Wednesday, 9 November 2016

"Little Queen" by HEART (2004 Epic/Legacy 'Expanded Edition' CD - Joseph Palmaccio Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Beauty Take Us..." 

"...Beauty Take Us..." they etched into the run-out groove of Portrait JC 34799 - their second album in early May 1977. And Heart's sophisticated Seattle Rock has been doing just that for decades ever since.

After a blistering debut in the shape of "Dreamboat Annie" on Mushroom Records the year prior (Arista in the UK) - the dynamic songwriting duo of Nancy and Ann Wilson at the core of the band (the caped sisters on the front cover with their band of intrepid gypsies behind them) stumped up yet another radio-friendly tennis-racket wielding winner in "Little Queen" - housing as it does huge fan-faves to this day like "Barracuda" and "Love Alive".

And this superbly remastered Legacy 'Expanded Edition' CD even adds on a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" as one of two bonus tracks - a near ten-minute live version from 1976 that might have its Jimmy Page & Robert Plant originators nodding in tearful appreciation. Here are the heart-shaped teeshirts and era-changing dreams...

UK released June 2004 - "Little Queen" by HEART on Epic/Legacy 508342 2 (Barcode 5099750834220) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with Two Bonus Tracks and plays out as follows (52:06 minutes):

1. Barracuda
2. Love Alive
3. Sylvan Song
4. Dream Of The Archer
5. Kick It Out
6. Little Queen
7. Treat Me Well
8. Say Hello
9. Cry To Me
10. Go On Cry
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 2nd studio album "Little Queen" - released May 1977 in the USA on Portrait Records JC 34799 and July 1977 in the UK on Portrait PRT 82075. Produced by MIKE FLICKER - it peaked at No. 9 on the US album charts and No. 36 in the UK.

BONUS TRACKS (Previously Unreleased):
11. Too Long A Time (Early Demo Version of "Love Alive")
12. Stairway To Heaven (Live at the Aquarius Tavern in Seattle, WA, 1976)

The 5-square double-sided foldout inlay has witty and affection liner notes from NANCY WILSON remembering an era when they genuinely felt that music (including theirs) had " eye towards enlightening and changing the world..." I can remember that feeling - everything up for grabs - when music seemed so important you couldn't breath with excitement. There's also a 'track by track' overview of the songs by both sisters that tells us of their pride in stunners like "Love Alive". There are the usual reissue credits and several beautiful colour photos of the girls and the band clearly enjoying the spoils of years grafting. But the big news is a new JOSEPH M. PALMACCIO Remaster done at Sony Music's New York Studios in 2004. This album has always needed that extra 'oomph' a good remaster can give a record and Palmaccio has done the business here. The truly gorgeous acoustic guitars of "Treat Me Well" rattle around your living room with warmth and presence - then that Bass and Ann's aching pleading voice (will you treat me well) - that lonesome Harmonica mixing with the strings - Mike Flicker's original production values shining like never before. It’s hugely impressive stuff...

"Little Queen" opens with a huge 'rawk' anthem and a produced one at that - flanged guitars and whacking drums thundering through your speakers as "Barracuda" nibbles at your legs with Jaws-like teeth (the audio is fantastic on this sucker). But even that's roundly trumped by the brilliance and sheer melody of "Love Alive" - an Acoustic/Rock tune that so apes Led Zeppelin's style that its hairy (a compliment to the boys in the best possible way). I dare say the girls are proud of this song - co-written with guitarist Roger Fisher. Zeppelin III's mandolin influence rears its melodic head on "Sylvan Song" where the instrumental passage channels its inner Jimmy Page with beautiful effect (a Nancy Wilson and Roger Fisher co-write) before launching into gorgeous duet-vocals on "Dream Of The Archer". Re-listening to this beautiful song - you can so hear why they were both able to tackle soundtracks later in their careers – melody is at the core of their songwriting. The Side 1 Rock 'n' Roll finisher "Kick It Out" turned up at the B-side to the October 1977 UK 7" single of "Love Alive" on Portrait PRT 5570 – but despite its strength as a double-sider - Heart would have to wait unto 1986's "These Dreams" for chart success in Blighty.

The album's ambitious title track "Little Queen" opens Side 2 where Ann sings of a 'gypsy band' - a five-minute guitar chugger co-written with Bassist Steve Fossen and Drummer Michael Derosier. But that's kicked firmly into touch by the stunning "Treat Me Well" - a Nancy Wilson hurt that's 40 years old in 2017 and yet still feels like an open-wound you can't cauterise (its the only song on the album featuring her Lead Vocals). Hand-claps, falling coins and giggling voices open "Say Hello" quickly followed by layers of Fleetwood Mac type vocals as the band has fun and feels lighter than usual (bit of an album-sleeper this one). There's an underlying pain in "Cry To Me" crackling through Ann Wilson's vocals - asking someone to trust and 'set it free' even if it’s emotionally dangerous. The near six-minute "Go On Cry" is another co-write with Guitarist Fisher and feels like the album's overlooked masterpiece. I've always loved the way those 'ooh' vocals come sailing in and those building guitar flicks like Roger Gilmour letting rip in the studio (Palmaccio's Remaster breathes life into this track).

I wasn't expecting much of the two bonus tracks but they are shockingly good. Different 'mama' lyrics fill "Too Long A Time" – an early demo version of "Love Alive" that has fabulous layered vocals but a guitar solo that feels intrusive instead of adding to the song and you can so hear why it was dropped. But even in this early form – it's amazing stuff. The live version of "Stairway To Heaven" is preceded by a witty introduction about Canadians and 'people in lurve' and is amazingly faithful to the original – difficult passages and all. They would of course play the song in front Of Page and Plant four decades later – see YouTube footage of that amazing tribute with both of its creators properly moved.

In October 1978 they would follow 1977's "Little Queen" with another fan fave - "Dog & Butterfly" - which along with March 1980's "Bebe Le Strange” is also part of Epic/Legacy's 'Expanded Edition' Series of CD Remasters.

Although it's forgotten now "Little Queen" is a great HEART album. And languishing in a warehouse near you for under four English poundlike small ones - it doesn't take a tarot card or a gypsy's crystal ball to work out that ye minstrels of Seventies Rock need this little CD belter in your travelling caravan - and right soon...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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