Heart has had quite a year. They released a career-spanning box set, Strange Euphoria, which preceded a memoir by band leaders Ann and Nancy Wilson, Kicking and Dreaming. To top it off, earlier this month they returned with their 14th studio album, Fanatic.
They are now just about 40 years into a career that has seen them attain huge commercial success. They made a wise decision to return to their hard rocking roots. They have moved away from the polished pop rock sound that produced their biggest hit singles and have returned to basics. As such, they have created an album where the songs flow into each other and form a cohesive whole.
The two constants in the band have always been vocalist Ann Wilson and guitarist Nancy Wilson. The core backing band for the album was their regular drummer Ben Smith, guitarist Ben Mink, and bassist Rick Markmann. Mink served as the producer for the second album in a row and did a much better job than on 2010s Red Velvet Car as he kept the band focused and the music tight. He also co-wrote all 10 tracks with the Wilson sisters. Ann Wilson has always possessed one of the most powerful and clearest voices in rock music and it shows little wear after four decades of fronting one of music’s premier bands.
The music uses a hard rock foundation as it moves outward in a number of directions. The have always admired Led Zeppelin and here they channel their sound with “Corduroy Road.” “Rock Deep (America)" is an old-fashioned rock romp. “Walkin’ Good” unites the voices of Nancy Wilson and Sarah McLachlan. The title track presents the passion that the Wilson sisters have brought to their work for decades.
Perhaps the most affecting track is the patriotic “Dear Old America,” which is built on the post-war memories of their father. The use of strings gives it a very poignant feel.
Fanatic’s biggest surprise is the band’s return to their past. If you are one of the best band’s in rock music and want to model an album after someone, why not choose yourself. It is a worthy addition to their legacy.