Private Audition


Epic, 1982

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Looking back, it was surprising to see the quick ascension to fame that Heart achieved in the mid- to late ‘70s. Equally surprising was the loss of musical identity and focus that the band experienced in the early ‘80s.

1982’s Private Audition, the final album featuring longtime band members Steve Fossen and Mike DeRosier (and featuring continued reliance on material from outside songwriter Sue Ennis), is an unholy mess of conflicting styles and what sounds like unfinished songwriting that is easily the weakest album Heart had recorded to this point.

One listen to the album’s leadoff track, “City’s Burning,” and you have to wonder why Ann Wilson has escalated her vocals into what sounds like histrionics. The tuneless wailings she passes off as vocals, laid on top of a second-rate rock beat, is a sad harbinger of things to come.

Things just do not get better. The title track is a throwback to what sounds like popular music from the ‘30s or ‘40s and just sounds incredibly out of place on this disc. “Perfect Stranger,” one of the few highlights of the album, lacks the power and emotion that earlier ballads with a little musical muscle had in Heart’s discography. A similar complaint is had with “Angels,” a song that could have definitely benefited from further instrumentation rather than sticking with the sparseness that the track has.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Even the one “hit,” “This Man Is Mine,” is a pale shell of a song in comparison to what Heart had been cranking out earlier in their still relatively short career. If this track was the best that Heart could do, then there was no wonder that Private Audition became the first of their albums to fail to earn even gold record status.

Things do begin to take a turn for the better with the tracks “The Situation” and “Hey Darlin’ Darlin’,” two tracks that still suggest that a little more time on the drawing board could have turned these into much better works altogether. Still, compared to the twenty minutes or so of sludge that precedes these two songs, it’s a marked improvement.

The remainder of Private Audition returns to the blandness that makes up the bulk of the disc -- and though the remaining songs aren’t terrible, they quickly pale in comparison to what Heart had become known for. Closing the disc with a mournful “America” is not exactly the best way to leave the listener after taking them on an uneventful, mostly unpleasant ride.

What bothers me about Private Audition is that Heart was capable of much greater things musically. Whether the end result was due to tensions in the band (something they had known all too well for the previous few years) or other problems that I will not speculate on here, this disc is hardly representative of what the Wilson sisters could do, both in terms of songwriting and musical execution. The final result of this disc is a collection of songs left adrift in doubt and conflicting styles.

Heart would eventually reclaim their power and show listeners they still knew how to make their ears bleed and have people enjoy it. But Private Audition simply deserves to have the hook pulled on it. Sorry, ladies -- don’t call us, we’ll call you.

Rating: D-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2009 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic, and is used for informational purposes only.