Heart began life in 1967 under the name of The Army. Several years and numerous name changes later, they emerged with their debut album, Dreamboat Annie, in 1975. Over the following few years, they established themselves as one of the biggest bands in the US. Their fortunes took a nosedive in the early 1980s, but in 1985, they forged a successful comeback that saw them through the next decade. Since then, they’ve split up, reunited, enjoyed another comeback, and, somewhere along the line, sold over 35 million records worldwide. Here, we take a look back at the highs and lows of their recording career as we rank all the Heart albums from worst to best.
15. Private Audition
Private Audition gets underway with City’s Burnin’, a chronically underrated track that deserves far more love than it gets. Unfortunately, the album goes downhill from there. It came at a point at which the band was slowly starting to transition from hard rockers to power balladeers, and the power struggle between the two styles results in a confusing, conflicting album. Released on June 5, 1982, it reached number 25 on the US Billboard 200.
At the time of its release, Rolling Stone described Passionworks as “Almost totally lacking in hummable tunes and danceable rhythms,” doing little more than serving as a showcase for Ann Wilson’s vocal pyrotechnics. In retrospect, the criticism isn’t entirely justified. While it’s far from a perfect album, it’s still got enough merit to keep die-hard fans happy, even if it’s not necessarily the best introduction to the band for casual listeners.
13. Desire Walks On
By the early 1990s, grunge had taken over and the arena rock acts of the 1980s were considered passe. Heart made a valiant effort to adapt to the times, but Desire Walks On is weighed down by uneven material and stodgy production. Released in November 1993, it stalled at No. 48 on the Billboard 200.
Heart kicked off the 1990s with Brigade. While not as strong as earlier albums, it’s still essential listening for die-hard fans, with producer Richie Zito adding plenty of spit and polish, but still keeping enough of the band’s trademark grit to keep things interesting. Released on March 26, 1990, it climbed to No. 3 on both the US Billboard 200 and the UK Albums Chart.
In 1977, Mushroom Records decided to collect together a bunch of unfinished studio recordings and live tracks and release them without the band’s approval under the album title Magazine. Heart issued legal proceedings, and the album was withdrawn from sale on the condition Heart would add their own stamp to the album ready for a 1978 re-release. As Louder Sound notes, despite the whiff of contractual obligation, the new Magazine wasn’t a bad effort, with Heartless, Devil Delight, and Just The Wine all standing out as highlights.
10. Bad Animals
For Bad Animals, Heart recruited a ton of outside writers to help them come up with the goods. By and large, they succeeded, with Diane Warren’s Who Will You Run To, Holly Knight and Nancy Wilson’s There’s The Girl, and Ann Wilson’s emotional ballad (and No. 1 hit) Alone all helping turn Bad Animals into a 5 million-selling mega-hit.
9. Beautiful Broken
As All Music notes, on Beautiful Broken, Heart decided to walk a path well worn by vintage rockers: revisiting their catalog. Fortunately, they managed to avoid the pitfall that many fall into and left the classics well alone. The result is a collection of little-known songs and an intriguing, if flawed, album. It’s too ballad-heavy by far, but the creativity is hard to fault.
8. Bebe is Strange
The early 80s weren’t Heart’s finest hour, but there was no sign of the trouble to come on their opening album from the decade. Although Bebe is Strange remains one of their most underrated albums, it’s teeming with great songs, from the hypersexualized title track to the gloriously posturing Even It Up. Released on February 14, 1980, it hit No. 5 on the US Billboard 200.
7. Dog & Butterfly
Heart’s fourth studio album, Dog & Butterfly, is a game of two halves. The first side of the album is full of hard-rocking numbers, while the second half consists primarily of ballads. Regardless of the side, it’s a solid album, with a good scattering of made-for-radio hits and intriguing deep cuts. After peaking at No.17 on the US Billboard 200, it was eventually certified double platinum
After several decades in the industry, Heart scored a late-career hit in 2012 with their fifteenth studio album, Fanatic. A deeply personal album that drew on Ann and Nancy Wilson’s own lives, there’s a freshness and earthiness to the songs that benefit from the low-fi production and almost ragged arrangements. Clearly, fans appreciated the organic sound of the album, taking it to No. 24 on the Billboard 200 in October 2012.
5. Jupiters Darling
After several years in the creative wilderness, Heart returned with their first new album in 11 years with 2004’s Jupiters Darling. Featuring guest appearances from Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and Alice In Chains’ Jerry Cantrell, its combination of hard rock and folk-rock returned the band to their roots… and the charts, peaking at No. 94 on the US Billboard 200.
4. Red Velvet Car
After Jupiters Darling ushered in Heart’s second big comeback, they waited a full six years to release their next album of new material. Fortunately, the wait was worth it. While Jupiters Darling is unquestionably excellent, Red Velvet Car is more focused, more vibrant, and altogether more reminiscent of their material from the 70s. A commercial success, it became their first top 10 album since 1990’s Brigade, peaking at No. 10 on the Billboard 200.
3. Dreamboat Annie
The first Heart album ever released was a commercial and creative triumph. Its blend of hard rock and acoustic textures may have had undertones of Led Zeppelin, but it was clear from the quality of the songwriting and arrangements that Heart were a very distinctive, very unique band that marched to no one’s beat but their own. Released in February 1976, it shot to No. 7 on the Billboard 200.
After a couple of disappointing albums, Heart came back bigger and better than ever for their 1985 album, Heart. The production got slicker, the sound moved further towards mainstream rock, and the hits just kept on coming. Four of the five singles released from the album broke into the Top Ten, while These Dreams made it all the way to No. 1. The album itself was equally successful, becoming the first (and so far only) LP from the band to top the Billboard 200.
1. Little Queen
Little Queen kicked off with Barracuda, the heaviest, most furious song in Heart’s catalog. A direct response to their label’s sexist promotion campaign for Dreamboat Annie, its venom set the tone for much of the rest of the album. It’s not entirely dark (Love Alive, the band’s homage to Led Zeppelin, stands out as one of the gentler numbers) but this was an album that had a point to prove… which it did, wonderfully. Since its release in May 1977, it’s certified 3 x Platinum in the US and 2 x Platinum in Canada.