Sovereign Artists, 2004
REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/25/2009
I wanted to like Jupiters Darling when it came out in 2004. When I picked it up to review for the Daily Vault, I wanted to like it. And the disc does have a couple of Heart’s best songs ever, perfect meldings of the folk/rock groove they’ve been mining since Dreamboat Annie. But in the end, the project’s lack of focus and a dearth of listenable songs, even though there are 16 tracks, once again disappoints.
Things start off in fine form with the almost hit single, “Make Me.” Opening well with an acoustic flamenco guitar intro that evokes “Crazy On You” without aping it, Ann Wilson tears into the tune with trademark grit and bombast, tempered by age and wisdom. Yeah, her voice sounds a little older and grittier, but, well, she’s older, you know? What do you expect? But that doesn’t change the power of her performance.
And when the crunching guitars of “Oldest Story In The World” come slamming out of the speakers next in a small way reminiscent of “Magic Man,” it feels good, you know? It feels like Heart has made a triumphant return to the music that made them, even as they update and expand the sound that made them.
But (man, I hate the word “but”…) when “Things” starts and an image of the old TV show Hee Haw fills your mind as Nancy takes over lead vocals, a serious cringe begins that then carries through most of the album. Ann returns for the fourth song, “The Perfect Goodbye,” and almost redeems things with a power ballad that perfectly updates the ‘80s style of “What About Love” and “Alone,” two songs that were the pinnacle of the band’s second chance run through that decade.
On Jupiters Darling, Heart reminds me of that crazy aunt who comes to visit and for the first few days of her visit, she’s a blast! She’s so cool and lets you do the things your mom won’t. She wears clothes that are a mishmash of styles and a patchwork of fabrics. She stays up late, watching Adult Swim on Cartoon Network -- and she gets it.
But eventually, her manic, almost shape-shifting nature, begins to feel affected, put on in an attempt to convince you she’s really cool. And when she yells “Rawk on, dude!” you get embarrassed for her -- and yourself.
After track seven, “I Need The Rain,” which is a great acoustic ballad that allows Nancy’s vocals to shine, Heart begins to overstay their welcome and the listener is ready for this visit to be over. Unfortunately, there are still nine tracks to go, such as the abysmal, musically and lyrically clichéd “Vainglorious,” the Sheryl Crow reject “I’m Fine,” and the interminable “Lost Angel” before things close with the blissfully short (1:56) “Hello Moonglow” that brings back Heart’s trademark folk harmonies -- but way too late in the game.