Despite 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.
- Sample or download "Hearts" here.
- Compare prices on Marty Balin CDs here.
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Album Cover Image Courtesy of Capitol