Heart Beautiful Broken on LP + Download
16th Studio Effort from Wilson Sisters features New Material & Re-Recordings of Back Catalog Favorites Plus a Guest Appearance by Metallica's James Hetfield
Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Heart return in July 2016 with Beautiful Broken, their sixteenth album and their first on Concord Records. Their first in four years, Beautiful Broken finds Ann and Nancy Wilson exploring new songs, but taking some of their favorite "cherry picks" from their back catalog and rerecording and rethinking them. The title track and first single features a dynamic guest vocal contribution by Metallica's James Hetfield with Ann Wilson.
The seven tracks that were pulled from the Heart catalog were tunes both Nancy and Ann wanted another shot at, due many times to how they were initially produced. Songs like "City's Burning," "Down on Me," and "Sweet Darlin'" have always been live favorites of the sisters, and of Beautiful Broken's fan base, but they had somewhat languished. "Those songs may have fallen through the cracks, in a way, because of where radio was at the time when they were first released," Ann says. "Rediscovering those songs, I found ways they emotionally still speak to me."
Two songs are from Passionworks, two from Private Audition, and two are from Bebe Le Strange. Beautiful Broken's title track had been a bonus song off Fanatic, Heart's last album, but this version is essentially an entirely new song with barnburner vocals – and even some lyrics – added by Hetfield. "It blows the previous version out of the water," says Nancy. "James just took the song on, and what he added was perfect with a bite and a rock accent."
Beautiful Broken was co-produced by Nancy with Heart's bassist Dan Rothchild. Dan had previously produced Better Than Ezra's platinum-selling Deluxe, but he also comes from rock royalty: his father was legendary Doors producer Paul Rothchild. Beautiful Broken was recorded at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, the same studio the Doors cut their best work. "There were eerie echoes in the hallway," Nancy says. Rothchild said his goal was to capture the human feel of Heart live in the studio. "On these classics, some of which had suffered from eighties-era over-editing-production-curse, we stripped the paint off and found the beauty underneath," he says.
For Ann, the album allowed her to revisit, and re-sing, songs she felt "never reached their full development." For Nancy, the lyrical heart came alive: "I felt these songs were poetic pieces that were lost in translation with the sounds of the eighties, which was harder and more digital. We wanted to drape them in velvet, and make them shine." One example of is "City's Burning," originally on the 1982 album Private Audition. "The first time we recorded that was in 1981," says Ann, "and it was in a key that was a bit ‘show-offy,' and sped-up. On Beautiful Broken, we put the key in the right place, and the song really bore fruit."
Nancy sings one of three new songs, "Two." The song had a different genesis than many Heart classics, as Wilson first heard it on a demo made for a television show her husband Geoff was working on. She reached out to the song's writer - R&B sensation Ne-Yo - and asked if he'd consider giving her the song. "I went to work begging for the song," she says. "Ne-Yo said, ‘sure.' It ends up he's a Heart fan. He may still release his own version at some point, but to me the song feels like mine now."
One of the unique aspects to Beautiful Broken is the string arrangements on four songs done by legendary arranger Paul Buckmaster whose resume includes work with the Rolling Stones and Elton John ("Levon"). Buckmaster's work on "Sweet Darlin'" is, in particular, a standout, but only because the strings highlight Ann's powerful vocals. Ann had always wanted another shot at "Sweet Darlin'" so it was an ideal choice for Beautiful Broken. Following Heart's tradition that women can both rock and put forth emotional intimacy, Beautiful Broken is an album with pure rock power on the title track, but also tender sexual yearning on "Language of Love." It's a contrast that has always been the essence of the legendary duo.