Mushroom / Capitol, 1978
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/06/2009
By all rights, Magazine was supposed to be the second album from Ann and Nancy Wilson and their bandmates. But a dispute with their then-record label Mushroom led them to sign with Portrait, and Little Queen became their sophomore release in 1977. Meanwhile, the original version of Magazine, basically an incomplete album, hit the shelves. I won’t go into the details of how this played out -- there are websites filled with this information -- but the short ending was that Heart indeed owed Mushroom one more album on their contract, so they went in and re-recorded parts of Magazine to clean up the sound.
Now, the average listener coming off of Little Queen might wonder where this particular music was coming from, as it is stylistically different. But, had this disc been released after Dreamboat Annie, it did seem to be the logical next step in Heart’s musical development. And though this disc tends to be forgotten about (except for the radio hit “Heartless,” which, I have to admit, doesn’t get as much airplay as it used to), it turns out to be not a bad disc in retrospect.
This could have been an absolute debacle, akin to the infamous record Van Morrison recorded to fulfill his contract with Bang Records. Instead, the eight selections here -- six studio, two live -- are, for the most part, solid efforts that, while not Heart’s best work, are deserving of more respect than this particular disc tends to get.
“Heartless” is a track that could well have been a veiled slam against Mushroom courtesy of the Wilson sisters -- how else could one read a line about “sinning in the name of rock and roll”? And while this track has the hooks that hits like “Crazy On You” and “Barracuda” have, the rhythm section of this song leaves much to be desired, as the funkiness of the bass guitar just does not seem appropriate to the overall feel of this song. That said, I do enjoy listening to this track.
Lost, though, behind the radio hit is a much better track -- namely, the title song. A richly orchestrated song that is well-written and executed, it makes me wonder why this one has gone unnoticed for so long. Maybe it was the length; this song clocks in at 6:22, while “Heartless” is a fraction over five minutes long, but not a single note is wasted on this song as filler.
The same thing could be said for the two acoustic tracks, one of which, “Here Song,” is only 1:35 in length. Now, one wonders what this song could have become had it been further developed, but in all honesty, I don’t think it needs to be. Likewise, “Just The Wine” might not be seen as a hit track, but the folkiness of this track (which almost explains why Heart took that direction on Little Queen) just captures something special.
This isn’t to say that Magazine is a perfect album; one listen to “Devil Delight” and the listener will undoubtedly ask themselves, “What the hell were they thinking?!?” Ann Wilson’s demonic wailing on this one is just ear-shattering, making me wonder why Heart thought this particular track was a good idea. One also has to wonder why they chose to cover “Without You” -- covers on an album so soon in one’s career, to me, is a sign of trouble.
The two live tracks aren’t anything special, though one wonders whether “I’ve Got The Music In Me” could have been a hit had it been released as a studio version. In a way, it seemed a little early to put live tracks on an album, but for an album cobbled together, I can understand their inclusion.
Had circumstances been different, Magazine might have been better remembered by fans, and it is a shame that only one track from this garners even a small amount of attention. But while it’s by no means a great album, Magazine is a good disc that is deserving of a second look.