REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/17/2009
This came as something of a shock when it was first released at the dawn of the ‘90s, Heart’s impressive third decade churning out reliable rock. The first single and video, “All I Want To Do Is Make Love To You,” was perhaps the raciest combo the band had ever dared to put out on the market. “We are here to make a statement and we are here to stay,” is what sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson seemed to be boldly stating with this, their tenth album, Brigade. And even though it turned out to be their last brush with platinum relevance, it was a damned fine high note to end on.
From the thunderous opening cut “Wild Child” to the best ballad Heart had recorded in a long time, “I Didn‘t Want To Need You” (which is far better than the cringe-inducing single “Stranded”), the first half of Brigade is nearly flawless. The track “Tall Dark Handsome Stranger” even has a horn section thrown in for good measure, just in case some critics were looking for some more depth from this band. Even an otherwise forgotten track like “The Night” has enough intrigue to keep the listener hooked.
Unfortunately, the second half is where things tend to go astray. The worst of the bunch are three filler tunes that sound virtually the same -- “Fallen From Grace,” “Under The Sky,” and “Cruel Nights.” There is nothing special about any of one of them, unless syrupy, middle-of-the-road, Christian-themed rock is your thing. Is this supposed to be some kind of born again message they are attempting to send? Oh well, if there was ever music to scare demons away, I guess Heart must have nailed it.
After such a jarring detour into adult contemporary oblivion, things get back on track with what are perhaps the three best tunes on Brigade, namely “Call Of The Wild,” “I Want Your World To Turn,” and my summer of ‘90 love theme “I Love You.” The Duran Duran-style synth hook on “Call Of The Wild” is my favorite part, though the full-on electric guitar assault is pretty darn impressive as well. The sexy feel of “I Want Your World To Turn” is bound to set many straight men’s tongues hanging out of their mouths like rabid dogs in heat, while “I Love You” is a sterling tear-jerker of the highest caliber. Once in a great while, a song comes along that has that extra something special and “I Love You” fits that bill like a diamond-studded glove.
Hopefully, Heart had enjoyed the success that this album provided, because a few years later, the band will have lost all momentum entirely. Their subsequent albums Desire Walks On and Jupiter’s Darling barely made a ripple and sank to the bottom without a trace. Judging by how many live albums they have released over their long career, it’s not a stretch to say that Heart is one band that is at its best when performing on stage. With Ann’s incredible vocal range and Nancy’s guitar chops, you’d be a fool not to go.