Dreamboat Annie Live


Shout Factory, 2007


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Dreamboat Annie was one of the earlier purchases in my record-buying career – surely among the first 20 albums I picked up.  It was both completely unique and significantly derivative: a full-on rock band fronted by sisters who had taken Led Zeppelin’s heavy-blues-rock / light-pastoral-harmonies dichotomy and dragged it through the gender looking-glass. 

The Wilson sisters would go through distinct phases in their career as they found their way and forged an identity of their own.  But there was always something special about their debut, something raw and untouched by the hand of an A&R man or a lyric doctor or anyone, really, other than Ann & Nancy and their supporting cast.

Circling back around 30 years later and replaying a classic album live in its entirety is not a new idea – certainly Pink Floyd and Roger Waters have made a small industry of it over the past decade – but it’s often a good one, and definitely so here.

The show and the album kick off with the band’s first single, the throbbing, intense “Magic my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Man.”  It’s an engrossing track that really gives Ann a chance to wail and she does so here, though she’s almost drowned out in places by guitarist Craig Bartock.  Hired hand Bartock is a skilled player who hits all the notes, but for some reason he’s up too loud in the mix and his tone is significantly more rough-edged than the original tracks, a strange state of affairs considering everyone else seems to be doing their best to replicate the clean, sharp original studio recordings.

Next up is the song suite that really crystallized Heart’s soft/heavy dichotomy: “Dreamboat Annie (Fantasy Child)” into “Crazy On You.”  It’s a dynamic duo on the original and again here, with the Wilsons giving it everything they have and showing they haven’t lost a step yet musically.  The rest of the album more or less alternates approaches, with heavy numbers like “White Lightning & Wine” (featuring a melody they would later rewrite into “Straight On”) followed and balanced out by lighter acoustic numbers such as “Love Me Like Music.”

Many of these songs had not been played for years, and Ann suggests in one interlude that some were never played live before this show.  Remarkably, the arrangements are pretty much right on and faithful to the originals, including even the addition of live strings on several songs courtesy of the Stockholm Strings.  This adds a real polish to soft numbers like “How Deep It Goes” and a welcome fullness to the positively luminous “Soul Of The Sea,” which earns shouts of ecstasy from the audience.

The bonus tracks which filled out this show are enjoyable also, focusing on covers of songs the Wilsons were inspired by while writing Dreamboat Annie, and including numbers by Pink Floyd (“Goodbye Blue Sky”), The Who (“Love Reign O’er Me”) and of course Led Zeppelin (a blistering “Black Dog” and a churning “Misty Mountain Hop”).

The disc is hardly flawless – Bartock’s too-crunchy tone gets distracting more than once, and the fresh touches Ann brings to her vocals work better on some songs than others – but it’s a strong representation of an album that’s worthy of being commemorated like this.  The Wilson sisters are rightfully proud of Dreamboat Annie and this disc is an entertaining reminder of the reasons why.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2007 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Shout Factory, and is used for informational purposes only.