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Steve Peake

This Week's Forgotten Gem of the '80s - Marty Balin - "Hearts"

By October 23, 2012

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MartyBalinAlbum.jpgDespite looking a touch like loose-cannon actor Dennis Hopper on the album cover of his 1981 surname-titled record, former Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship crooner Marty Balin perfectly captures on this track the mellow soft rock vibe of his best '70s work with the latter of those bands. Even as former bandmates Paul Kantner, Craig Chaquico, Pete Sears and David Freiberg explored contemporarily an increasingly arena rock sound, Balin stuck to his strengths here, employing an old collaborator in songwriter Jesse Barish to build yet another solid track around his compelling tenor. And although the song climbed all the way to No. 8 on the Billboard pop charts back in 1981, it maintains a certain time-capsule aura that suggests it existed as a far more buried treasure of the era. At any rate, it's music that threatens to make soft rock seem downright respectable (which you already know is not really that drastic of a leap for Yours Truly, though I digress).

Listening to "Hearts" just now for the first time in many years, I'm struck by just how neat of a melodic package it is, not only in terms of sound pop music structure but also in emotional impact. Earlier in his career, Balin had managed deftly to straddle the nether regions between counterculture, "important" rock music and a penchant for unabashed love songs. This tune builds an appropriately romantic tone and does an efficient job of combining Balin's heartache-laced vocal style with a memorably melodic arrangement. Balin made the right decision to exit Jefferson Starship before the group proceeded to spotlight synth and heavier electric guitar riffs on its early-'80s offerings. After all, Mickey Thomas was a far better match vocally for this kind of material, which certainly has its merits somewhere on a far different plane - if you'll forgive the pun that attempts so poetically to tie everything together.

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Capitol

Comments

October 28, 2012 at 8:15 am
(1) e says:

on you tube you can find this classic performed by the guy who wrote it on his guitar…

October 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm
(2) Shemp99 says:

“Hearts” is indeed a forgotten gem. I remember seeing the video on “America’s Top 10 with Casey Kasem”. It looked like Balin was in prison. Didn’t know it was by him at the time though. I read that Balin is mildly autistic, like I am (I have Asperger’s (pronounced: Ah-spur-guhr’s) where the person who has it has superb intellectual skills, though the social skills are sometimes a challenge.

October 28, 2012 at 7:40 pm
(3) KJ says:

This has always been one of my all time favorite songs. To this day, I can’t hear the opening notes without being moved. I think every time I hear this song, I fall in love with it all over again. It really is a beauty.

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