When I was 10, I first heard Heart on the radio. It was 1976 and this song called "Crazy on You" came out of the little transistor radio I was listening to one night while nestled in the bunk bed my sister and I used to share. I loved the Spanish-influenced acoustic guitar intro, but nothing prepared me for the all-out electrical blast that followed.
My love affair for the band especially lead singer Ann Wilson, and her sister, guitarist Nancy began that night. And, like the Wilson sisters' music, that affair is as strong as ever.
I also liked the Wilson-led acoustic group, the LoveMongers.
Well, adding to my collection of Heart albums and Nancy's solo releases, I have another CD to add to my Heart-related stack: Ann's first solo album "Hope & Glory," released on the Zoe label last month. (The CD geared me up for the new Heart album and DVD, "Dreamboat Annie Live," which will be released next week ... and probably another story).
Ann will always be the voice of Heart to many (although I do love Nancy's leads on "Allies" and "These Dreams"). And this album shows Ann exercising her vocal abilities.
While in the past she's proven herself not only to be a powerful rock vocalist but also a heartfelt acoustic-music vocalist, "Hope & Glory" brings them together, and even throws in a couple of surprises.
The album is partly a tribute album to Wilson's musical influences, which include Pink Floyd ("Goodbye Blue Sky" with little sis Nancy), The Animals ("We Gotta Get Out of This Place" with Wynonna), John Lennon ("Isolation") and, of course, Led Zeppelin ("Immigrant Song").
The disc is also a chance for Wilson to sing with some of her favorite artists on other cover songs, including Elton John on his "Where to Now St. Peter," k.d. lang on Lucinda Williams' "Jackson," and Getchen Wilson on Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising."
Wilson also sings with Shawn Colvin and Rufus Wainwright on Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall," Alison Krauss on Neil Young's "War of Man," and another with Nancy on The Youngblood's "Darkness, Darkness."
Closing the album is Wilson's own "Little Problems, Little Lies."
What brings this ear-catching, moody album to the forefront among so many cover or solo albums? The arrangements are geared to display Wilson's melodically sirenlike voice.
The updated version of "Immigrant Song" with samples hooks don't sound out of place with the ghost-town version of "Darkness, Darkness," the hoedown version of "Bad Moon Rising" or the mind-trip version of "Goodbye Blue Sky."
Wilson has created a great little solo album that would fit perfectly blasting out of the speakers on a cross-country road trip. But it can also be played in your home system in the middle of the night.While some iPods are as big as the old black transistor radio I had as a kid, I don't know how my wife would feel about a bunk bed.