Ann Wilson: Fierce Bliss (Silver Lining Music CD). Ann Wilson, of course, is most noted as the voice and co-founder of the sister rock band Heart from Seattle. This is her third solo album, after “Hope and Glory” (2007) and “Immortal” (2018). The album, released last week, already has yielded four singles in the solid rocker “Greed,” “A Moment in Heaven” and her covers of The Eurythmics’ “Missionary Man” and Queen’s “Love of My Life.” Overall, the album, which was recorded at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., and Soundstage in Nashville, Tenn., is more like a Heart record than her previous two solo attempts, even to a Led Zeppelin influence.

“Greed,” one of seven co-written Wilson originals, was written with Nashville session guitarist Tom Bukovac, who provides some solid guitar behind her muscular vocal. Bassist Tony Lucido also hails from Nashville.

“Greed is that thing in our animal nature that makes us want more,” said Wilson in a press release. “Whether it be money, sex, power or ecstasy, it fires our craving! It happens with all of us. When you turn around and catch yourself making decisions because you want the money, or because you’re caught in the headlights of glory, well, those are greedy moments. I think people who claim to have made every decision from a root of pure idealism, and never done anything dark or greedy, [are] lying. I think everybody who ventures into especially the music industry hoping for a career with big success, ends up making these Faustian bargains at some point even if only briefly. It’s an aggressive song and I think I write best when I’m angry.”

“A Moment in Heaven” is another very heavy Wilson original, co-written with Frank Cox and Danny Marigold. The other originals include the disc highlight “Black Wing,” inspired by the birds around the St. John’s River, near where she lives in Florida, and featuring Led Zeppelin-like mystical lyrics; the power ballads “Angel’s Blues,” co-written with Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes, who plays guitar on the track, and “As the World Turns,” written with keyboardist Dan Walker; the heavy “Gladiator,” also written with Haynes and featuring his strong guitar; and “Fighten For Life,” which has more dynamics than most of the tracks.

The album has four cover songs, including a cover of Robin Trower’s “Bridge of Sighs,” with guest Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s guitar giving it a heavier sound. There also is aggressive guitar playing by Shepherd on “Missionary Man,” which has been turned into a stomper, minus the humor of the original, but with The Rev. Nathan Young Singers for gospel backup. Queen’s “Love of My Life,” the newest single, is a duet with country star Vince Gill. Country singers Deana Carter and Wynonna Judd appeared on her 2007 album. The fourth cover is the least successful, a version of Jeff Buckley’s “Forget Her,” which, despite its sparse opening, soon turns a bit overdone, especially on the instrumental break. Her vocal is echoed here as well.

“‘Bridge of Sighs,’ in my opinion, is the best blues song ever written,” Wilson said in a press release. “That’s really saying something because it’s the vastness of the blues world, but this song is about true existential dread. It isn’t just you’re hurt because you lost your boyfriend or girlfriend, you’re on the edge of the abyss.

“I like stuff that goes all the way,” she continued. “I’m one of these people that halfway is not good enough. So, with Kenny Wayne Shepherd, one of the coolest monster guitar players around, it just made so much sense, and he tore it up. One of the most rewarding things for me as a singer, to not be hurried. The best singers are the ones who can sing ballads and really make it work, because you don’t have to be a genius to be a rock shouter or sing rock songs. But that ballad, where it’s slowed down or stopped and you’re center stage with the spotlight? Every little nuance is important, and I think that’s what ‘Bridge of Sighs’ was for me.” Grade: B+

The contents of the 40th anniversary super deluxe edition of Rush’s “Moving Pictures” are spread out. Courtesy of UMe Records

Rush: Moving Pictures 40th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (UMe/Mercury/Anthem, 5 LPs, 3 CDs + Blu-ray). This box set, which weighs about eight pounds, contains the 2015 album remaster on CD for the first time. The second and third CDs feature the complete, 19-track, unreleased Toronto concert from March 25, 1981. All the audio also is featured on five 180-gram LPs cut half-speed Direct-To-Metal Mastering. The Blu-ray Audio disc presents the first-ever Dolby Atmos and new 5.1 surround album mix, including the brand-new video for “YYZ” and three music videos for “Tom Sawyer,” “Limelight” and “Vital Signs.”

The 1981 album was the Canadian trio’s eighth studio album, which found vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer/lyricist Neil Peart at the top of their craft. The album’s seven songs expertly blended Rush’s intrinsic prowess for channeling its progressive roots into radio-friendly arrangements, a template the band had mastered throughout its previous album, 1980’s “Permanent Waves.” “Moving Pictures” also was the second of many Rush recording sessions at Le Studio in Morin-Heights, Quebec, which was ultimately nicknamed the trio’s own personal Abbey Road recording studio.

One of my all-time favorite Rush’s tracks is the album’s lead-off, “Tom Sawyer.” “Red Barchetta,” which chronicles the thrills and chills of a high-stakes backroads car race, offers a multi-generational approach. The instrumental “YYZ,” which was nominated for a Grammy Award, is named after the airport identification code for Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. It runs the gamut of the band’s impressive progressive chops in less than four minutes and has notes that represent the title in Morse code. The first side of the LP closes out with another favorite, “Limelight,” a look at Peart’s dissatisfaction with fame and public demands, while trying to maintain a personal life with privacy.

Side two opens with “The Camera Eye,” a multi-layered, 10-minute-long travelogue with a bird’s eye view of the inherent hustle and bustle of New York City, counterbalanced with the intense energy and deep-rooted history of London. It features a lot of synthesizers. “Witch Hunt,” which is subtitled as “Part III of Fear,” shares a grim view of prejudice and mob mentality. The final track, “Vital Signs,” opens with a Who-like synthesizer progression and foreshadows the more adventurous future musical directions Rush would undertake.
The recorded two-hour Maple Leaf Gardens concert is excellent. In addition to tracks from the “Moving Pictures” album, it features such favorites as “Freewill,” “Xanadu,” the reggae-infused “The Spirit of Radio” and “Closer to the Heart,” with its nice drumming and the 10-minute encore of “La Villa Strangiato.” The show appropriately opens with two tracks from “2112,” including “Overture.” Peart’s drum solo comes in “YYZ” and Lifeson plays acoustic guitar for “Broon’s Bane.”

Hugh Syme has created brand new 40th anniversary artwork, with new illustrations for each song, all showcased in the 44-page hardcover book, alongside liner notes by Kim Thayil, Les Claypool, Taylor Hawkins, Bill Kelliher and Neil Sanderson. Exclusive collectibles include a Red Barchetta model car, two of Peart’s signature MP40 drumsticks, two metal guitar picks engraved with Lee and Lifeson’s signatures, and a 1981 Moving Pictures replica tour program, MP40 enamel pin, 3D lenticular “Moving Pictures” motion lithograph, 18×24-inch Toronto 1981 concert poster, Toronto concert replica ticket, 12×36-inch Rush 1973-1981 poster, YYZ luggage tag and an All-Access World Tour ‘81 insert. Everything is housed in a premium lift-top box.

The 40th anniversary release is available in five other configurations, namely a three-CD Deluxe Edition, a five-LP Deluxe Edition, a one-LP Edition, a Digital Deluxe Edition, and a Dolby Atmos Digital Edition. Grade: album and live concert A+; bonus items B+

Peart died in 2020, but Lifeson and Lee have discussed creating more music together.

Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduation from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.

 

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