Wilson’s solo debut has heart
If Ann Wilson’s voice doesn’t sound familiar, then you probably haven’t turned on your radio in the last 30 years. Fronting the hit machine called Heart with her sister Nancy, Wilson’s powerful pipes and unique delivery have been a guest at more than a few living room parties and backyard barbeques.
It may come as a bit of a surprise that she would even need to step out with “Hope & Glory,” her first solo album, but a couple of spins makes it a wise choice on her part. The even bigger surprise is the selection of 11 cover songs and one original that Wilson has chosen to include on “H&G.”
As for the covers, anyone familiar with the original recordings will appreciate how truly different Wilson’s versions are. The diversity of the material and the fact that she treads a thin line between the obscure and well-known, makes for a thoroughly enjoyable track listing. Breathing new life into a staple of ’60s hippie sing-along’s like “Get Together” is no easy feat, but it sits right alongside the swing beat added to Pink Floyd’s “Goodbye Blue Sky” and the creeping intensity of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.”
There’s no shortage of high-wattage guest appearances on “Hope & Glory.” From Elton John and Alison Krauss to Rufus Wainwright and k.d. lang, each track gives the performers the chance to shine and feed off of each other.
But in the end, the real star of the show on “Hope & Glory” may be Ben Mink, fellow Canadian and one-time leader of the masterful trio called FM. Not only does Mink produce the album to a fine crisp clarity, but he provides electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, percussion, fiddle, lap steel, and his main instrument of choice — the electric violin. His one-man band efforts go a long way to bringing Wilson’s vocals into the best possible light. Mink even co-wrote the lone original song on the album, a pensive memoir from a dying soldier called “Little Problems, Little Lies,” and it’s the perfect closer to the CD.
“Hope & Glory” is no simple vanity project or ego-builder for Ann Wilson. There’s no need for that. Interesting song choices and top-notch vocals make sure the CD will stand on its own.
Kevin Krieger | Weekender Correspondent