Sunday, August 4, 2013

Passionworks: The Most Underrated Heart Album EVER

Heart, if you've been following me on Twitter, or elsewhere, is one of, if not my all-time favorite musical artist or group.

Also, I am one of the few people who love, love, loves their eighties and early nineties output (a period that stretches from 1985 till 1995), but the same Heart lineup that makes me super happy on the 1985 self-titled comeback record and on 1994's flawless Desire Walks On was first on the scene with quite possibly one of the most criminally underrated records ever: 1983's Passionworks.

So, why has Passionworks become one of those albums I constantly have on "Repeat"?  Well... here's your chance to learn why.

First off the band ROARS into life on the positively insane "How Can I Refuse?", a song about a passionate love affair that the narrator doesn't exactly want to end.  The only thing is, the music video for this one is... cheesy 80s at best, and frankly doesn't add anything different or new to the song other than a... creepy magician who enslaves the band...  Yeah, just don't make mention of just how bad that sounds, just watch this music video and see for yourself:


Next is Blue Guitar, which I've always thought was about guitarist Nancy Wilson's beautiful blue 1973 Fender Telecaster (which, when she puts that sucker on you KNOW it's going to be a good old fashioned hard rocking song).  I don't quite know whether they're talking about a man or a guitar later on in the song, but holy cow, this works so well coming right off of How Can I Refuse.

Third in line is Johnny Moon, a slower song about what I can only guess is a spectral being disguised as a teenaged boy... Either way, this is the first major piece of evidence for my theory that Denny Carmassi is the best drummer in Heart's history, next to Ben Smith, the current drummer for the band.  He just NAILS the drum parts in this song and it adds something ethereal to this song that already had ethereal bits to it.

Fourth is Sleep Alone, a moderately more rocked up song about a woman who needs the... ahem... companionship of man.   It's interesting, but it kind of works better as a bridge between Johnny Moon's ethereal sound and the next song's more moderately rock song.

Speaking of, fifth is Together Now, a song about a person who is consummating his or her relationship in saying how they're together now, and nothing is going to shake their faith in how well this one's gonna work.

Sixth is Allies, which Rob Smith, the guy behind Death By Power Ballad over at PopDose said in a comment about 3 years ago was the other side of a coin flip that wrought his marvelously funny review of Heart's Alone.  I would very much enjoy hearing his thoughts on the entire Passionworks album, and this one in particular.  It has a superb piano line to start off, and has my attention throughout and I can sing along, moderately.  This one was confused with a song on the 1985 self-titled comeback album when I went searching for lyrics for the song All Eyes a couple years ago and when I finally got to hear it, I was so amazed at the song, it made all that prior confusion totally worth it.

Seventh is (Beat By) Jealousy, a song about (well, what else?) how the speaker is jealous of someone else's major successes.  It's really interesting for someone like me to listen to just how Ann Wilson effortlessly moves people's emotions to be on her side, and it is really unique to this artist because she can still totally bring it!

Eighth is Heavy Heart, about (again, what else?) a heavy heart, and how sometimes you have to move on, even with a heavy heart.  This is another great transitional song into the next song, Love Mistake.

Ninth is Love Mistake, which was written by Nancy Wilson for a friend of hers who had gone through a... rather painful breakup, to say the very least.  It's probably one of my favourite songs, and I was this close to thinking they were going to play this one live when I saw them in Asheville, but I still love this song dearly and hope they perform this one live... eventually.

Penultimately we have Language of Love, another fabulous song (and another one of my favorites on the record), and it contains such a perfect callback to How Can I Refuse that it basically cinches the entire album up with the most gorgeous yellow ribboned bow you could come up with.  

And finally we have Ambush, a fitting closure to their tenure at Epic Records, even if this album sold unbelievably poorly at first.  However, I think the above music video is proof positive they had NO idea how to sell Heart at that time...

As I wrap this up, I'm going to be honest and say that this album is probably one of those albums that I now hold in the same high esteem as the aforementioned 1985 self-titled comeback record by Heart and 1994's Desire Walks On.  As for Passionworks, this record totally rocks, and if you want a nice, criminally underrated early 80s album, you can't do all that much worse than Heart's Passionworks.