Little Queen


Portrait Records, 1977

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Along with Steve Miller Band’s Book Of Dreams, Heart’s Little Queen was among the very first non-Osmond pop albums I discovered way back in 1977. Both of these albums featured some artwork that did much to fire my boyhood imagination; on the cover of Little Queen, for example, you had two beautiful, somewhat bewitching females striking a traveling minstrel pose alongside their authentically costumed band-mates. Though I believed that this album had been recorded in that type of environment (which may have been the backwoods of Cape Cod, for all I knew), it was actually recorded in a pre-grunge Seattle, Washington studio.

Trained vocalist Ann Wilson and her younger sister Nancy, an accomplished musician, led this band of rock misfits in their determination to make my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Little Queen even better than their debut album, Dreamboat Annie. On the strength of the brilliantly complex lead-off single “Barracuda,” this album became an early fan favorite and was their biggest selling release until the group’s self-titled “comeback” effort in 1985. As perhaps their best and most recognizable song to date, it was only fitting that “Barracuda” would be the signature tune that would forever close every Heart concert performance from then on.  But the fact of the matter is, the entire first half of Little Queen is equally as dynamic.

The most dominant instruments that are featured on this terrific Heart album are none other than the mandolin and the autoharp. You wouldn’t think that stringed instruments of this kind would work in a rock music environment, but they do. Ingenuity really does go a long way and Little Queen is brimming over with new ideas and creative ways to make acoustic material come alive.

Tucked in between heavy rock songs “Barracuda” and “Kick It Out” are three engaging and upbeat folk tunes: “Sylvan Song,” “Dream Of The Archer” and the non-charting single “Love Is Alive.” Later in the album there is another rootsy number entitled “Say Hello,” which is another favorite of mine that would have also been a good choice as the opening track.

The track listing is a minor quibble of mine; I’ve always wondered why Heart chose to end the album on such a downer note with a pair of songs about crying (“Cry To Me” and “Go On Cry.”) Producer Mike Flicker undoubtedly must have felt that the extended jam feel of “Go On Cry” was a sure thing when it came to pleasing those classic rock critics who always seemed to be on the lookout for something substantial and meaty. The title track is another one that was bound to go over well with all the rock purists out there. Though Heart had two dominant female members, there wasn’t any sexism to prevent any of their albums from becoming successful. Of course, had the Wilson sisters not had such a high level of talent, it may have been an issue; but in the freewheeling seventies, as long as you could play, you could stay.

Rating: A

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© 2008 Michael R. Smith 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 Portrait Records, and is used for informational purposes only.