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Heart revisits some oldies but goodies on newest album

Nancy Wilson (left) and Ann Wilson of Heart. | PHOTO BY ANNA KNOWLDEN

The second time’s the charm.

At least that’s what Ann and Nancy Wilson, aka Heart, are aiming for with the release of “Beautiful Broken,” their 16th album to date (their first in four years) and one that looks back as much as forward.

Seven tracks on the album are do-overs of some of their favorite songs (from “Passionworks,” “Private Audition” and “Bebe Le Strange”) that the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers felt needed a fresh perspective.

HEART; CHEAP TRICK; JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS

When: 6:30 p.m. July 19

Where: FirstMerit Bank Pavilion, Northerly Island

Tickets: $26.25-$120.25

Info: livenation.com

“The idea behind going back and redoing a few of these songs is because they never found their full potential,” said Ann Wilson during a recent phone conversation. “Most of these songs were recorded when we were in our 20s. We’re in a more adulthood part of life now. We wanted to revisit them and pour more soul into them this time around.”

The band, comprised these days of the Wilsons along with Ben Smith, Craig Bartock, Dan Rothchild and Chris Joyner, is out on the road in support of the new album, and arrives July 19 at the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion on Northerly Island, with a bill that also features Cheap Trick and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

In the ’70s and ’80s the sisters delivered full-on rock with hits such as “Crazy on You,” “Barracuda,” “Magic Man,” as well as the softer-edge pop/folk of “Dreamboat Annie,” “These Dreams,” “Dog and Butterfly” and “Strong, Strong Wind.” Some would come to affectionately refer to them as “the female Led Zeppelin”; their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame biography stamps them “pioneers, claiming the stage in a way that inspired women to pick up an electric guitar or start a band.”

Driven by Nancy Wilson’s fervent guitar and Ann’s potent vocals, their music has lasted 40 years and counting. Musically, Wilson says the band is approaching the music, old and new, from a more mature place and time.

“Heart is Heart,” she says. “I think it’s changed maybe 30 percent if that. It’s basically just further down the road than what it was back in the ’70s, except now we’ve had all the commercial success, so the band is more self-conscious than it used to be. We’re a little bit less idealistic [laughs], but Heart is still a good idea. Angry songs, really optimistic songs, spiritual songs — Heart can do it all. The one thing you have to do with any song, whether it’s old or new, is you have to put it across. If you have great new songs and you go out and play them and you really nail them, people will get it.

Nancy Wilson (left) and Ann Wilson of Heart, in 1999. | FILE PHOTO
Nancy Wilson (left) and Ann Wilson of Heart, in 1999. | FILE PHOTO

“As a songwriter you visualize the songs,” Wilson continued. “We had a wish list of songs that we wanted to redo if we could. The main thing is I have always understood which songs made it and which ones didn’t. I’ve always thought that songs tell you what to do. Listen to them — they will direct you. In the case of ‘Sweet Darling’ [one of the songs revisited on the new album], that tone is clear about what it needs, what kind of emotional architecture it has. Our instincts back then were good about the things we chose to write about. We wrote more songs than we recorded; we made good choices about what good songs we recorded.”

Diehard fans will notice changes both big and small with the album’s roster of makeovers (three new cuts featured), everything from the arrangements to the vocals has been rethought.

“On ‘City’s Burning,’ we were looking for a more modern take,” Wilson says. “The one from [the album] ‘Private Audition’ was pitched way high. We were in our crazy partying days so we were pretty wired up [chuckles]. The song came out very tense and nervous and edgy, and that’s what we wanted at the time. That was fine for 1981. These days it needed more depth, more soul to it. We changed the key, put a whole new edge on it. I like both versions — the fast, torn-up, crazy one way up high and also the [new] one that just walks like a big old gorilla through the woods.”

As for breaking down the male-dominated barriers of rock ‘n’ roll all those years ago, Wilson is unfazed.

“When we started there were fewer women doing it. These days it’s probably easier for women in rock because it isn’t a big novelty anymore. But it’s still always hard because what’s needed from anyone getting into rock is authenticity, no matter what gender. There are still a lot of sexual stereotypes to be challenged.”