Heart ‘Strange Euphoria' (Epic/Legacy)
With the Heart beat as strong as ever and showing no signs of failing or breaking or slowing down, the Legacy label thought for no apparent reason that the time was right for a career-spanning box of Ann and Nancy Wilson's best to be bestowed upon the world.
So we have “Strange Euphoria,” three CDs and one DVD in a deluxe set that collects the hits, favorite deep cuts (non-hit album cuts), rarities, demos and live performances by the hardest-rocking women in the business (although others lay claim to that distinction now), dating from before their 1976 breakthrough album “Dreamboat Annie” to 2010's “Red Velvet Car,” their first new studio album in six years and their seventh Top 10 album overall.
Ann and Nancy curated the collection themselves, beginning with a melancholy ballad called “Through Eyes & Glass,” recorded in 1969 during a Seattle demo session under the moniker Ann Wilson & The Daybreaks, and ending on the DVD with live performances videotaped circa February-March 1976 for KWSU-TV, Washington State University, Pullman, Wash.
The opening number here, an instrumental jam simply titled “Pre Show,” features a startlingly accomplished flute solo from Ann and a dual lead guitar performance between Nancy and then-lead guitarist Roger Fisher — who was also Nancy's boyfriend at the time — that demonstrates how accomplished this band already was on the eve of their debut album's release.
In between is an ample assortment of songs (“Magic Man,” “Crazy on You,” “Straight On” and what Nancy likes to call “that galloping steed of a song,” “Barracuda”) that remind the listener how Heart managed to open so many doors for female bandleaders in the male-dominated world of hard rock.
But don't think this hefty package of past glories is a sign that Heart is giving out.
Their 16th album of new material, “Fanatic,” is due out in October and a hardcover memoir, “Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock and Roll,” hits bookshelves in September.
It's bound to be the stuff that rock 'n' roll biopics are made of.
— Gene Triplett