The mid 1980’s were an interesting time for comebacks, a time where seemingly washed up rock acts like Fleetwood Mac and Heart managed to conquer radio and the pop charts a second (or third!) time around. The new Heart had huge hair, bigger vocals, and overblown guitar solos to boot.
After a period of diminishing sales, Heart decided to get a radical makeover to update not only their appearance, but also their sound. They even recruited two new band members to completely revitalise the group. Out went the last vestiges of the prog rock sound that made them so popular in the 70’s, and in came the overproduced 80’s hooks and catchy choruses. Not to mention the massive perms, leather, and thick eyeliner.
Their new look and commercial sound gave Heart a string of hits including What About Love, Never, Nothin' At All and the massive These Dreams. Their 1985 self titled album shifted millions of copies and was very successful on both sides of the Atlantic.
The album kicks off with If Looks Could Kill, a ferocious metal inspired romp with Ann Wilson (the loud one) on lead vocals. While by no means the best song on the album it kicks things off with a good pace and lots of passion!
“If looks could kill, you’d be lying on the floor, you’d be begging me, please, please, don’t hurt me no more. If looks could kill!” Belts Ann.
It was selected at the fifth and final US single from the album, and sadly didn’t crack the Top 40.
What About Love is next, and served as the lead single. I have to say it’s one of my favourites of all of Heart’s singles. Ann really lets rip on this amazing power ballad, it was a big hit in the US and made the Top 20 in the UK. Grace Slick and Mickey Thomas from Starship provided the backing vocals.
The anthemic Never was another hit single. Released as a double a-side with These Dreams in the UK, which kind of overshadowed it. Nevertheless, Never is simple shouty rock/pop at its best. We get to hear a bit of Nancy on this one too which serves as a lovely prelude to her stunning performance on the next song, the aforementioned These Dreams – one of the biggest singles of 1986 (1987 in the UK). A classic single, which still enjoys plenty of airplay all these years later. These Dreams is a smooth rock gem, and softer than the previous tracks. Nancy’s vocals are flawless as her guitar playing.
The Wolf is our first sign of filler, but it’s not bad, it's just the the chorus that is sadly a little weak and the song fails to go anywhere. All Eyes follows in the same vein as Never and although pretty throwaway, is strangely quite memorable and a great romp! Nobody At Home reminds me of Alphaville’s Forever Young, and that’s a good thing. It’s well paced and very atmospheric.
Nothin’ At All was another hit single in the US, but a fared less well in the UK. Such a shame too as it is just as good as anything else on the album. The remixed single version appears on some editions of the album which has more aggressive vocals and production; an extended remix appeared on the single. It’s a lot like These Dreams and typical Heart, starting off with some softly delivered verses and a soaring chorus. Lovely stuff, with great vocals by Ann, as always.
What He Don’t Know is the only thing in this collection that verges on being a bit of a clunker. It’s a little folky and pretty awkward, and it’s a bit too slow, it’s nice enough though. The lively Shellshock closes the album nicely; it’s loud, brash, and similar to the opener If Looks Could Kill. Its hard edge suits Ann’s vocals perfectly and it ends the set on a wonderful high. It took awhile for the album to peak in the UK, so long in fact that it finally made the UK Top 20 in March 1988, after being re-promoted shortly after Bad Animals did so well. Heart would see their good fortune continue with their 1988 album Bad Animals, but I do think this is the better album. From the powerful hits, to the soaring vocals, HEART is an amazing album, and a true 80’s gem which can be enjoyed over and over.
Video - What About Love
Video - If Looks Could Kill (Live)
Video - These Dreams
UK Chart Attack!! - Heart (LP) #19 (Gold), singles: These Dreams (1986) #62; Never/These Dreams (1988) #8; What About Love (1988) #14; Nothin' At All [Remix] (1988) #38