Did you know that Diane Warren once wrote a song that wasn't a ballad? Until I read the CD jacket, I didn't know that. I knew Heart didn't write it, but Diane Warren - I wouldn't have guessed. But I still get a good feeling from this Top 1o hit, the second single from the record. From the first snare hit, the song moves at a comfortable pace as Ann Wilson conveys the ups and downs of the relationship with a melody that does the same. I like how the glossy synth riff highlights the end of every other phrase. AOR Nirvana.
One of the greatest power ballads ever, the Wilsons took the Tom Kelly / Billy Steinberg ("Like a Virgin", "I Touch Myself") tune and transported it to another level. Ann Wilson's pensive verses lead to a spellbinding belting chorus displaying the power and authority in her voice. Meanwhile, Nancy Wilson sexes up the video with her trademark "rocker" moves. Love it when that piano blows up at the start of the clip. The lead single and #1 smash proved Heart's comeback wasn't a fluke and inspired a whole generation of would be singers on American Idol.
3. There's The Girl
Nancy Wilson surprised on the prior album when her lead vocal on "These Dreams" helped take the Taupin tune to #1. So she got two lead vocals this time out, the first being the this polished pop rock ditty that was the third single from the disc. Nancy Wilson doesn't have as strong a voice as her sister, but it does have a more fragile character which can be a positive except the Teflon coated production nearly swallows her up here. But Wilson toughs it out and comes through enough to sell the song. Songwriter Holly Knight ("Never", "The Warrior") teams up with Nancy Wilson relay the rush of bad girl crush with Reagan era precision.
4. I Want You So Bad
Back to the Kelly/Steinberg songbook! This swirling, slow stepping ballad was the fourth single from Bad Animals. Ann Wilson's voice has this processed production sound that hasn't aged well but the ache in her voice hits home. This song sounds great while watching the Ocean waves hit the beach at night.
5. Wait For An Answer
This was on rock radio quite a bit back then when I returned to school in Sacramento. Again, Ann Wilson commands the stage as she scales a mountain of cascading synthesizers and echoey drums as her heroic shouting waits. For an answer. I think she's waiting for a dude to call her. Dude! Call her! It was 1987, it only costed a quarter at that time.
6. Bad Animals
The song and album title I believe was based on a nickname the band gave themselves for the reaction they got in hotels. That summer, my aunt's roommate had her daughter and friends spend a few weeks at the glass house. They were L.A. rocker girls with the mile high hairsprayed coif, my friend Ron used to refer to their heads as "plane snaggers". The first song on the album to be written by the band, a slow moving rock jam with one of those circular synth parts running all over it.
7. You Ain't So Tough
Steve Kipner strikes! Kipner has this way of writing soft yet bouncy sad lyric but upbeat melody kind of songs (like "Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back" on the Two of a Kind soundtrack.). Adapted to Heart, the song is a determined little pop rocker with the most exciting guitar solo on the record (a little shred here and there) and one of those "I'm an army of people" group vocals on the chorus. How could I not like this jam?
8. Strangers of the Heart
Nancy Wilson's second lead vocal comes on this sequel to "These Dreams". It's a little less fake mystical than "Dreams" but amps up the soap opera cliche's to give a touch of dark romanticism. Not quite as good as the first (most sequels are that way), a bit of "high school talent night" feeling creeps into the song as it makes a run for the big finish. Nonetheless, it's a very pleasant song.
9. Easy Target
The last two songs were reserved for more of a "classic" Heart sound, meaning they wrote the pair and get a little more organic. As much as they could without it sounding like a different record. The rocking "Target" has some 70's rawk kick to it though in no way threatens their Little Queen era.
A nice acoustic ballad to close the record out. It's a good tune, even if I hate RSVPing. Can't I just show up if I feel like it?
If the songs were meant to show where the band's heads were at, Heart came across mostly like love lorn victims that go off on people every now and then. Producer Ron Nevison had a knack for placing Ann Wilson's dramatic vocals into situations where she sounds backed into a corner. Intentional or not, combined with her video image of looking cross all the time it made Nancy Wilson's on screen bopping and grinding necessary to add some fluff (visually, not her musicianship). The dichotomy of the Wilson sister's images apparently created some tension and when combined with the "sell out" philosophy of their Capitol era, they tend to dismiss this fantastic period where they were slick AOR giants. That's too bad, because as much as I like 70's Heart I'm a bigger fan of their shoulder padded teased hair commercial peak.
One more 80's moment to go, the Seattle based band spent the decade prepping Generation X for their biggest addiction - coffee.
Heart - Coffee Achievers