In a conversation with Gear Factor, core Heart member Nancy Wilson, talked about the band’s 1977 smash hit ‘Barracuda’. She said that they had been opening for the band Nazareth, who had a hit with a Joni Mitchell song that they covered in 1973 called ‘This Flight Tonight’ which was driven by a kind of infectious galloping riff. So Heart guitarist Roger Fisher more or less ripped it off and made it his own. Nazareth were apparently pissed off about it, so Heart just ignored and stayed out of their way for a while, explained Nancy. Fact is, that powerful riff bludgeoned the charts at time, in what was really a revenge-type song. The sister songwriting team of Nancy and Ann Wilson wrote ‘Barracuda’ in response to crude allusions allegedly made on behalf of the Mushroom Records label that hinted towards Ann & Nancy being lesbian lovers, having an incestuous relationship. Needless to say, the band left the label shortly thereafter and the rest is history.
‘Barracuda’ was, and still is, a monster of a rock song. It runs like a railroad train, with force and gusto. It’s big, muscular and loud. A sophisticated song of rage, which has now been taken out of the closet in 2021, re-recorded and re-proposed by Baltimore rocker, and guitar ace, Eric Hall aka EH.
Once again, Eric shows himself to be a master at covering classic rock songs. He recently came off from doing a magnificent job with the Judas Priest classic “Living After Midnight”, which also featured bona-fide former Priest vocalist, Tim “Ripper” Owens.
The aggressiveness of the music and the lyrics make ‘Barracuda’ a powerhouse, as the opening lines lays down the gauntlet: “So this ain’t the end, I saw you again, today. I had to turn my heart away. Smiled like the sun, kisses for everyone. And tales, it never fails. You lying so low in the weeds. I bet you gonna ambush me. You’d have me down, down, down on my knees. Now wouldn’t you, Barracuda?”
Despite of what you may think, ‘Barracuda’ is not an easy song to cover, due to the odd time signatures thrown in randomly. Something Heart says they did purposely to throw cover bands off. None of this flusters Eric Hall though, who drives through the arrangement with a vengeance. His grungy riffs come hard and heavy, while the solo parts squeal and scream with true musical substance. This makes for a potent combination, which relaunches the dynamic splendor of ‘Barracuda’.
The female vocalist is in stunning form too, her unruffled melisma and zero-to-100 highs are impeccably sharp, while carrying an underlying resonance which penetrates the soul. Her unshakable belting fills every cranny of the soundscape the arrangement allows her to have.
Together they create something unapologetically strong within a realm almost exclusive to an older generation. Eric Hall aka EH brings the beauty and power of Heart right into the future with ‘Barracuda’. This is an absolute gem, which employs all the elements that make a great rock song classic.