Heart Beautiful Broken: Album Review

Heart’s new album Beautiful Broken was released on July 8th, 2016. The album is a return to the Heart sound of the 1970s. However, it is not a studio album filled with new songs. On the record, the Heart sisters have recorded brand new versions of songs from the Heart lost era. The band had tremendous success in the mid to late 1970s and then even more success in the mid to late 1980s. Their early 1980s period has long been considered their lost years in which the band released some wonderful rock and roll records that just did not have the chart success that records from their other periods had.

The three albums that Heart pulled the newly recorded material from were their 1980’s release Bebe Le Strange, 1982’s Private Audition, and 1983’s Passionworks.  The latter two records were so largely ignored that for years it was almost impossible to find Private Audition on CD. Nonetheless, they were great albums that deserved the airplay they rarely received. Only Bebe Le Strange with the hit “Even It Up,” scored some success on the charts.

So the question may be asked as to why the Heart sisters have decided to record new versions of some of these lost gems. The first reason is that most musicians are never really happy with anything they record. Great live bands like Heart continually develop song arrangements while playing live. Over time, some songs performed live are hardly recognizable when compared to their original studio recordings. It seems Heart may have just decided to re-record some songs to match their live performance intensity.

Heart Beautiful Broken

Photo: Fatcat125 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

The other reason is simply Hearts desire to introduce fans to some of their material that had gone unnoticed. The songs the band chose to re-record were some of the best tracks on those albums. “Johnny Moon,” and” Language of Love,” were standout tracks from the Passionworks album. The new arrangements show maturity in the musicianship that can only be defined by a long stellar career of performing live. Paul Buckmaster’s beautiful string arrangement on “Language of Love,” proves that Heart made a wonderful choice in bringing along the legendary orchestrator.

Heart’s new recording of “City’s Burning,” from Private Audition is a much heavier arrangement than the original. However, the Private Audition recording had been a big-time favorite among hardcore Heart fans. It will be interesting to see if those fans accept the new arrangement. The original was quite good.

As Heart mentioned the album is a return to their 1970s sound, the proof of that statement is easily found in the opening track “Beautiful Broken.” The song is easily one of the best new recordings the band has made in the last twenty years.  Ann Wilson’s vocal phrasing on the song clearly echoes her 1970’s vocal inflections. Nancy’s guitar work is reminiscent of some of Heart’s best 1970s Led Zeppelin inspired Barracuda type material. So much of Heart’s sound was inspired by the band Led Zeppelin. Much has been made of James Hatfield’s appearance on the track. It’s a cool addition, but the Metallica man only sings two lines in the middle of the song. It’s hard to believe that a bonus track from a previous album (2102’s Fanatic) can become the lead-off single and title track to a brand-new album. Guess that means one should pay attention to bonus tracks and special edition CDs.

It’s amazing that Ann and Nancy Wilson have been releasing albums for over forty years. The band has continued to perform live with the same energy they brought to the stage in 1976. It’s wonderful that they keep releasing great rock and roll records. The material on the album is brilliant, but we already knew that. Beautiful Broken’s greatest achievement is musicianship. It’s great to hear a record with real musicians playing their Heart out!

Updated October 31, 2023

Heart Beautiful Broken: Album Review article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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