Album review: ANN WILSON – Immortal

ANN WILSON - Immortal

BMG [Release date 14.09.18]

One of the most gifted female rock singers of her generation, Immortal sees Heart’s Ann Wilson continue her dalliance with cover versions – a journey she began on her last solo outing Hope & Glory (2007).  This time, she tackles 10 tracks paying tribute to influences and friends who no longer walk this mortal coil.

For the first time since 1980, original Heart producer Mike Flicker is back behind the desk, and guests include fellow Canadian Ben Mink – who produced Hope & Glory – and southern blues guitarist Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers/Gov’t Mule).

But let’s not beat about the bush, Immortal is a[nother] ‘covers’ album.  And if you’re going to make a memorable cover, you need to leave your own indelible mark on the song.  Perhaps not unsurprisingly, in that sense, Immortal is a bit of a hit and miss affair.

It works best is where the original is given a complete ‘remodelling’.  The Eagles’ ‘Life In The Fast Lane’ is given a funk makeover that the artist formerly known as Prince would surely have approved of.

Lesley Gore’s 1964 hit ‘You Don’t Own Me’ is given a menacing bluesy rock transformation, ‘Luna’ – a strange, but inspired, choice from Tom Petty’s debut album – usurps the original by some considerable margin with its slow burn ‘Black Velvet’ style interpretation, and the poignant, string laden, rendition of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back To Black’ adds a new dimension to the song.

At the other end of the scale, Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’ would never have been a hit in the neutered, southern rock, format presented here, and despite its current political relevance, Wilson fails to capture Bowie’s cloying paranoia on ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’.

Elsewhere, Immortal is fairly routine fodder – Cream’s ‘Politician’, is just a pretty straight, lumbering, updated production affair, and George Michael’s ‘A Different Corner’ is as bland as the original.  Leonard Cohen’s ‘A Thousand Kisses Deep’ is another number relatively true to the original, as is Audioslave’s ‘I Am The Highway’ which, although ideally suited to Wilson’s vocal style - and impressively delivered – does lose some of Chris Cornell’s earthiness in the retelling.

But hey, let’s cut the woman some slack.  Taken in the round, and bearing in mind she’s now 68 years old, Immortal is a very fine vocal outing, and Ann Wilson remains a colossus amongst lesser mortal vocalists.  She’s the glue that holds Immortal together, even if it is destined to divide opinion.  ****

Review by Pete Whalley

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