Forgotten Rock Gems: Heart’s “Dreamboat Annie”
It’s time for another edition of Forgotten Rock Gems (or FRG for the simpler folk)! This is only the second one I’ve done, so bear with me as I get accustomed to these articles. A few weeks back, I looked at Kiss’ debut album, a theme that will carry on to the article that you are reading currently. “Dreamboat Annie” was Heart’s debut album, featuring some of the band’s biggest smash hits. At its core, Heart is comprised of sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, with Ann at the mic and Nancy jamming on lead guitar. Playing gigs in Canada, the group finally recorded “Dreamboat Annie” in Vancouver in the summer of 1975. Following the success of the album in Canada, the album was released in the US and charted at #7 of the Billboard Charts. Going off of this, I know it may not seem like this fantastic album was “forgotten” but I think it does not get the credit it deserves. It paved the way for female-voiced rock records in a male-dominated genre and male-controlled era. Anyway, let’s get to some of the highlights of the album itself.
I’ll start off by saying that the side 1 of the album is much stronger than the B-side, which is more of a testament as to how strong the first side is. The album kicks off with “Magic Man” which is a simple but banging track. The song and album start off with a single highlighted guitar note and basic drum beat, but it works ever-perfectly. Combine this with the chorus that brings along miniature guitar solos, and you’ll find a chart-placing single, which is exactly what this song was (#9 on the Billboard Hot 100). An added bonus is the synthesizer that makes the album version of the song that much more bizarre, yet fulfilling. Next on the album is “Dreamboat Annie (Fantasy Child)”. While this jam is only 1:10 long, it is followed by the 5th and 10th tracks on the album, “Dreamboat Annie” and “Dreamboat Annie – Reprise”. These songs are lyrically and musically cousins, but there are differences that make each deserving of its place on the album. The first version is a naked, entirely acoustic folk song that you could fall asleep to before the song is over. The second version builds off the first by adding bass, drums, and even some banjo to the mix. This version is a little longer than its predecessor, clocking in at 2:02. Finally, the “Reprise” is the song in its final, evolved stage, having a length of 3:50 and adding piano, strings, and bells. There is a classical music solo (that’s what I’ll call it) towards the end of the song that sets up a proper ending to a stellar album.
I decided to save the best song for last for this article. “Crazy on You” is far and away my favorite Heart song and one of my favorite rock songs in general. Its verses are sung and played softly, but the bridge and chorus kick the song into high gear with a memorable guitar riff (maybe it’s the Guitar Hero 2 in me) and a fired-up Ann Wilson on the mic. This song also has a little country riff at the 4:15 mark that really helps the song transition towards the last screaming of the chorus before the song ends. This song remains one of Heart’s most popular songs, as it captures the early sound of the band and was their debut single, which charted at #35 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Like I said in the Kiss article, this album, like most albums, is done the most justice when listening on vinyl. I did not touch on all of the tracks, but trust me (or don’t), this album does not have a weak track. “White Lightning and Wine” is a rocking song that has a unique sound to it relative to the rest of the album. “Sing Child” has some nasty flute work by Ann Wilson that would bring tears of joy to Ron Burgundy’s eyes. Every time I place the turntable needle on this record, I notice something new or a different song stands out for me. It is a fantastic record and deserves more props for being a debut album for the influential band that is Heart.
Thanks for reading another FRG, and if you have a suggestion for a record to write about, feel free to tweet me @jwmappes!
“My love is the evenin’ breeze touchin’ your skin
The gentle, sweet singin’ of leaves in the wind”