CD Review of Hope & Glory by Ann Wilson
Recommended if you like
Heart, Led Zeppelin, Melissa Etheridge
Label
Rounder/ZOË
Ann Wilson: Hope & Glory

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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S
ome interesting things about Ann Wilson, which you may or may not already know:

1. Her middle name is Dustin.
2. She plays the flute.
3. 2007 marks her 32nd anniversary as a recording artist.
4. Hope & Glory is her solo debut.

Ann was busy belting out rock anthems with Heart for most of those 32 years, of course, and although the last decade or so has been fairly light on Heart-related product, she’s still earned some slack for taking so long to step out on her own. Counting those “Barracuda” royalties takes time, after all, and so does writing an album of great songs. Freed from market pressures and label constraints, Ann could take her time to buckle down and deliver a solid collection of rockin’ new tunes.

Or she could record a bunch of covers. And not quirky covers, either – hoary, obvious songs, like “Immigrant Song,” or “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” Classic rock chestnuts, new versions of which people didn’t need to hear, and in fact, may have actively prayed they’d never hear. It would be a pointless exercise, to be sure, but one which she could easily recruit friends like Elton John, Alison Krauss, Shawn Colvin, and Wynonna Judd to take part in, thus guaranteeing scads of easy publicity.

This, in a nutshell, is Hope & Glory.

The label’s promotional material tells us that Ann is hoping to “make a statement” with this album, specifically about the Iraq war and our broken government full of rapacious thugs and incompetent boobs, yadda yadda. If the idea of a politically charged album from one-half of the creative duo responsible for Bad Animals strikes you as a less-than-brilliant idea, you are not alone; consider, however, that as statements go, it can’t be any worse than “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You.”

But it’s still pretty bad.

As you might expect, it isn’t awful. For decades, Ann Wilson has boasted one of the better voices in rock, and that hasn’t changed – she plows through this field of withered AOR husks as gamely as anyone could hope. The problem, so to speak, is that she’s only as good as her material, and though she’s covering some of the best-known tracks in rock history, she brings them nothing new in the process. Wide swaths of the record are stone dull. They’re competently rendered – duh, look at the liner notes – but the net effect is similar to being in attendance at the safest, most star-studded karaoke party you could imagine. More than anything, you just want to break out the original recordings and listen to them instead (with the possible exception of “Get Together,” which makes you want to travel back in time and somehow convince Jesse Colin Young not to let anyone cover his song, ever, for any reason).

Maybe the most frustrating thing about Hope & Glory is that it closes with a Wilson original, “Little Problems, Little Lies,” which proves she’s got better things to wrap that terrific voice around than yet another goddamn cover of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” We love you, Ann, and it hurts us to see you like this.

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