Epic Records, 1983

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


By 1983, Heart was a shell of its past glory days. Falling out of favor with their fans amid rumors of substance abuse and the departure of key band members should have spelled the end of the road for Ann and Nancy Wilson.

So you may think it's no surprise that you have never heard of Passionworks, their 1983 release (and, at the time, their final album for Epic). What might surprise you is that this disc, while no blockbuster, isn't the waste of time that you might expect. It's not a disc I'd go out of my way to sing praises about, but you can detect a flicker of hope in the music and songwriting that many thought had burned out.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Taking a little bit of a risk with the rhythms, the opening song "How Can I Refuse" is a good first step in the right direction. Flashing back to their days in the spotlight, this number could easily have been a rock anthem had it been released in 1978 or 1979. Although it was included in the recently-released Greatest Hits disc, this song remains a number waiting to be re-discovered.

"Jealousy" isn't quite as strong as "How Can I Refuse," but it does show that the passion was still very much present in the vocals of Ann Wilson. Other numbers like "Language Of Love" also show hints of promise, even though some of these are not fully developed as they could have been.

Unfortunately, Heart was not quite ready to pull themselves out of the abyss with Passionworks. There was still a tentative sound to the band (bassist Mark Andes and drummer Denny Carmassi were recent additions for this album), and the songwriting doesn't seem to know where it wants to go. In a sense, part of the problem lies with the time that this music was created. Rock radio was populated by a lot of new wave bands, and good, solid rock was taking a back seat for a while.

Now, I don't know if I would call numbers like "Ambush" good, solid rock; in fact, if I ever have to hear this song again, I'm going to claw my eardrums out. But while songs like "Sleep Alone" and "Heavy Heart" aren't the greatest things that Heart ever recorded, they're not bad, considering the circumstances.

Heart was still one album away from their rebirth of popularity, but Passionworks could rightly be considered the bridge between gigging at the Ramada Inn and headlining the stadiums again. This disc is one that's for the fans, but is worth checking out at least once on the road towards discovering Heart.

Rating: C-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen 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 Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.