This week I review two new releases upcoming from Sony Legacy.
Heart - "Strange Euphoria"
The classic rock band from Seattle led by the dynamic Wilson sisters finally gets a full retrospective from its vast career in this five-disc box set, set to drop Tuesday.
The four CD and one DVD set includes cuts from throughout the band's history from its humble beginnings through its glory years in the 1970s to its current releases. The set includes rarities, demos of hit singles, pre-Heart singles and even a bonus disc of the band covering five Led Zeppelin classics.
The band has changed personnel through the years, but the focus always has been on the pinup looks and serious rock chops of the Wilson sisters.
These women looked great on album covers but they could also deliver the goods musically, and rock they did on classic FM-rock radio with hits such as "Barracuda," "Crazy on You," "Magic Man" and "Straight On." The set includes demos of these hits, and although they may not be satisfying to those familiar with the studio versions, the box is meant more as a companion to Heart's studio releases.
The real winner is the live DVD bonus disc of Heart doing its thing during a television performance in 1976 at the height of the band's glory. The performance shows a confident band at the height of its powers, and the band knows it.
Heart's obsession with all things Zeppelin is evident on the bonus disc, with fairly straight-forward covers of the mighty Led's tunes "Going to California," "Battle Of Evermore," "What Is And What Should Never Be," "Immigrant Song" and "Misty Mountain Hop."
Heart was one of those bands that successfully straddled the line during the birth of FM-oriented rock, as they rocked hard enough to be broadcast on independent radio but were commercial enough to craft catchy hit singles that gave them a wider pop audience.
The guitar-heavy band has always been a personal favorite of mine, although I lost interest around the time of "Dog and Butterfly," as the punk invasion turned my attention elsewhere.
But the riffs on "Barracuda" and "Crazy on You" were must-knows as an aspiring guitar playing growing up in the Ohio Valley. It's good to see the band's still out there doing it. The only unfortunate aspect is the box is available only at Amazon.com, so my local record store won't be carrying it.
It also would be cool to release it on vinyl as well, but a search of Amazon's website revealed nothing about vinyl, nor did the press release mention a possible vinyl pressing. Still, priced at about 36 bucks it's a bargain for the Heart fan and a fine career retrospective of the lovely and talented Wilson sisters.
"Searching for Sugar Man - the Soundtrack"
"Searching for Sugarman" is a documentary on the fabled and legendary artist known as Rodriguez - born and raised in Detroit - who recorded two albums in the late 1960s that became underground classics halfway around the globe in South Africa in the 1970s and '80s during the Apartheid era.
The film about two South Africans searching for the legend despite rumors of suicide won critics awards at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. The soundtrack contains music from his initial album "Cold Fact," which sank into obscurity despite glowing reviews for Rodriguez's music of social justice and biting, sardonic commentary.
Oddly enough, the album became hugely important to a new generation of both white and black youth in South Africa opposed to Apartheid and the country's oppressive regime and segregated society. Inspirational and telling, "Cold Fact" is the work of a visionary and clearly a product of the times with a gritty, urban feel that also mirrored inner-city ghetto life during a turbulent time in America's history. At the time Rodriguez was pinned by critics with the unfortunate title of "the Chicano Bob Dylan," which couldn't have helped his career.
But songs like "Crucify Your Mind," "Street Boy" and the biting "A Most Disgusting Sound" show a musical genius who didn't get his due, partly because of all the hype. The soundtrack reveals a talent that arrived on the scene fully formed, only to be ignored because the music was too raw and hard-hitting during the age of flower power.
The release is a collaboration between the tiny, indie record label Light in the Attic - which will release the album on vinyl - and Sony. The release date is July 24, and "Searching for Sugarman" is highly recommended.
(Mark Miller is co-editor of Weekender.)