Heart

Home for the Holidays

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Christmas holiday albums are their own breed. Often recorded in the depths of summer in order to be mixed, mastered, and design-ready for the holiday season, they're also often contractual obligations for the artist with the record label, none of which diminishes the good will and intentions under which they're done and received, and while the sales window for these things is extremely narrow each year, they can be brought out again year after year during each holiday season, given that they don't age over time the way a normal secular album might. All this said, most holiday albums are cookie-cutter affairs, full of the same songs, hymns, and carols from the Christmas songbook, and one is as good as another for most seasonal occasions. This live Christmas album from Heart, the iconic rock band led by the Wilson sisters Ann and Nancy, was recorded and filmed at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, Washington, the sisters' home town, on December 12, 2013. What sets it a bit aside from the normal holiday album is the nature of the songs selected, not all of which are directly related to Christmas, and the ones that are use the holidays as more of a backdrop than a primary theme. The opener, a version of Joni Mitchell's "The River," is a case in point. Mitchell's song draws on the holiday season as a backdrop, but isn't a holiday song, really, which perhaps makes it all the more effective in this seasonal setting. Likewise, the closing song, a rendition of Bob Dylan's "Ring Them Bells," isn't a Christmas song either, but again, given the setting, it works as one. The other thing unusual here, at least for a Christmas set, is the inclusion of three totally secular songs toward the end, rocking versions of Heart's "Barracuda" and "Even It Up" and a fair cover of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," songs that are hardly seasonal, but somehow don't seem as out of place at a holiday concert as they well could. There are plenty of musical guests spotlighted here, too, including Shawn Colvin, Sammy Hagar, Richard Marx, and Pat Monahan of Train, giving everything a nice cozy feel.

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