Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Heart - Passionworks

Today (August 20th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Passionworks, the seventh studio album by the rocking Wilson sisters (Ann and Nancy) of Heart. This 1983 release, which spent twenty one weeks on the US Billboard 200 Album chart where it peaked at number 39, saw a shift in the band’s sound to a more mainstream rock direction. It was also the first album to include Denny Carmassi (drums) and Mark Andes (bass and backing vocals).

Side one starts off with “How Can I Refuse”. As the first single, it charted at number 44 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. This up-tempo tune focuses on those strong feelings of infatuation that occur at the beginning of a new romantic relationship.

The percussion is the first thing that jumped out to me on “Blue Guitar”, a song about a young female musician discovering a new instrument. I really like the way Carmassi varied the beats and rhythms through out.

“Johnny Moon”, the B-side to the first single, is about a woman is in love with a guy who spends most of free time getting stoned.

“Sleep Alone”, while not a single, found some strong play on the US Mainstream Rock chart where it peaked at number 43. It has strong synthesizers and electronic drums, giving the whole thing the type of rock sound that became a staple in the 80’s.

“Together Now” was the B-side to the second single. The track starts out slow but then takes a harder turn halfway through.

Side two opens with “Allies”, a political focused anthem written by Jonathan Cain of Journey. As the second single, it stalled at number 83 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

“(Beat By) Jealousy” takes on the topic of domestic violence. I do like the quirky rhythm on this one as it twists and turns in dark corners before exploding about midway through.

“Heavy Heart”, full of despair and heartbreak, is next.

“Love Mistake” opens up a conversation between two close friends, one of whom still has very strong feelings for the other.

When words fail, Heart recommends we turn to the “Language of Love” to get our point across.

The album closes with “Ambush”, a mix of funk and rock with a generous helping of those electric drum beats too.

While I was familiar with Heart’s early years and later 80’s offerings, this was my first exposure to most of the tracks on Passionworks. By this point in 1983, I had shifted a good bit away from the standard rock acts to focus on dance music (the stuff I was hearing out at clubs on the weekends). I thought that the album was a good listen and that perhaps, with subsequent revisits, some of the tracks might be ones I would like to pick up at some point.

- For 1978’s Magazine, click here.

- For 1982’s Private Audition, click here.

1 comment:

HERC said...

I ♥ Heart.

Have been into their music ever since my Dad brought home the Dreamboat Annie album on 8-track in 1976 or 1977 with it's cut in half version of "Crazy On You".

Thought their performance at 2013 Rock Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony was one of the evening's best. It made me dig out all of my Heart discs and do a retrospective listening marathon over the course of three weeks, giving each album its due, repeating tracks I liked etc.

For me, Passionworks is one of the band's lesser albums but an important one as they transitioned from Seventies rockers to Eighties poppers. The transition had begun with 1982's Private Audition and became fully realized with 1985's multi-platium, hit-packed Heart. While I never stopped buying Heart albums, until recently many of those albums had only been listened to once or twice. To any fans who may have stopped listening in the Eighties or even the Nineties, both 2004's Jupiters Darling and 2009's Red Velvet Car might be what you were looking for; I'm still undecided about 2012's Fanatic.

I saw them twice, six months apart in Dec 1985 and May 1986 and in concert they were able to reconcile their hard rockin' side with their pop ballad side, giving fans ample doses of both. Based on their HOF performance, they are still in top form.

For the record, the most played Heart song in my digital library is not what I expected it to be. The Penthouse Forum letter "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You" is far and away the most played Heart track of the three dozen currently on HERC's hard drive. Most people don't know it was written by rock super-producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange and was first recorded by Dobie "Drift Away" Gray on his 1979 self-titled, disco-tinged album with completely different lyrics. More recently, it was faithfully covered by hard-rockers Halestorm in 2011.

Heart's "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You

Halestorm's cover

Ann + Nancy paying tribute to Led Zeppelin in December 2012