HEART - Strange Euphoria (2012)
It's almost astonishing that it took until 2012 for Strange Euphoria, the first multi-disc retrospective box set of Heart's five-decade-plus career, to arrive. The set contains three CDs and a live concert DVD entitled "The Second Ending," shot between February and March of 1976 for Washington State's KSWU-TV. Strange Euphoria is nearly everything a retrospective like this should be. It's packaged in a square white slipcase with the band's logo embossed in silver, and a die-cut heart dead center. The discs are encased in a quadra-fold cover, illustrated with a photo collage of album covers, band shots, singles, posters, etc. The 60-page book contains lots of rare photos, but most importantly, it features a track-by-track commentary from Ann and Nancy Wilson on the songs they chose for the box. In a sense, these poignant observations are a teaser for both their forthcoming autobiography, Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock & Roll, to be issued in September, and their upcoming album Fanatic, due in October 2012. The song choices here are chock-full of hits, balanced by numerous rarities, demos, and live cuts. Figuring fans had the hits, the Wilson sisters chose to focus on the demos of iconic tracks as "Magic Man," "How Deep It Goes," "Crazy on You," "Heartless," "Dog & Butterfly," "Desire Walks On," "Under the Sky," etc., from all different periods in the band's history. Some of these, particularly "Magic Man and "Crazy on You," are revelatory in their contrast to the album versions. Among the rarities are the opening track on disc one, "Through the Eyes & Glass," released as Ann Wilson & the Daybreaks, their first recorded single in 1969, and numerous "basement tape"-style demos of other material that was never released such as "Boppy's Back" and "Any Woman's Blues" (the latter with the Seattle Blues Revue Horns). The live stuff is just as credible; check "Barracuda," "White Lightning & Wine," and "Never" (with John Paul Jones), along with various selections from the Lovemongers' "Kiss," "Sand," "She Still Believes," and more. That said, it is live that Heart is at its most original, and would that there were more of this material. The DVD was Heart's portion of a public television documentary, but the clip finds them performing nine tunes, including fine versions of "Dreamboat Annie," "Sing Child," "Magic Man," and more. While the purchase of box sets is usually reserved for an act's most loyal following, Strange Euphoria is also a fantastic introduction to one of rock's most enduring bands.
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