changes, the core members have always been the Wilson sisters: Ann (vocals, keyboards, violin and guitar) and Nancy (guitar, piano and vocals). As this goes to press, the band has sold more than 30 million records across the globe. One of these albums, their sixth release, is Heart’s double album Greatest Hits/Live.
The roster during the recording of songs on this combination compilation and live LP also included: Roger Fisher: (guitars and vocals), Howard Leese ( guitar, steel guitar and synthesizers), Steve Fossen (bass guitar, synthesizer and vocals) and Michael DeRosier (drums). An additional guest horn section also appears on tracks here. The section consists of Greg Adams, Emilio Castillo, Lenny Pickett, Steven Kupka and Mic Gillette.
The first record contains most of the band’s most popular songs up ‘til early 1980. It opens on “Barracuda”. This is 1977 hit features a memorable galloping guitar riff. The second selection is the shortest work on the entire album “Silver Wheels” which serves as an intro to the 1976 song “Crazy on You” which was their first commercial hit.
“Straight On” follows here. This was a hit from 1978. The side closes with the titular track from their 1976 premiere platter “Dreamboat Annie”.
The flip side opens on an assortment of longer cuts of five minutes or longer including “Even It Up” from 1980, their first “top ten” tune the memorable “Magic Man” and “Heartless” which are both from 1976. This side ends with “Dog and Butterfly”. This is a folk-influenced, subdued song and was notably different from their hard rock numbers.
The second record is mainly a collection of live numbers but also includes three newer studio recordings. Side three leads in with a live version of “Bebe le Strange” recorded live at The Forum, in Los Angeles, CA. (The studio version of this song was their first single not to chart in the US top 100.)
The second cut here is a cover of a song that Aaron Neville made famous in 1965 titled “Tell It Like It Is”. (This was later chosen as the lead single from this release.) The next number is the somewhat lengthy live version of “Mistral Wind” which was recorded at The Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona in 1980 and clocks in at over 7 minutes.
“Hit Single” follows. This is little more than a good two and a half minutes of voices and “maniacal hodgepodge . . . culled from recording studio outtakes” as some sources describe it. The side closes with “Strange Euphoria”. This is again something different from the band’s signature sound. It’s essentially a dance track titled after the band’s publishing company.
The final flip side opens on the live version of “Sweet Darlin'”. This is from a 1980 Vegas appearance. That is mere foreplay, however, compared to the following cuts.
“Medley: I’m Down/Long Tall Sally” opens up with a double-shot of covers made famous by The Beatles and Little Richard. It was recorded live in San Diego in 1980 and is quickly followed by a live cover of “Unchained Melody” first made famous by The Righteous Brothers. (The latter was chosen to be the second single off this project and would be released in 1981.) The end-note is an interesting, effective live cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll”.
With a running time of over 79 minutes the double LP hit the record racks in 1980 and went double-platinum. The Epic release camped out on the US Billboard 200 chart for 25 weeks climbing as high as number 13. The first single, “Tell It Like It Is” would reach make it to number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Their sound was at the time unique. Imagine giving Led Zep’s Robert Plant and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson mammaries and you might come close to the essence of Heart. If you’ve never listened to Heart’s Greatest/Live, listen to it. If you’ve already listened to it . . . listen again.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.