Album Reviews

The Heaters

American Dream: the Portastudio Recordings

Artist:     The Heaters

Album:     American Dream: The Portastudio Recordings

Label:     Omnivore

Release Date:     08/19/2016


Phil Spector could have done wonders for the Heaters, whose blissful, artfully arranged girl-group harmonies and pearly melodies are finally coming out of hiding. Shelved since the early ‘80s, this utterly charming set of 10 newly unearthed songs shines brilliantly on its own, but imagine how stunning they’d be all dressed to the nines in Spector’s “Wall of Sound” production excesses. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple and understated.

As the story goes, the Heaters went from Los Angeles new-wave hotshots in the late 1970’s – their punky energy and pop songwriting smarts securing opening gigs for the likes of Van Halen, Cheap Trick and the Talking Heads – to yesterday’s news, declared commercially dead after dismal sales of their first two albums. As it turned out, they still had a pulse, as sisters Maggie and Missy Connell continued recording on a Portastudio with lead singer Mercy Bermudez, eventually catching the ear of Rhino Records. The label wanted to re-record the material, originally made in 1983, for a new release. Believing it should be issued as is, the trio – who enthusiastically penned detailed liner notes for this release – turned Rhino down flat.

The listening public had no idea what it was missing. Bright and cheery, the vibrant title track makes a memorable impression, recalling the vocal stylings of the Ronettes and similar groups from the ‘50s and ‘60s. So do “All I Want to Do” and “10,000 Roses,” both aching with bittersweet, lovelorn angst. Meanwhile, “Just Around the Corner” gently sways like a beautiful and sad, but hopeful, taxi dancer, and poor “Sandy” has boy problems, but an easy swing and a pretty glow that’s absolutely irresistible. The dream is still alive.

– Peter Lindblad


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