Heart - 1983 Passionworks

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ARTIST: Heart
ALBUM: Passionworks
LABEL: Epic
SERIAL: QE38800
YEAR: 1983
CD REISSUE: 1987, Epic, EK38800

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image

LINEUP: Ann Wilson - vocals * Nancy Wilson - guitars, vocals * Howard Lesse - guitars, keyboards * Mark Andes - bass * Denny Carmassi - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 How Can I Refuse * 02 Blue Guitar * 03 Johnny Moon * 04 Sleep Alone * 05 Together Now * 06 Allies * 07 Beat By Jealousy * 08 Heavy Heart * 09 Love Mistake * 10 Language Of Love * 11 Ambush

Background

Before the Wilson sister's would go on to drastically transform themselves into a corporate pop/rock hit making entity, Heart released 'Passionworks' in 1983.

It was evident the group were clearly in transition mode here, as longtime members Steve Fossen and Michael Derosier were let go after the 'Private Audition' sessions in favor of Denny Carmassi and Mark Andes.

This line-up (including Howard Leese) would go on to achieve mass success in the mid to late 80's baffling long-time fans and gaining hordes of new ones.

However, at the time their longtime label Epic viewed 'Passionworks' as a last stitch effort given the lackluster sales of their previous release 'Private Audition' and related personnel changes.

Produced by Keith Olsen, 'Passionworks' most obvious transition is its significant shift in sound, moving away from the organic style of rock represented in their earlier works into synth driven AOR territory (Nancy's acoustic guitar is noticeably absent) that would be perfected on the 1985 comeback 'Heart' album.

'Passionworks' may have been a commercial disappointment and the group's last effort for Epic- but is it a poor effort? Time has proven here at Glory Daze that just because an album isn't a hit, doesn't mean it lacks quality material.

The Songs

A huge improvement over Heart's 'Private Audition' style, 'How Can I Refuse' kicks things off on an AOR high note. A solid guitar rocker and the album's first single is more polished than anything Heart had recorded prior, but with it's heavy groove guitar and drum beat.

Things slow down a bit for 'Blue Guitar', with a sound reminiscent of 'Perfect Stranger' only better.

'Johnny Moon' is an ok ballad originally recorded as 'Feels' for the 'Dog & Butterfly' sessions, the song's lyrics and arrangements were altered slightly for its inclusion here. I prefer the version that finally made it to the 2004 re-issue of 'Dog & Butterfly' compared to this unfortunately.

Thankfully AOR bliss is restored with 'Sleep Alone', a sassy arena rocker with chugging guitar and catchy hooks.

'Together Now' has a sound similar to 'Love Alive' and could almost be considered a precursor in sound to 'R.S.V.P.' (from 1987's 'Bad Animals'). Olsen's stellar production makes this stand out.

Up next is the Jonathan Cain penned power ballad 'Allies', which given its ivory opening, you would think Steve Perry was about to belt away, not so as it's Ann here. A beautiful ballad showcasing her amazing voice, which has such a range of emotional punch.

Ann is one of our finest female singers and 'Allies' is an album and career highlight IMHO. Sadly the single barely dented the Top 100, proving Epic had given up on promotion.

Ann continues to belt it out for '(Beat By) Jealousy' and the mid-paced rocker 'Heavy Heart', but it's the more delicate and honey-voiced Wilson sister who delivers in spades with 'Love Mistake'. A winning ballad and one of my favourite solo songs by Nancy Wilson.

There is a great acoustic version of this that appears on Nancy's solo release 'Live At McCabe's Guitar Shop' that is worth investigating.

Things wrap up nicely with the slow rocker 'Language Of Love' and 'Ambush' - a mid-paced number that is the antithesis musically and lyrically of 'How Can I Refuse' in a roundabout way.

A fitting end to an overlooked Heart album that now serves as a musical cornerstone dividing both amazing chapters of the sister's consistent career.

In Summary

'Passionworks' spent twenty-one weeks on the U.S. Billboard 200 and reached the number 39th spot. How this did even worse than its predecessor is somewhat unfathomable.

Epic's lack of promotion perhaps, the changing climate of early 80's? Again Heart's last album for Epic, but just before the Wilson sister's would throw in the towel, enter Capitol Records, Holly Knight, Mike Chapman and Ron Nevison, and a whole new chapter in their Glory Daze.

No one could have predicted what would happen next!


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