CD Review of Dreamboat Annie Live by Heart
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Label
Shout! Factory
Heart: Dreamboat Annie Live

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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O
f all the AOR bands who sold out in the mid-to-late ‘80s, Heart seems to have paid for it the most – while their similarly craven contemporaries find redemption every few years via new waves of nostalgia, the Wilson sisters have spent the last decade and change in the commercial and creative wilderness. Their last studio album, 2004’s Jupiters Darling, was their first in the span of a decade – putting them, in terms of release cycles, in the same club as Loverboy and REO Speedwagon.

This simply should not be. Prior to providing middle-school dances with melodramatic hits such as “Alone,” “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You,” and the still-inscrutable “These Dreams,” Ann and Nancy Wilson fronted an honest-to-God rock band – the kind of outfit that was both important (a chick with a guitar!) and, you know, good. This release, also available on DVD, is ostensibly the first installment in a new series from Shout! Factory in conjunction with DirecTV, and aims to take listeners back to the days when Heart stood for something more than hairspray and corsets.

The idea – which is expanded upon in the interview segments featured on the DVD – is to run through a classic album, get thoughts from the principal artists involved, and tack on a few covers of songs that influenced the band at the time. As needless repackagings go, it really isn’t bad, and if Dreamboat Annie Live were being presented by a more dynamic live band, then it might be worth something to people who aren’t fanatics and/or completists. Ann Wilson’s still got a mean set of pipes, and Nancy can still play as well as, if not better than, she ever has – but even at their peak, Heart was more of an FM mainstay than an electrifying live act, and that’s driven home forcefully here. These versions are competent, certainly, but they won’t make you jump up out of your chair.

If you’re only going to own this on one format (and really, there’s no reason to purchase it twice), it probably makes the most sense to opt for the DVD. There isn’t a ton of extra content – and the concert is presented basically as straightforwardly as you’d expect from a DirecTV production – but you get the aforementioned interview segments, a photo gallery, and reminiscences from members of the audience in addition to the show, and besides, you can just rip the audio to your hard drive anyway.

If you grew up cleaning out stems and seeds with double-album artwork, hearing the 21st-century incarnation of Heart run down catalog cornerstones like “Magic Man” and “Crazy on You,” with covers of “Black Dog,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” and others tacked on for good measure – not to mention getting the details of the (admittedly quite loose) concept behind Dreamboat Annie – then this will make for a perfectly entertaining trip down memory lane. You shouldn’t expect too much from it (and if you aren’t a hardcore Heartophile, you should definitely stick with the originals, or one of the band’s countless compilations), but all in all, it beats the hell out of hearing “Never” one more time.

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