Sound: We all know the Heart sound, and although Red Velvet Car doesn't feature the keyboards that we know and love, it doesn't need to; instead focusing on Heart's other qualities, which the band has in abundance.
Much is made of Nancy Wilson's skills with a guitar in her hands, and the fuss is vindicated on Red Velvet Car. She is an accomplished guitarist, avoiding superfluous flash, embracing the art of song writing: every note played suits the song perfectly. Just listen to the bluesy rocker WTF, in which Nancy admirably turns a classic sounding bluesy note sequence into a rock tune with attitude and style. Strangely enough, a lot of the heavier guitar playing shuns a proportional amount of distortion, instead relying upon attitude and dynamics. It makes for some interesting exploration of ideas, even raising questions regarding how authentic distorted hard rock bands really are.
Not only is the guitar playing on the ball, but the percussion manages to stay keen to the idea of the song, varying from hard rock (WTF, Wheels, Safronia's Mark), to mellow folk rock that even borders on bluegrass influences (Hey You). This is the sound of an experienced band, accommodating for the lack of innovation with a classic sound only too often the subject of weak counterfeiting by the young pretenders of modern music. // 7
Lyrics: Lyrically speaking, Heart has always been championed upon some sort of pedestal. This was a reaction to the full page ad in Rolling Stone insinuating that the Wilson sisters were involved in an incestuous homosexual relationship, an event to which the sisters took exception. Thus, the classic songBarracudawas born. This time round, Heart tackles issues such as losing youthful nihilism and burning out (There You Go), and even the loss of loved ones in the form of the intimate song, Sand. The lyrics do at times struggle for relevance, but it isn't that Heart has nothing to say; it's just that they have said it well before now, whilst vocally, Ann Wilson remains impressive both in terms of skill and diversity. She has often been compared to Robert Plant, and although she doesn't command an audience quite like the Led Zeppelin vocalist, she can surely boast a voice of similar power. // 7
Overall Impression: This isn't the Heart of old, but Red Velvet Car has been widely touted as the best Heart album in years. It's hard to find fault with such a verdict, but one is inclined to keep a lid on any hype surrounding the release of this album. Heart might be widely respected as one of the first bands to prove that girls can do rock, but that legacy alone won't sell records; fortunately, the Wilson sisters seems to be aware of this, and have crafted an album that does no harm Heart's legacy.
- Sam Agini (c) 2010