Ann Wilson (of Heart)
The Ann Wilson Thing might not be the Ann Wilson you know and hold close as Dreamboat Annie or Little Queen, but upon closer inspection it really holds up as its own standalone project. Wilson’s EP under this band moniker sees the singer melt her vision down to a magmatic, lava flow of tectonic covers and a singular, Wilson-penned tune. Though Ann has zero to prove at this late stage of the game with a career practically written in granite, she gives nothing less than her best to the loyal fans that have stuck with the artist through all of her personal/career ups and downs. Wilson is a class act and here it shows, perhaps more than ever before.
Ann storms her way through three covers on this release, each perhaps more pragmatic and prophetic than the last. While an ideal release at this point in her career might not seem like an EP with the majority of the tuneage being cover songs, she pulls it off and exceeds expectations. Her vocals are a raging tempest that surge to the heart of the fierce electric guitars and pulsating hand-percussion on the souped-up version of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What it’s Worth,” and Ann sounds as if she’s hanging on for dear life with every note. She’s belting like Joplin these days yet still pushing that same magical quality that her voice always possessed. Her voice is a svelte, soul imprint on the grooving “Ain’t No Way” originally performed by Aretha Franklin. The rhythm section stays in the pocket with the guitar-work taking point and keyboard licks added for atmosphere, though none of the instrumentation overtakes Wilson’s sinewy voice as she deliver some of the lowest, hard-edged vocalizations of her career. Just when you think she’s out of ammo for singing some of her favorites of yore she turns in an impassioned, emblazoned rethink of Ray Charles’ “Danger Zone.” Here she stands musically naked backed only by a piano baring every fiber of her soul as she digs into the piece vocally like an archaeologist excavates the recesses of the Earth of fossils. Words are hard to stumble upon when trying to describe her performance here… let’s just say it’s not of this realm. Ann breaks the cover mold with a song of her own “Fool No More.” This simplicity of this track is stunning though each instrument is richly and intricately woven into a fabric of stark, bold blues that is driven by searing guitar stingers, thick rhythm work and Wilson’s brazen vocals. Her vocals fly sky high and come down just long enough for the melodies to stick in your craw like a peanut butter sandwich.
Those looking for crowd pleasing anthems might not cotton to Ann Wilson’s work on #1, but true fans of this sometimes overlooked and forgotten musician will understand what she’s trying to accomplish immediately. Consider this EP homage to her musical inspirations, heck, even her sole self-penned number is written in a mold that honors her influences. This is real, this is raw and this is Ann at her best.
9 out of 10 stars.