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Ann Wilson - Hope and Glory

Ann Wilson Finally Goes Solo

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Ann Wilson - Hope and Glory

Ann Wilson - Hope and Glory

© Zoe Records
It's been a long time coming for this rock and roll vocalist. Her fans have long been looking forward to the day when Wilson would release her solo album. What's remarkable about this disc is that she chose, her first time out, to record some of the great, influential songs of the 20th century, from artists like Elton John to Led Zeppelin, Lucinda Williams and Bob Dylan.

Ann Wilson teams up with Alison Krauss, Shawn Colvin, kd lang and others

One of the first things you may notice while ripping off the plastic wrap around Ann Wilson's new solo record is her choice of collaborators. For Hope and Glory, she teamed up with kd lang, Shawn Colvin, Rufus Wainwright, Wynona Judd, Elton John, Alison Krauss, Gretchen Wilson, Deana Carter and of course her sister Nancy.

Each one merits mention, because each artist brings a certain level of expertise with them wherever they go. And, as that list of guests would indicate, Hope and Glory is equal parts rock, pop, country and folk. It's an extraordinary mix of music that defies any definable terminology.

Hope and Glory's Brightest Moments

Ann Wilson's band Heart is known for excellent, ripping rock tunes like "Barracuda" and "Alone," so it's no surprise that Wilson shines on the rockier tunes like Elton John's "Where to Now, St. Peter?" She rips out her greatest hard rock roots on an ambitious adaptation of "Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin, that could warrant a warning for any folkies picking up this record to hear the Dylan cover.

That said, though, the song is quite well done, and is preceded by an exceptional cover of Lucinda Williams' "Jackson." Further into the disc, she enters a decidedly more folk-country realm with Gretchen Wilson on the classic Creedence Clearwater Revival hit "Bad Moon Rising."

Neil Young's "War of Man," kicks off with a vocal intro from Alison Krauss, before clearing out to distorted guitars and the lower end of Wilson's vocal range. Krauss and Wilson trade verses, as the song builds to Wilson's trademark growls. "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" takes a couple of listens. With Wainwright, Colvin and Wilson swapping verses, Dylan's repetitive vocal parts sound a bit contrived at first. Then the Wainwright-ish ambitious arrangement builds, integrating what feels like a hundred vocals and instruments, and the whole thing comes together.

The Bottom Line: Not a Protest Record

Ann Wilson has an impressive vocal range, which is given plenty of room to completely master the tunes she's chosen to collect on this disc. The album is impeccably performed, from Wilson's vocals to her guest vocalists, the band and excellent contributions from producer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Mink (kd lang).

Each song has its place in the narrative. Without Wilson's explanation in the liner notes and her self-penned tune at the end of the disc, the record could feel somewhat lacking in direction. However, clear themes of justice and sacrifice, isolation, hope and glory arise.

These themes arise through the poet who sings of a pending storm, the new soldier who begins his training, the couple who've set out to change the world, the immigrants searching for a better life. Not so much a protest record, Hope and Glory is a collection of songs from America's recent past, brought back to reflect upon the lessons that, one would expect, should have been learned by now.

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