Heart ‘Fanatic' (Legacy)
The title song sets things to throbbing like a jolt from a pair of rock 'n' roll defibrillator paddles on Heart's 14th studio album “Fanatic,” and a lot of the track's power has to do with award-winning Canadian producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ben Mink's electric talent.
Mink, who's produced and/or performed with such artists as k.d. lang, Rush, Barenaked Ladies, Feist, Jane Siberry, Bruce Cockburn and the solo Ann Wilson — not to mention his own klezmer supergroup Black Sea Station — amps up Ann and Nancy Wilson's creative spark by lending a songwriting hand and second lead guitar support on all 10 of the album's songs, restoring the hard-rock muscle that's been missing from much of the band's post-'70s work.
There's an irresistible mid-tempo strut propelled by a throaty fuzz-guitar line on that opening title track, and that's Mink adding a touch of woozy, classy violin, viola, keyboards and programming to “Dear Old America,” which Ann belts with the righteous anger she's always been able to call forth when the rocker requires such emotion. Mink adds similar string colors — and some rustic banjo to boot — to the acoustic chin-up ballad “Walkin' Good,” while Nancy and guest Sarah McLachlan duet authoritatively on vocals.
Other highlights come during the tough-talking, wronged-woman blues-rock of “Skin and Bones,” the telegraphically urgent electro space-rock of “A Million Miles,” the urban moodiness of “Pennsylvania” (on which Mink plays all guitars and keyboards, painting a dark soundscape behind Ann and Nancy's downcast vocals), and the obligatory nod to their epically heavy Led Zeppelin influences, “Mashallah!”
Someone in Pearl Jam once said, “Heart is our hometown (Seattle) band-made-good ... who showed us where we could go if we wrote songs, made records and toured hard.”
Long may they continue to do all those things — with Ben Mink along for the ride.
— Gene Triplett