Dog & Butterfly
Released: September 1978
Chart Peak: #17
Weeks Charted: 36
Certified Platinum: 10/27/78
If there were ever a group that appealed to my instincts as both woman and writer, Heart's the one. In the man's world of hard rock, their orientation is feminine. In an age of conglomerates, they got their start as a national act on a tiny independent label. Their success could be interpreted as blows against the empire. But none of this matters anymore.
Heart used to make a great story. Now they've made a great album.
Then there are the Butterflies, but they're not the pretty scraps that fluttered right by you on earlier records. These are rock ballads in the Led Zeppelin tradition, exercises in agony and rapture (sometimes both). Full of portenous parables and pseudomysticism, the lyrics read like bad high-school poetry or something you might have said in your sleep. But it doesn't matter. If the words are vague, the emotions are set out in black and white, and the intensity mounts as surely as a stairway to heaven. No more piddling tempo shifts -- when such a shift comes, as in "Mistral Wind," it's a stunner, kicking the tune into high gear.
Somehow Heart manages to keep the ache and thunder believable, a sense of dignity amid the bombast. Nancy Wilson's guitar sets elegant counterpoint patterns against the melodies' deep purples and moody blues -- her playing is as fresh and welcome as a lucid thought among the lyrics' free associations. There's a clarity to Ann Wilson's voice, a directness. She doens't fool around much with tone or phrasing, she just gets louder and fiercer. It's not what she's singing, but the singing itself that gets to the point. Her voice slices through band member Howard Leese's beautiful, blowzy arrangements, saying: here, just here, this is where it hurts. It's this passionate precision and this precisely expressed passion that make both the boogie and ballads so persuasive. On Dog & Butterfly, Heart knows what it wants and exactly how to go after it.
- Ariel Swartley, Rolling Stone, 11-30-78.
Heart, like Boston, is a band that would have been made to order by record-company execs if they'd only been smart enough, and that is what does them in, for me anyway. Putting two extremely attractive young ladies in front of a competent, unremarkable bunch of Led Zeppelin clones may be the sort of idea that is, on the face of it, unbeatably commercial, but it is worth noting that Heart's success story is at least partly the result of the kind of grass-roots support from the kids that the punk bands should have been able to garner. In other words, Heart may be bland, but they're not a hype. For all the slickness of the package, though, there's nothing on Dog & Butterfly that indicates the band has much to offer beyond the derivative heavy metal and the gimmick of Ann Wilson's willowy vocals. There's a lesson here, I think; maybe it's that if you're going to rewrite Led Zep, you'd better come up with your own "Stairway to Heaven" before you start making a stadium-attraction nuisance of yourself.
- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 2/79.
One of the most endearing traits about Heart has been its ability to effectively switch off between heavy metal hard rock and romantic and acoustic interludes, often within the context of one song. On this LP the division is more marked. The first side, the "Dog" side, features Heart as a straight-ahead rock band. Though only the first song of the side was recorded live, the whole side sounds as if it could have been. Side two is a bit more ambitious, and at the same time more effective. There are more quiet moments, and the Wilson sisters -- Nancy on acoustic guitar, and Ann on vocals -- have more of an opportunity to show off their individual talents. Best cuts: "Dog & Butterfly," "Nada One," "Lighter Touch."
- Billboard, 1978.
Georgia Christgau: "Robert Plant understands his place as second-string guitar posing as a lead singer. He should -- he thought it up. But this idea is belittling to Ann Wilson. 'I have a great voice!' her songs seem to say, and so she may -- but what is it doing preening here among all these seamy heavy metal types?" C
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
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