Perhaps the most underrated track from a long-overlooked band, one still relegated to novelty status based on the sex of its most recognizable members or (less unreasonably) avoided as penalty for its stylistic departures in the 1980s, Dreamboat Annie‘s “Sing Child” stands as one of Heart and lead guitarist Roger Fisher’s finest achievements.
Dreamboat Annie would have been quite the debut even without “Sing Child”, but the album attains an even higher level of hysteria for its inclusion. In the “Heartbreaker” tradition, Fisher looses a devastating riff– complemented by the Wilson sisters’ sinister harmonies–before veering off into an aggressive unaccompanied solo. The band’s reentry introduces a second, more evocative instrumental section that, like the break in “Magic Man”, marks a great instance in which the entire band contributes to the mood. Fisher provides some particularly tasteful, pleading phrases before launching back into the main riff, having made his case as a soloist to watch. Coupled with an outlandish Ann Wilson vocal (her work on the third verse alone makes this a must-hear), as well as a fine flute solo, and punctuated by biting chords throughout, “Sing Child” settles any debate over Heart’s ability to challenge and surpass its contemporaries. In a little over four minutes, the song affirms the prowess of a truly unsung lead guitarist in Roger Fisher and, alongside “Devil Delight”, “Cook With Fire”, “Mistral Wind”, “Barracuda”, and “Little Queen”, proves that Heart could deliver material as heavy as that of any group from the era.
Seldom performed by the group, the song was, barring a brief revival for the 2007 performance of Dreamboat Annie in its entirety, dropped completely from tours following Fisher’s departure in 1979. However, “Sing Child” survives through three* recorded live renditions of considerable quality and significance. The most compelling remains an exceptional broadcast recording (included below) originally aired on BBC Rock Hour in 1978. The performance, augmented by the crisp audio quality, is scintillating and ranks among the best recordings from the Fisher lineup of the 1970s. Footage of an extended rendition featuring guitar and drum interplay and (lest the numerous comparisons prove too tame) bowed guitar work was released officially in 2012 as part of the Strange Euphoria box set and dates back to a 1976 Washington State University show filmed for KWSU-TV’s The Second Ending concert series. A third, similar in length and style to the televised version, exists as a leftover from the 1975 Aquarius Tavern tapes that supplied “Mother Earth Blues” and “I’ve Got the Music in Me” for the beleaguered yet solid Magazine album. Try all three for a reminder of Heart’s force or, at the very least, as protest over the song’s lack of notoriety.
*Two more versions, from 1977 Philadelphia and 1976 Waukegan shows, exist on audience tape and are a touch less outrageous than the others but just as musically accomplished.