Private Audition, and the release that followed it, Passion Works, are probably the two weakest albums within the Heart catalogue. The group had entered a transition stage in terms of both personnel and musical direction. One long time member had left and two more would leave following this release. They would continue to move toward a slick rock/pop sound that would ultimately propel them to the forefront of American pop music.
Lead guitarist Jeff Fisher had left the band and bassist Steve Fossen and drummer Michael DeRosier would also leave following this album. That would leave Ann and Nancy Wilson, plus multi-instrumentalist Howard Leese as the remaining long term members. It would be one of their least commercially successful albums.
The first track, “City’s Burning,” sums up the release fairly well. Howard Leese and Nancy Wilson are a nice guitar combination but just do not measure up to the previous Fisher/Wilson duo. Ann Wilson has a voice that could sing the phone book and make it listenable, but on this track and a few others, it is just not up to her high standards. This song was written by Sue Ennis and the Wilson sisters, as were eight others, and has an unfinished feel. It is almost good, which is frustrating.
Several other songs fall into the almost good category. “This Man Is Mine” was a hit single, and on this track, Ann Wilson’s voice carries the song. It is the lyrics that make the song a struggle at times. The ballads “Hey Darlin’ Darlin’” and “One Word” are both average at best and have some strings thrown in for good measure but leave one with the feeling they could have been better.
The best track is “Perfect Stranger,” which is a power ballad where everything comes together. Ann Wilson’s voice soars as the track looks ahead to the best of their future.
Private Audition is not the place to start when exploring the music of Heart. The band would adjust and move on to create some of the better music of the 1980s and early 1990s. This one’s for fans who want everything Heart.