Album review: HEART – Magazine (Hybrid SACD)

Heart - Magazine

Audio Fideltiy [Release date 18.03.14]

Heart’s album ‘Magazine’ had a chequered history.  After the initial success with ‘Dreamboat Annie’ the band fell out with the small label Mushroom Records.  A legal dispute ensued as they tried to get out of their contract.  Mushroom then issued ‘Magazine’ with a set of half-finished songs and live tracks.  In 1977 Heart signed to CBS and released ‘Little Queen’.

Meanwhile the legal wrangling was settled and Mushroom were ordered to withdraw copies of the original ‘Magazine’ but they were allowed a second album.  Heart then revisited the songs, re-worked them, and the album was reissued in 1978.  With Mushroom Records going out of business in the 1980s, it transferred to the Capitol catalogue.

Now reissued as a ‘hybrid SACD’ as part of an ongoing series from Audio Fidelity the album is marketed as a limited numbered edition.  However there is no essay or liner note to enlighten us and the packaging – although distinctive – is minimalist.

The legal battles – just as the band were establishing themselves in the late-seventies -  were unwelcome and characterised the up and down nature of their progress over an extended period.  At the turn of the seventies, there were band personnel changes and Ann and Nancy Wilson decided to explore other possibilities including a change of producer.

In the late-1980s Heart were best known for embracing ‘arena rock” and staples of MTV which peddled hair metal and melodic hard rock at this time.  But in the 1990s the band as an entity remained fairly inactive.  The past decade has allowed a re-evaluation of Heart’s music as Ann and Nancy Wilson revisited their Heart partnership in 2002.

‘Magazine’ is best regarded as work in progress and demonstrates the straight-ahead soulful rock approach of their earlier years and includes the excellent ‘Heartless’ which remains in their set list.  The two live tracks from the aborted ‘first issue” remain, recorded at the Aquarius club in Seattle  in 1975.

Songs like ‘Devil Delight’ and ‘Mother Earth Blues’ (one of three cover versions here and recorded live) are great vehicles for Ann Wilson’s vocals whilst ‘Just The Wine’ and ‘Here Song’ demonstrate the more folksy side of the band that was further evidenced on the next album ‘Dog & Butterfly’.

Newcomers to the band are directed to a great value 5-CD collection of albums with card facsimile covers, but this unique edition is a good enough starting place.  And, before you ask, a couple of the “original” album tracks were included as demos on the excellent compilation ‘Strange Euphoria’ in  2012.  ****

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

He chats to Ann Wilson in the Songwriters series on Sunday 23 March at 13:00 GMT

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