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Music Review: Heart – Strange Euphoria [3-CD/1-DVD Box Set]

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When you think of the gods and goddesses of classic rock and roll, who comes to mind? Everybody will likely have a different list. For me, it’s pretty easy. Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Foreigner, Journey, Queen, the Doors, Aerosmith, the Beatles, the Police, etc. Ok, maybe it’s not so easy. But one group that will forever be on the list regardless of what mood I’m in is Heart. Ann and Nancy Wilson are my “Queens of Rock and Roll.”

So when they released Strange Euphoria, a box set spanning nearly four decades of amazing music, it caught my attention. It didn’t hurt that me and my family had a chance to see the band this past July in Denver. {Both of my daughters, ages 7 and 11, are huge Heart fans and can sing damn near any Heart tune that comes across the radio waves.}


The box set includes three CDs, a concert DVD, and a booklet describing every track. CD 1 begins with the song “Through Eyes & Glass” by Ann Wilson & The Daybreaks done in 1969 and a demo of “Magic Man” recorded in 1975 and ends with “Straight On” and “Nada One” recorded in 1978. Many of these songs, like “Magic Man,” “Crazy On You,” “Love Alive,” “Barracuda,” “Heartless,” “Dog & Butterfly,” and “Straight On” I have listened to over and over and over again since discovering Heart in the 1980s—my early childhood was a bit sheltered music-wise. These tracks make up what I think of as the “heart” of Heart, which they’ve torn apart and rebuilt many times in their rockin’ history.

CD 2 starts with “Bebe Le Strange” and “Silver Wheels II,” recorded back in 1979-1980, and ends with a demo of “Under the Sky” recorded in 1989 and a live version of “Desire Walks On” recorded at a concert in 1993. So at this point we’re in the 1980s era of big hair and MTV, which I’ll always associate with “These Dreams” and “Alone” from the Bad Animals album. In fact, while writing this review I decided to pull up the music videos for both those songs. I’m still amazed that we have any ozone after the amazing amount of hairspray used during the decade.

CD 3 starts with “Kiss” and “Sand” from the Lovemongers recorded in 1997, and ends with “Hey You” and “Avalon (Reprise)” from Heart’s 2010 album Red Velvet Car. The 1990s offered a bit of a change for the sisters. Whereas Heart was a mix of electric and acoustic, they formed the Lovemongers for mostly acoustic numbers. And in 1995, Nancy decided to take a break from touring for a while to focus on her family. Ann continued touring with a band under a few names. Heart reformed in 2002 and hit the road again, releasing an album in 2004 (Jupiters Darling) and then Red Velvet Car. I am a huge fan of Red Velvet Car and am looking forward to Fantatic which is available in another couple of weeks.

To say that Ann and Nancy have been busy since the 1970s has to be one of the biggest understatements of the year—14 albums over the span of 1975 to 2012. All along the way, they’ve managed to keep fans new and old along for the ride. I can’t say I’m a fan of every Heart song, but out of nearly 40 years of music to choose from they’ve done an amazing job of making things interesting. And the fact that they started with vinyl records and are now distributing their music on CD and as MP3s is astounding from a technical perspective as well.

The DVD included in the set is a concert filmed at Washington State University back in February or March of 1976. I’m always amused by watching television from the 1970s when compared to today, but this is much like a time capsule after seeing them live in July 2012. Ten different tracks are included (if you include the lead-up to “Heartless”) and though the video may be a bit rough, the stereo sound comes across great for songs like “Heartless,” “Dreamboat Annie,” “Crazy On You,” and “Magic Man.” Comparing then and now, I was just as impressed seeing them nearly 36 years later to hear some of the same songs live on stage. Ann has crazy vocals and Nancy can still shred on the guitar. In many ways I think they sound better today than they did back in 1976 in this concert!

And the booklet that accompanies the CDs and DVD in the box adds a great deal of context to these classic songs. For every single track on the three CDs they have some words from Nancy and/or Ann offering a bit of commentary. Sometimes it’s about how they came up with the song or its influences. Sometimes it’s about how they ended up with a particular sound or the input they had from band members, guest players, producers, etc. No matter what they had to say, it offered a bit more history to these tunes and the eras in which they were composed and performed initially.

Quite honestly I can say that the CDs of Strange Euphoria will be played prominently along with Dreamboat Annie, Little Queen, Dog and Butterfly, Heart, Bad Animals, and Red Velvet Car. It’s in good company, wouldn’t you agree?

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About Fitz

Fitz is a software engineer and writer who lives in Colorado Springs, CO, with his family and pets, trying to survive the chaos!
  • http://www.addictedtovinyl.com Matt Wardlaw

    Really fantastic set. I like the fact that the “hits” that are here are often presented as versions that you haven’t heard before – demos for “Crazy on You” and “Magic Man” and a killer live version of “Never,” featuring John Paul Jones on bass, just to name a few.

    Heart fans will love this set – it was totally done right (although I wish the CDs were easier to get in/out of the package). The book of song reflections is top notch, as is the live DVD. Great value, great set.