Review Summary: A classy compilation that reinforces Heart's status as one of the greatest female-led groups in rock history.
There is probably nothing sexier than a hot female who knows how to properly rock. If you really think about it, most of us like to rock and the majority like females, if for nothing else properly educating them in the intricacies of carnal knowledge. Stevie Nicks is a bonafide legend in rock music not just because she was an exceptional songwriter and had that gin-soaked voice that practically begged one to envision going to town on her dirty-gypsy style, but because in her prime she was noticeably attractive, in a realistic “I could probably bang her if I got lucky” way. Sure, some might say that Shakira or name your clichéd hot pop star might be the hottest female singer of all time, but they are completely out of our league, play atrocious music, don’t write their own songs, and definitely don’t rock. It’s difficult to say which one of these qualities is the most important, but Stevie Nicks’ are few and far between. There aren’t many in her league, and the list ends and starts with the Wilson sisters of Heart, who also wrote their own songs, played their own instruments, and in their primes were bursting with that earnest yet realistic sexuality. They also completely f*cking rocked.
Heart’s classic 70s era can best be described as a female Zeppelin crossed with hippie folksters like Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell. Their three most iconic songs (“Magic Man,” “Barracuda,” and “Crazy On You”) are all classic hard rock staples drenched in passionate guitar playing and vocals dripping raw sexuality, but this era of Heart always collided the rock with flower girl acoustic jams (“Dreamboat Annie,” “Dog and Butterfly.”) The consistent theme is they absolutely knew what they were doing, and exploited their talents to the highest degree, sexuality included. Being the talented broads they were, the Wilson sisters never pigeon-holed themselves until the 80’s, transitioning from the almost metal “Barracuda” to the blues saturated “Magic Man” to the maniacally passionate “Crazy On You” to countless others that would never make a greatest hits album but are probably worth your time. This was the first of Heart’s two peaks, and solidified their status as a part of the original riot grrls, only with talent.
There is absolutely no question Heart sold out in the 80s, obviously caving into the bombastic synth-laden power ballad laced parlance of the times after enduring a brief lull where they burned out trying to recapture their original magic. This might have been a problem if they had been men (dudes usually aren’t allowed to switch from hard rockin’ to top 40 balladry), and if their syrupy power-pop wasn’t unequivocally awesome. What really happened in the 80s is guitarist Nancy took a back seat to vocalist Ann, a role reversal to their 70s format, and the riffs were replaced with pianos and synths brandishing monstrous pop hooks that wouldn’t have been nearly as impactful without the sheer power and grace of the eldest Wilson’s voice. If Heart was going to be successful pumping out “no doubt about it” adult contemporary pop, it had to be executed well, and the proof of this seamless execution can be found in the devastatingly powerful anthem “Alone,” one of the greatest pop songs of the era and an absolute clinic of passionate female singing. Heart’s pop sensibilities proved masterful on iconic cuts like “These Dreams,” “Never,” and “What About Love,” but its “Alone” that is the defining song of their second peak. Heart sold almost triple the amount of records in the 80s as the 70s, and while that might have something to do with the era itself, it also owes to their uncanny ability to transition formats and not miss a beat.
There are at least five Heart compilations, but “These Dreams” most effectively chronicles the best of both eras. The track selection is strong and leaves out nothing essential, a common folly of compilations which can usually be chalked up to a cash grabbing tactic. In the end it doesn’t matter, virtually anywhere one starts with Heart they will be greeted with the sincerity of the Wilson’s owning their own craft and the ability and raw grace in which they pull it off. Women have a tremendously more difficult time earning cred in the rock world, primarily because the sheer nature of the beast is geared towards all things manly, but the Wilson sisters proved they could stand tall with even their greatest, hairiest idols. Compared to Heart, most female rock groups are an epic fail, regardless of which era you compare them to.