Wilson recalls duet with Reno

Heart, featuring Ann Wilson, left and sister Nancy perform at the South Okanagan Events Centre on March 9 in support of their latest release, Fanatic. Ann recently granted a 20-minute phone interview with Herald editor James Miller where they discussed induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, songs she wished were hits and her famous duet with Penticton's own Mike Reno.

Ann WIlson has wonderful memories of recording with Mike Reno.

"We stood next to each other and sang into one mic," she said of the Almost Paradise session, a song used prominently in the 1984 film Footloose.

"I had fractured my wrist the day before on tour and had been in the hospital. I was in all this pain. I didn't want to take pain killers so I'd be clear to sing. That's my rule. Mike had a scarf on and he made a little sling for my wrist. He was a real gentleman, very sweet, making sure I was OK. The demo was also really amazing with a gospel feel to it. It's a really nice song."

Almost Paradise, co-written by Eric Carmen and Dean Pitchford, landed at No. 7 on Billboard and also topped the adult contemporary charts.

Wilson, who fronts the chart-topping band Heart, performs at the South Okanagan Events Centre, March 9.

Her association with the Peach City extends well beyond a one-time duet with Reno, the former Penticton resident who went on to enjoy huge success as the lead singer and primary songwriter of Loverboy.

"Heart played in Penticton a long time ago before (the album) Dreamboat Annie but I can't remember the name of the club. We were definitely there," she recalls. "In those days we were traveling around in vans Ñ Kamloops, Creston, Penticton, everywhere to the Rockies on our way to Edmonton and Lethbridge."

She last saw Reno at a rock festival in California and was happy to catch up with him.

Anyone hoping for Almost Paradise will be disappointed because it's been years since it was included in the set list of a Heart tour.

"I'd love to sing it now, I just don't have the right partner in Heart. We used to include it. We had a band member Frank Cox with a beautiful Irish tenor voice. Maybe we'll do it again... with a special guest."

There's a similar story to All I Want to Do Is Make Love to You, the power ballad about a woman using a man to impregnate her because her true love can not conceive.

"I liked everything about the song except what it was saying. The exchange of a bodily fluids and a woman on a power trip bothered me. It was someone else's song (Mutt Lange) and it started wearing on me. We went to Australia and that's the main song they know us from. It was like 'come on and do it' and we haven't done that one in 20 years."

The one song everyone knew in Australia was You're the Voice, a remake of a John Farnham single which had only marginal success in North America by Farnham as well as Heart, which included it on its 1991 live album Rock the House Live.

One song always guaranteed to be on the set-list is Alone, a catalyst from their mid-80s resurgence which has never gone away thanks to shows like American Idol.

"Alone is a beautiful, well-crafted song and I'm glad people are doing it (on American Idol). If they want to become singers, it's a really good song to do because it's emotionally and physically challenging and you have to really open up your soul. It's an excellent song for us to close with, as long as I don't screw it up."

Heart, which has had dozens of different musicians over the years, had two consistent members Ñ Ann and her sister Nancy. After a nearly 40-year career, the Seattle-based band is being inducted this year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"I kind of felt relieved," she said of receiving the news. "We were nominated last year and it didn't happen so it was, oh well. So, when it finally happened, this is good. It's really an honour and amazing to get that kind of acknowledgment."

Wilson "sometimes" reads reviews but tries not to.

"They can wreck your day or they can make you believe you're the most fabulous singer in the universe, depending on if it's good or bad. A better take is the how good the performance is between us and the people and you'll know if you've had a good performance."

The band's most recent album of all new material, Fanatic, was released in October and pays tribute to British Columbia with the duet Walkin' Good with Vancouver resident Sarah McLachlan and the song Rock Deep (Vancouver).

"I wrote the words to Rock Deep Vancouver having just played in Vancouver. We went back up there, had a day off and I looked around the old neighbourhoods and haunts and I was again taken by the power of the natural beauty in the city. It's goregeous, very poetic and it just jogs a sentimenal thing to me."

As for the Fanatic CD, Wilson said it's one of the grittiest albums they've made in years with only two ballads.

"I found a lot of release of anger and a lot of tension was coming out," she said. "It was a feeling I didn't know I had bubbling up but there was some joy. The album is very emotional. We're not very ironic people. It's a Heart record with a lot of great guitars and powerful loud music."

Wilson said she listens to very little current music and instead enjoys international music (mostly from India) and The Beatles. (Revolver is her favourite Beatles' album.) Of the newer artists she's familiar with, she appreciates Alabama Shakes.

Her greatest influences remain The Beatles, Elton John and The Rolling Stones. She had a chance to explore her inner-love of Beatles music when, in 2001, she participated in A Walk Down Abbey Road, an all-star band with Alan Parsons, David Pack, Mark Farmer, Todd Rundgren and John Entwistle where the first half of the show was solo hits by the artists and the second set a collection of Beatles' remakes. Wilson's contributions included singing lead on Hey Jude and Maybe I'm Amazed as well as the flute solo on The Fool on the Hill.

"They chose the Beatles' songs pretty carefully. I was able to do the Paul (McCartney) songs with the big melodies. I thought it was worth the price of admission just to hear Rundgren do Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey but then there was John Entwistle's amazing bass playing."

She's looking forward to joining her sister on stage at the Hall of Fame induction and hopes to meet some of her own personal idols. As for The Beatles, she met McCartney briefly and once spoke with George Harrison on the phone.

When asked to name her favourite Heart song that wasn't a hit, she picked Mashallah from the new album and City's Burning from the 1982 release Private Audition.

Of the band's many hits, she was most surprised that These Dreams was a hit.

"It wasn't like anything we had ever done before and it was a gorgeous, beautiful song and the perfect marriage for Nancy's voice. It was a great surprise when it hit No. 1 and I like being surprised."

Depending on the tour, the closing song changes.

"It's great to go with one of the really big hits Ñ Crazy on You, Barracuda or Alone, as long as I don't screw up. By that time in the show you've really warmed up and you're oiled and it's the best time to play those songs."

Heart's present line-up includes Ann (vocals, flute, guitar, keyboard, violin) and Nancy (vocals, guitar, mandolin, keyboards, harmonic) Wilson, Ben Smith (drums), Craig Bartock (guitar), Debbis Shair (keyboards) and Dan Rotchild (bass). The Hall of Fame line-up being inducted is the roster of the Dreamboat Annie album.

Heart, with special guest Simon Townsend performs at the South Okanagan Events Centre, Saturday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range in price from $40 - $77.50 and are available at www.valleyfirsttix.com, by phone or in person at the SOEC or Penticton and Wine Country Visitors Centre.

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