When Heart first broke onto the scene in the mid-'70s with the hit singles "Crazy on You" and "Magic Man" from their Dreamboat Annie album they completely changed the rock radio paradigm. Here was a band with, thanks mostly to the vocal work of Ann Wilson, a completely fresh take on heavy and catchy rock and roll. As the group became known and started garnering articles in the rock press it didn't hurt either that Ann and her younger sister Nancy were blessed with pin-up girl good looks. Probably no one except the Wilsons imagined that they'd still be rockin' nearly 40-years later. It seems though that Heart has found some type of musical fountain of youth; Ann is now in her 60s but a listen to Fanatic makes it seem like hardly a day has passed since the release of Bebe Le Strange. In other words, this is not the phenomenally popular but softer, ballad-driven side of Heart; this is a good old ass kicking. The album starts with "Fanatic," a storm of slashing guitars and "Money for Nothing"-style keyboard where Ann's vocals quickly affirm that she hasn't lost a step; the quasi-political "Dear Old America" follows and includes, as is a Heart regularity, nods to the mighty Led Zeppelin. Sort of like how Keith Richards usually gets to sing one song on a Rolling Stones album, Nancy gets her vocal turn on "Walkin' Good," a smooth but rocking duet with Sarah McLachlan. "Skin and Bones" is a funky, bluesy strut, "Million Miles" uses gurgling keyboard to simulate the never-ending motion of life on the road while a cymbal-heavy rhythm emulates the journey's possible headaches, Ann's I-love-it-anyway vocal prevailing through it all. Possibly the best-written song on the album is the harmony laden "Pennsylvania;" the song never busts out into the rocker that the arrangement implies is coming and it is the inherent anticipation that makes the song so stunning. "Rock Deep (Vancouver)" provides the album's only quiet interlude; the grunge-y "59 Crunch" and the slinky "Corduroy Road" close out Fanatic, a very strong effort that won't disappoint the Heart faithful.
CD (vinyl and digital versions also available)
Heart - Fanatic