With Heart only intermittently active in the early 21st century, Ann Wilson took the opportunity to release her first-ever solo album, something her sister Nancy Wilson, Heart's other half, took care of back in 1999. But where Nancy's solo debut was a live, acoustic effort comprised of both original material and covers, Ann has gone the nearly-all-covers route for the Ben Mink-produced Hope & Glory; only one song, the album-closing "Little Problems, Little Lies," comes from Wilson's own pen. Specifically, Ann turns her attention toward songs that ostensibly deal with social and political hot-button issues, loaded with messages of war, peace, hard times and, mostly, imminent doom. It's a bleak album to be sure, undoubtedly inspired by the downtrodden national mood of the times in which it was recorded (that would be the George W. Bush era -- perhaps it's no coincidence that the album's release date fell on the sixth anniversary of 9/11).
Ann's voice is strong and convincing on these tunes, largely drawn from the '60s and '70s with a few exceptions, and she's joined by big-name collaborators on most, making Hope & Glory a duets album as well as Ann's first solo.
Elton John aids Ann on the anti-war "Where to Now, St. Peter?" which first appeared on John's 1971 Tumbleweed Connection album and remains as poignant a lyric today as it was then. The futility and stupidity of armed conflict is also the subject of Neil Young's "War of Man," for which Alison Krauss teams up with Ann. Nancy Wilson is present on three tracks: Pink Floyd's "Goodbye Blue Sky" and two by the sadly underrated Youngbloods, the hopeful Summer of Love anthem "Get Together" (which also features Deana Carter and Wynonna) and the considerably more ominous "Darkness Darkness," from that group's stellar Elephant Mountain album. While Ann pulls off the former cover admirably, her take on the latter is a clear example of a song whose original rendition has never been topped -- Robert Plant attempted that one as well in 2002 and came up short. Speaking of Plant, Heart always owed a lot to Led Zeppelin and Ann must have relished the thought of giving Zep's "Immigrant Song" a shot. This one, too, though tailor-made for her throaty hard rock wail, only succeeds in making the listener want to break out the prototype. Ditto John Lennon's "Isolation" -- who could ever hope to capture the desperation behind Lennon's own reading of that one? Ann fares better on Lucinda Williams' "Jackson," the Animals' "We Gotta Get out of This Place" (also with Wynonna) and, with Gretchen Wilson (no relation), turns out a rocking "Bad Moon Rising," the foreboding Creedence Clearwater Revival rocker. Of the covers, that leaves the obligatory Dylan, and Ann goes with the apocalyptic "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," with Rufus Wainwright and Shawn Colvin. Wainwright's plaintive warbling may seem to be out of sync with such a stark lyric, but he saves the day here, bringing an appropriate dread to the tune that neither Ann nor Colvin are able to muster.
Finally, the Ann Wilson original wraps things up. An acoustic-based, country-ish ballad, it's consistent with the mood of the record, part depressed and part cautiously optimistic. It also sports one of her most heartfelt and less derivative vocals on the set. Hopefully the next time around she'll find enough to say on her own to release a solo album of her own material.