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Heart - Red Velvet Car

by Kevin Wierzbicki

It's been a long time since Ann and Nancy Wilson spent time tripping on acid in Seattle's Space Needle. And while the ladies have long since moved on from such pursuits the tone of Red Velvet Car indicates that the sisters are well aware of the fact that the music that came out of youthful experimentation is the most-beloved portion of their lengthy body of work.

Sure, later songs like "What About Love" and "Alone" brought the band millions of new fans and the dollars that go along with them but the ballads also alienated a lot of Heart's fan base.

Now fans that quit buying Heart albums after Bebe Le Strange can come back into the fold with glee. To their credit, the Wilson's have made a fresh-sounding album that sounds for the most part like it could have come out between Dreamboat Annie and Little Queen without completely bastardizing their own material.

Red Velvet Car begins with a trifecta of strong tunes that are customized to draw in older fans; "There You Go" has Ann's smoky vocal riding a funky, sexy rhythm that recalls "Even it Up," "WTF" finds the band doing their best Zep/Who mash-up and updating "Magic Man" while "Red Velvet Car" is a breathy torch song that would have been right at home on Dog and Butterfly.

"Queen City" comes mid-album but if it had been placed as the lead-off track it certainly would have set Red Velvet Car's theme perfectly; not only is it a slightly-psychedelic rocker that's instantly friendly and recognizable as Heart but its lyrics deal with what this album is mostly about---a fond look back.

As is the norm, Nancy lends her seductive voice to a couple tunes---the little-bit-country "Hey You" and the sublime "Sunflower." "Wheels" and "Death Valley" are other strong rockers that lead Red Velvet Car home and into the garage where the acoustic, dealing-with-mortality "Sand" closes the set; the song was originally released by the girls in 1997 on the Whirlygig album by Heart's alter-ego side project the Lovemongers.

All the aging classic rock bands that are putting out lame last-gasp albums need to take a listen to Red Velvet Car for some genuine inspiration; Heart fans meanwhile can just send the girls a silent thank you while they enjoy this unexpected gift from two cherished old friends.

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