Since the 1975 release of their debut LP Steamboat Annie, Heart has forged their own path in rock history. Founders Ann and Nancy Wilson shattered gender stereotypes with their hard-charging style, earning the respect of the then male-dominated world of hard rock. More than 40 years later, they look back on their career with Beautiful Broken, a mix of new material and their revisions of songs originally recorded between 1980 and 1983. What truly stands out is the enduring power of Ann’s voice and Nancy’s still furious guitar work.
The album kicks of with the title track, a new version of a bonus song from Heart’s previous release Fanatic. Metallica’s James Hetfield joins the sisters (and cowrote new lyrics) for a pounding rendition. Hetfield and Ann Wilson’s voices meld perfectly together, suggesting that Heart and Metallica should consider collaborating on future projects. Ben Smith’s steady but powerful drums also deserve a mention on this standout.
Other new songs include “Two,” a mid-tempo track written by hit composer Ne-Yo. Nancy Wilson takes over on lead vocals, revealing a fragility rarely seen in the otherwise aggressive band. While the lyrics address a love affair, they could easily describe the tight creative partnership the Wilson sisters have enjoyed for four decades. “Let the world fade right out of view / And that’s all right with me / ‘Cause all there needs to be / Is two,” Nancy tenderly sings. The “us against the world” theme perfectly summarizes the journey the two musicians have traveled.
As evidenced in their rousing 2012 Kennedy Center Honors cover of “Stairway to Heaven,” Heart counts Led Zeppelin as a major influence. Thus, “I Jump” could have easily been recorded by the British band. The brooding mood, lavish string section, and Ann’s raspy but soaring voice sounds reminiscent of “Immigrant Song” and “Kashmir,” but “I Jump” is not mere imitation. It pays tribute to Heart’s early roots, before they changed to a pop-oriented sound in the 1980s. Today, they clearly revel in their past, and “I Jump” stands as a stellar example.