A Great Holiday Concert Album With Heart And Their Friends

Bruce Von Stiers

This week there is a new holiday album out. And it's not your average holiday album. This one if from the classic rock band Heart. The album was taken from a concert that the band did in their hometown of Seattle last December. The title of the album is Heart & Friends - Home For The Holidays.

The album has fourteen songs and a run time of just over an hour. It is being released by Frontiers Records, a label that has been putting out a lot of albums by classic rock groups.

As I mentioned earlier, the album was from a concert last December 12 th , at the Benaroya Symphony Concert Hall in Seattle. The concert had holiday themed songs written by people such as Joni Mitchell, Harry Nilsson and Sammy Hagar.

Not only is there the album, but the concert was also filmed and is available on Blu-Ray.

The current line-up of Heart includes Ben Smith on drums, Debbie Shair on keys, Craig Bartock on guitar and Dan Rothchild on bass. And, of course, there is the founding members of Heart, Ann Wilson on lead vocals and assorted instruments and her sister, Nancy Wilson, the premier female rock guitarist. Nancy's not too bad on vocals either.

And as the title of the album suggests, there were special guests who performed with the band during the concert. Those special guests were Shawn Colvin, Richard Marx, Patrick Monahan and Sammy Hagar.

One thing that was great about the album is that had, for almost all of it, a smooth flow from song to song. Often times, live album songs will cut off and start fresh with another. On this album, it is almost like you were actually in the audience as wasn't hardly any stops and starts. That shows some pretty good mixing was done on the album.

The album starts out with a Joni Mitchell song, River. Although not exactly written by Joni as a Christmas song, it has been informally adopted over the years as one. Ann does a spectacular job with her vocalization of the song. And there is beautiful orchestral background music.

That transitions right into Seasons. This is a song that was written by Elton John and featured in the 1971 film Friends. It is a beautiful song and is well done here.

Shawn Colvin performs two of the songs that were on her top selling holiday album, Holiday Songs and Lullabies. The first is Rocking. It is a soft and gentle song that showcases Shawn's vocals well. The second song is Love Came Down At Christmas. Originating as a poem in the late 1800's, this song has went through several transitions, including this wonderful rendition by Shawn.

After the two songs by Shawn, Nancy recites a poem that she'd written just for the concert.

As Nancy finishes the poem she invites Richard Marx to join her on stage. He does a duet with Nancy for the classic lullaby All Through The Night.

From there, the next guest on stage, and on the album, is Sammy Hagar. Nancy joins Sammy on his song All We Need Is An Island. Then Sammy and Nancy perform a song he wrote that he says is kind of an alternative Christmas song. The song is Santa's Going South (For Christmas). Some of you might know the Toby Keith rendition of the song.

Patrick Monahan, the front-man for Train, sings along with Ann on the classic bluesy Christmas song, Please Come For Christmas. This is a really great rendition of the song. In a cool bit at the end of the song, Patrick gives a shout-out to the Seattle Seahawks.

Nancy sings a terrific rendition of the Harry Nillson song Remember Christmas.

As fans expect to hear some of Heart's signature rock songs, even in a holiday setting, the band kicked it out with a couple of their best ones. They did Barracuda and Even It Up. Listening to Barracuda reminded me of the band's killer concert that I attended, second row from the stage, back in 2010. And Even It Up is one of my favorite songs from Heart, so it was cool that they did it for the holiday concert.

Some of you might know that Heart performed a spectacular rendition of the Led Zeppelin song Stairway To Heaven at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2012. The band included the song as part of their set list for the holiday concert. They did a fantastic performance of the song, even including a local Seattle choir, Total Experience Gospel Choir, for background vocals.

The final song on the album was Ring Them Bells. It was also the final song of the concert. Ann and Nancy had the special guests come on stage once again to join in on the song. Apparently Sammy Hagar had already left, so he wasn't part of the final song. Even without Sammy, this was a great ending song for the concert, and album.

This is an awesome album. Ann and Nancy Wilson, along with their fellow Heart band members, really know how to put together a terrific holiday concert. The songs might not be traditional as such, but they really do promote the holiday season. And the special guests added an even greater listening experience.

Both the CD and Blu-Ray of Heart & Friends Home For The Holidays are now available. Grab your copy from your favorite online or traditional music retailer.

To learn more about the concert, or about Heart, visit http://www.heart-music.com/welcome.html You can also check out the band's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/heart

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© 2014 Bruce E Von Stiers