Album review: Heart's 'Red Velvet Car'
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the new Heart album — one of only two the group has released over the last decade and a half — is as strong as it is. Outlasting expectations comes naturally to Ann and Nancy Wilson, who in the mid-’80s transformed Heart from the lean hard-rock act responsible for "Magic Man" and "Barracuda" to the slick power-ballad factory behind "These Dreams" and "What About Love."
Still, rare is the band doing work this good at such an advanced age; rarer still is the band doing it, as Heart does on "Red Velvet Car," without employing a sober return-to-roots approach.
The best tunes here are as fun — and as delightfully trashy — as anything in the Heart songbook: In "WTF," Ann flexes her powerful She-Ra vocals over Nancy’s killer fuzz-grunge riff; "Queen City," an ode to the Wilsons’ native Seattle, features a chorus lyric composed in large part of pirate slang. Later, "Death Valley" earns its title with some gorgeous evil-angel harmony singing.
"Red Velvet Car" also emphasizes Heart’s mystical-folkie side in cuts like the slow-burning title track and "Sand," which the Wilsons first performed with their acoustic side project, the Lovemongers. But even there you can hear a joy and a sense of humor in the music that distinguishes it from the grim output of so many heritage acts.
Thirty-four years after the band’s debut, Heart’s dreamboat sails on.
-- Mikael Wood
"Red Velvet Car"
Three and a half stars (Out of four)