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Heart, 'Magazine'

Magazine  (1977/78,  38.31)  ***/T

Heartless
Devil Delight
Just the Wine
Without You
Magazine
Here Song
Mother Earth Blues (live)
I've Got the Music in Me (live)
Heart, 'Little Queen'

Little Queen  (1977,  39.00)  ***/½

Barracuda
Love Alive
Sylvan Song
Dream of the Archer
Kick it Out
Little Queen
Treat Me Well
Say Hello
Cry to Me
Go on Cry
Heart, 'Bébé le Strange'

Bébé le Strange  (1980,  37.39)  **½/TT

Bebe le Strange
Down on Me
Silver Wheels
Break
Rockin' Heaven Down
Even it Up
Strange Night
Raised on You
Pilot
Sweet Darlin'
Heart, 'Jupiter's Darling'

Jupiter's Darling  (2004,  65.03)  ****/T½

Make Me
Oldest Story in the World
Things
The Perfect Goodbye
Enough
Move on
I Need the Rain
I Give Up
Vainglorious
No Other Love
Led to One
Down the Nile
I'm Fine
Fallen Ones
Lost Angel
Hello Moonglow
How Deep it Goes

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Heart came, er, Straight Outta Seattle in the mid-'70s, although it took them a decade to reach their full arena-filling potential. Fronted by the picturesque Wilson sisters, Ann and Nancy, Heart had a built-in advantage over many of their competitors due to the sisters' looks (sad but true). Their music at the time is probably best described as Zeppelin-lite; the band gave the Wilsons a chance to indulge their Zep fantasies on stage, although they never even remotely equalled the sheer innovative power of their mentors, sad to say.

They debuted with the rather lightweight but perfectly pleasant Dreamboat Annie (***½), containing their classic Crazy On You, which pretty much set the template for their next several albums. After signing to a major, Heart's old label, Mushroom, did the dirty on them, rush-releasing a bunch of demos and live tracks as Magazine in April '77. It's actually not a bad album, if not exactly what the band had planned, Devil Delight standing out as a slow-burning rocker and a decent ballad in Here Song, originally released as a b-side in 1975. Credited Mellotron on one track, with a Howard Leese orchestrated flute part alongside real strings on Just The Wine, although it sounds a lot like Mellotron choir on their rather unnecessary version of Nilsson's version of Badfinger's Without You and, despite a credit for real strings, the chords towards the end of the title track have that Mellotronnic quality about them. Heart took Mushroom to court and won, forcing a band-approved remix that cleaned up some of the sheer sloppiness of the original release, reappearing in '78, which is the version you're most likely to find.

Second album proper Little Queen isn't exactly what you'd call a 'Mellotron Album'; there's a tiny bit of mixed-back choir on rocky opener Barracuda while, despite being listed in the credits, any Mellotron there may be on the Battle Of Evermore-alike Dream Of The Archer (segued from the gorgeous Sylvan Song) is totally inaudible, even through headphones. Not a bad album, but Heart seemed to have considerable trouble transferring their live energy (listen to bootlegs from the period) onto tape, making their studio albums sound rather anodyne.

Two official releases later, Heart used their Mellotron one last time, managing to record one of the most innovative bits of Mellotron work I've ever heard, which just shows that you never can tell... Bébé le Strange's Down On Me has probably the best Mellotron pitchbending you're ever likely to hear; Nancy gives it her all on the pitch control, sliding string chords up and down and generally making the machine sound like nobody much else. After this tour de force, Heart never recorded their Mellotron again, making this one-off all the more odd; I'll never know why they didn't use it on their most Zep-esque number, the storming Mistral Wind from Dog and Butterfly (***½) (there's a killer live version on the full-length Greatest Hits/Live double), but there you go.

Over two decades later, Heart's first new studio album for eleven years, Jupiter's Darling, is a glorious return to form for the Wilsons, a million miles away from their '80s AOR horrors (note the return of their original logo). More than anything, this reminds me of their first two albums, with shedloads of acoustic guitar, the more rocking material actually being more convincing than almost anything they recorded in the late '70s. Ann's voice still has 'that' edge to it, making you feel she could burst into Dreamboat Annie at any second, while the consistency of the material puts even their best early work to shame. Craig Bartock plays Mellotron (do the band still own theirs?) on two tracks, with in-yer-face flutes and an unidentified string sound on Enough, with more flutes on Lost Angel, although I'm not 100% convinced by their veracity, to be honest.


bootlegs
Heart, 'Heartland'

Heartland  (recorded 1977,  40.36)  ***½/T

Crazy on You
Magic Man
Rock'n'Roll
Dreamboat Annie
Barracuda
Sing Child
Without You
Kick it Out
Little Queen
Heart, 'Birmingham, Alabama, 1977'

Jefferson Memorial Coliseum, Birmingham, Alabama, 5th October 1977  (83.25)  ***½/½

Sylvan Song
Dream of the Archer
Love Alive
Say Hello
Heartless
Kick it Out
Silver Wheels
Dreamboat Annie
Soul of the Sea
Treat Me Well
Little Queen
Devil Delight
Magic Man
Barracuda
Crazy on You
White Lightning & Wine
Rock and Roll
Without You
Heart, 'California Nights'

California Nights: Fresno, 12th May 1978  (87.27)  ***½/T

Cook With Fire
High Time
Heartless
Devil's Delight
Straight on
Magic Man
Love Alive
Magazine
Mistral Wind
Dog and Butterfly
Silver Wheels
Crazy on You
Kick it Out
Barracuda
White Lightning and Wine
Rock and Roll

Mellotron used:

Heart's 'Mellotron period' seems to be even shorter than that of many other bands', 1977-78, to be (relatively) precise, going by the bootleg evidence. Mellotronic legend has it that they owned an M400 with a natural oak case, which must've been a one-off, quite possibly hand-built, with a regular machine's innards moved into it, although video evidence shows a standard white M400.

Heartland is clearly a compilation of live tracks, recorded in the States during 1977 and possibly released on vinyl at the time (it's only vinyl length). Its tracklisting is all over the place for an actual gig; aside from the obvious (Crazy On You, Magic Man, Barracuda), we get Zeppelin's Rock And Roll (not officially available until 1980's Greatest Hits Live), Nilsson's Without You and a short selection of lesser-known album tracks from their first two albums, highlights including particularly effective versions of Magic Man and (especially) Sing Child. Howard Leese adds Mellotron to a handful of tracks, with brief string and choir parts on Crazy On You, choir swells in Barracuda and background choirs on Without You, but we're not exactly talking 'major Mellotron use' here.

Their lengthy set at Jefferson Memorial Coliseum, Birmingham, Alabama in October '77 highlights almost everything that's good about Heart; although they are, at heart (ha ha), soft rock, I have to admit they do their Zeppelin-lite thing pretty well, material of the quality of Soul Of The Sea, Devil Delight and Magic Man still holding up well. Even less Mellotron than on Heartland, with just choir swells in Barracuda and background choirs (under the string synth) on Without You.

The band played Fresno, California, in May '78, playing several tracks from their new release, Dog & Butterfly (Never the, er, rockingest of rockers, were they?), including mainstreamish rock'n'roll opener Cook With Fire, the album's title track and the mighty, Zep-esque Mistral Wind, a serious contender for 'best ever Heart track'. No, really. Leese plays Mellotron choirs on several tracks, making me wonder just how much of his use was rehearsed and how much thrown in on the night. Anyway, we get a handful of swells on Magazine and Mistral Wind and some nice pitchbends on Barracuda; they clearly considered it worth hauling a heavy, unreliable instrument around, then using it for a grand total of under a minute of their set. Strange.


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