Call 2012 the year of Heart.
The veteran Seattle rockers, led by trailblazing sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, released Strange Euphoria this summer, their first personally curated career-retrospective box set. In September, the Wilsons issue their first memoir, Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock and Roll (HarperCollins, $27.99). And in October comes the band’s 14th studio album, the hard-rocking Fanatic.
Lead singer Ann Wilson, 62, still found time to chat while on tour.
“It’s sort of mind-boggling,” she said on the phone from Los Angeles. “I have a telescopic sense of time. I just kicked off this thing in my own life way back in ’76, and I haven’t ever stopped. It’s very amazing to have a retrospective and memoir coming out. That’s one of the most intense parts for us.”
The original philosophy for the book was easy, Wilson says: Tell it like it is. “If we’re going to write a whitewash and leave everything out, what’s the point? It’s a pretty wide open story of growing up, dealing with some pretty hard issues, vulnerability, triumph, failure, love, pain, all those things. It’s all in there.”
Similarly, the Strange Euphoria package proved revealing, especially in how it examines how the group lost its way in the mid-1980s despite notching its biggest commercial hits with such smashes as What About Love, the American Idol perennial Alone and These Dreams.
“In the 1970s you could identify the parts as Heart, and here come the ’80s: very anonymous, glossy, echoey-sounding and songs written by someone else. They are big hits, but you can’t find the people in those songs. Then, in the ’90s, with the Lovemongers stuff, suddenly I remembered those people in the ’70s. Quite an amazing change,” Wilson said.
Fanatic once again sounds identifiably Heart, with Nancy’s lead guitar carving a path for some of the Wilsons’ most personal songs. Dear Old America is based on their military father and what he dealt with after World War II and the Korean War. “I spent a lot of time writing prose like I used to do as a teenager,” Wilson said. “ Dear Old America really came from trying to deal with my own daddy issues.”
Heart is also more settled compared to how it was when the original band was fracturing after 1978’s Dog & Butterfly. Ann split with the group’s manager, Michael Fisher, while younger sister Nancy was ending her relationship with his brother, Roger, Heart’s co-guitarist. “That’s definitely food for songwriting,” Wilson says of the romantic turmoil.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is Wilson’s powerful multi-octave voice. She can still sing the old songs in their original keys.
“When we came up with the keys for these songs, Magic Man, Crazy on You particularly, we worked hard to figure which key sounded the best, which key my 26-year-old voice sounded best in. And if you tried to change the key to make it easier it wouldn’t sing as well, it wouldn’t register,” Wilson says. “I’ve spent a lifetime trying to make sure I can still do that. That’s my form of athleticism.”
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