STEVIE NICKS – ” The Albums “

Posted: July 31, 2021 in MUSIC
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Stevie Nicks first came to prominence when she teamed with Lindsey Buckingham, with whom she recorded the 1973 Buckingham Nicks album, which in turn led directly to the duo joining the ranks of Fleetwood Mac. Nicks kicked off her solo career with the release of 1981’s “Bella Donna” an album remembered as much for its collaborations – including “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” credited to Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and “Leather and Lace,” a duet with Don Henley – but the swirling songstress quickly proved that she could produce memorable music all by herself. A double Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Stevie Nicks’ career is littered with moments of artistic virtuosity and commercial reward. A supreme songwriter and a naturally gifted vocalist, Nicks found fame as an integral part of Fleetwood Mac’s resurgence. Having joined the band in 1975, as many of its members began fleeing the swinging scene for pastures new, Nicks was not initially considered for a role in the band and was only truly given an audition thanks to Lindsey Buckingham’s insistence.

 She is known for her distinctive voice, mystical stage persona and poetic, symbolic lyrics.  “When we’d do an album, they’d hear fifteen of my songs and invariably pick the two that were my least favourite,” she complained. “Some of my favourite songs wouldn’t get used.” The chance for the singer’s break out came in 1981, following some of the band’s most tumultuous years, when Nicks decided to release her first solo record: “Bella Donna“.

Of course, for an artist who had spent her entire career working alongside at least one other musician, the thought of going it completely alone was a distressing one. Nicks may well be incredibly talented but she has never been emboldened by her own confidence. A noted sufferer of stage fright, Nicks would rely on two men for help putting out her solo album, Jimmy Iovine and Tom Petty.

‘Street Angel’ (1994)

Nothing was going right for Stevie Nicks, personally (she was trying to kick an addiction of painkillers) or professionally (this album stalled at No. 45, and produced no hit singles). Street Angel was actually troubled from the start, as Nicks battled with original producer Glyn Johns. She ultimately decided to do a stint in rehab, which got her life back on track, then attempted – but ultimately failed – to get Street Angel back on track with second producer Thom Panunzio

After years of addiction, weight gain and exhaustion, Nicks fully detoxed in 1993 and ended her ties to Klonopin. The next year she released Street Angel, another solo album. As her health improved and she regained energy, Stevie returned to the studio to record new songs for multiple soundtracks.

“Blue Denim” Although it served as the lead-off track for Nicks’ first solo album since her departure from Fleetwood Mac, “Blue Denim” – a co-write with Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers – failed to secure the first-single nod. After “Maybe Love Will Change Your Mind” peaked at a relatively unimpressive No. 42, “Blue Denim” got its shot at glory, but despite its insistent guitar riff and radio-friendly hook, it failed to chart in any capacity, making it somewhat of a rarity among Nicks’ songs released as singles.

‘Trouble in Shangri-La’ (Stevie Nicks, 2001)

Nicks had spent years trying to come to terms with the “Street Angel” debacle when two things broke the creative logjam: some important words of encouragement from old friend and musical collaborator Tom Petty, and a surprise Fleetwood Mac reunion. Nicks wrote some of the transitional “Trouble in Shangri-La” while out on tour with her old bandmates, then completed the album with choice new originals and some music from the underrated Buckingham/Nicks era.

Nicks had begun writing actively for ‘Trouble in Shangri-La’ in 1994 and 1995 as she came out of her Klonopin dependency, According to her, friend and former musical partner Tom Petty was responsible for convincing her to write music again when he rebuffed her request that he write a song with her. She resumed recording songs for the Trouble in Shangri-La album with Sheryl Crow, who produced and performed on several tracks.

It didn’t add up to her best work, but Nicks finally got back on track.

“Planets of the Universe” Originally composed during the period when Fleetwood Mac were working on “Rumours” (a demo of the song can be found on the expanded version of the album), Nicks wrote “Planets of the Universe” about her disintegrating relationship with Buckingham. Revisiting the song in 2001, Nicks excised one of the more bitter verses and, with the help of producer John Shanks and remixer Tracy Young, took the track to the top of Billboard’s Hot Dance Music / Club Play chart.

‘The Other Side of the Mirror’ (Stevie Nicks, 1989)

Following the tour for The Wild Heart, Nicks commenced work on her third solo album. Originally titled Mirror Mirror, Nicks recorded songs for the album during 1984. However, Nicks was unhappy with the album, and opted to record a new batch of songs in 1985. “Rock A Little” as it was retitled, was released November 18th, 1985, to commercial success, supported by three successful singles. Nicks toured for Rock a Little until October 1986,

Nicks exited the ’80s on another commercial high note. It’s interesting because “The Other Side of the Mirror” often rejects her typically twirly, mystical persona. Instead, Nicks – who was on the cusp of a debilitating battle with the prescribed tranquilizer Klonopin – has never sounded more haunted. (“Ghosts,” for instance, focuses on mistakes from the “past that you live in” and a “future you are frightened of.”) Not all of it works, beginning with the synthy production and definitely including a reggae version of Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone.” Still, The Other Side of the Mirror became Nicks fourth consecutive platinum-selling album of the decade on the strength of the Top 20 hit “Rooms on Fire.”

The first single from 1989’s “The Other Side Of The Mirror” Nicks revealed in the Timespace liner notes that ‘Rooms on Fire’ was inspired by her short-lived romantic dalliance with producer/musician Rupert Hine, who helmed the album. Although the song topped Billboard’s Album Rock Tracks chart and made it to No. 16 on both the Hot 100 and the Adult Contemporary Singles chart, Nicks dropped the song from her live sets in the ’90s and – based on the set lists available online, anyway – does not appear to have revisited it in a live setting since.

‘Rock a Little’ (Stevie Nicks, 1985)

She actually does rock a little. But the principal focus on this third solo album was solidifying Nicks’ spot as a pop star in her own right. It worked. The lead single “Talk to Me” went to No. 4, and “I Can’t Wait” reached No. 16. The album also produced “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You?,” which became a regular concert encore, and key deep cuts like the zippy “I Can’t Wait” and beautifully wistful “Some Become Strangers.” Nicks voice, however, seemed to deepen all at once and that made some of her tics at the microphone more obvious. The studio gloss was starting to pile up too, as a gang of producers began trying every ’80s-era trick in the book.

“Talk to Me” The first single from “Rock A Little”, “Talk to Me” was a composition by Chas Sanford, co-writer of the John Waite classic “Missing You” and later Chicago’s “What Kind of Man Would I Be?” Although Nicks struggled to nail the vocals to producer Jimmy Iovine’s satisfaction, she eventually pulled them off successfully, thanks to the encouragement of Jim Keltner, who offered to stick around and provide moral support while she recorded the song. (Yes, this story comes from the Timespace liner notes, too. They provide a wealth of background about your favourite Nicks songs.)

According to the 1991 best-of collection Timespace, “I Can’t Wait” was recorded in a single take, with Nicks writing in her liner notes. “Some vocals are magic and simply not able to beat,” Her recollections of the song’s video, however, are decidedly less positive: in I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, by Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks, a chagrined Nicks admits, “I look at that video, I look at my eyes, and I say to myself, ‘Could you have laid off the pot, the coke, and the tequila for three days, so you could have looked a little better’?”

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‘In Your Dreams’ (Stevie Nicks, 2011)

Dave Stewart helped Stevie Nicks find herself again. They wrote, with ink on a page – and they recorded at her house, in the manner of her best moments with Fleetwood Mac. In Your Dreams ended up turning on the rediscovery of an unfinished 1980 song called “Secret Love” that appeared on the internet before it ever got properly recorded. Nicks became determined not to just rekindle the feeling of her best days, but to bring that feeling — and that sound — into a new space for a new generation. The result is her most adventurous album. The success of her “Secret Love” reclamation project also led Nicks to dig still deeper into the vault.

’24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault’ (Stevie Nicks, 2014)

Filched copies of poorly recorded sessions work initially inspired 24 Karat Gold, which found Nicks — as the title suggests returning to officially unreleased songs for inspiration. She was born anew. “Twisted,” which had taken a suitably circuitous route, was one of several tracks that finally found their true voice. Then there were moments like “Lady.” A starkly emotional piano-driven ballad known to her deepest fans as the demo “Knockin’ on Doors,” it made clear that Nicks had hidden for too long behind effects — be they electronic, sartorial or otherwise. Stripped of artifice, Nicks connected on an elemental level that she simply couldn’t while swaddled in synths or shawls.

‘The Wild Heart’ (Stevie Nicks, 1983)

Nicks released her second solo album, “The Wild Heart” on June 10th, 1983. The album went double platinum, reached number five on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and featured three hit singles. It also introduced songwriter and performer Sandy Stewart as co-writer and vocalist.

Nicks’ double-platinum second solo album featured an appropriately named song: “Nothing Ever Changes.” She played to her strengths on “The Wild Heart” – and, in keeping with her status as one of the ’80s’ biggest stars, sold millions. If there’s a complaint to be made, it’s that so many of the songs were determinedly radio-ready, without the quirky mannerisms that often surrounded her work with Fleetwood Mac. In keeping, “Stand Back” this project’s biggest hit and biggest risk felt like a bolt out of the blue. The song was so inventive that it made everything else – even the underrated “If Anyone Falls,” a moody synth-driven cut that explores the emotions surrounding an unrequited love sound a little pedestrian.

“Nightbird” The last of the three singles from “The Wild Heart” may not have managed to crack the Top 20, stalling at the No. 33 position, but Nicks has nonetheless described the song one of three tracks on the album which she co-wrote with her friend Sandy Stewart as her favourite track on the album. In addition, “Nightbird” is also directly responsible for inspiring the name of the self-described “Premiere Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks Tribute,” but try not to hold that against the song.

“Standback” is arguably her most recognizable solo single, a status aided immeasurably by its regular inclusion in Fleetwood Mac’s sets as well as remaining a staple of her own shows, Nicks premiered “Stand Back” during her performance at the US Festival in 1983, prefacing it with a giddy (yet sadly unfulfilled) vow to hand-deliver copies of the yet-to-be-released The Wild Heart to everyone in the audience, “sort of like Girl Scout Cookies.” Even without Nicks making good on her promise, however, both the single and the album made it to No. 5 on their respective Billboard charts.

“If Anyone Falls” Another Nicks / Sandy Stewart co-write, the second single from The Wild Heart was a song of unrequited love, with Nicks observing how, no matter how good or bad a relationship goes, the feelings continue to exist “somewhere in the twilight dreamtime / somewhere in the back of your mind.” Although it didn’t match the success of its predecessor (“Stand Back”), “If Anyone Falls” still pulled a highly respectable No. 14 placement on Billboard’s Hot 100.

‘Bella Donna’ (Stevie Nicks, 1981)

With nearly two dozen collaborators, you had to wonder if Stevie Nicks would get lost on the four-times-platinum “Bella Donna“. Instead, she acts as a sort of witchy-woman conductor for her songs, leading a strikingly talented crew through their paces on a tour-de-force solo debut. She wrote or co-wrote all but one of the tracks, save for the No. 3 Tom Petty collaboration “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” during a period of remarkable productivity. Then Petty’s producer Jimmy Iovine gave Nicks a spacious, rootsy space to flourish. “Leather and Lace,” a duet with Don Henley, went to No. 6, before her career-defining “Edge of Seventeen” finished at No. 11. The result wasn’t just the best solo debut of any member of her band; it was one of the best first albums of the ’80s.

Bella Donna introduced Nicks’ permanent back-up singers, Sharon Celani and Lori Perry (now Nicks), who have contributed vocals to all of Nicks’ solo albums since.

Given that it was Nicks’ designated entry in our list of the classic rock songs, “Edge of Seventeen,” the third single from Bella Donna (but the first to be credited solely to her alone), was always destined to land atop the list of the greatest Stevie Nicks songs, but it’s a placement that’s hard to argue: any song that can survive being covered by Lindsay Lohan and having Waddy Wachtel’s famous guitar riff sampled by Destiny’s Child (“Bootylicious”) yet still come out with its reputation unscathed has more than earned its placement in the top spot.

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The fourth and final single to be released from Nicks’ 1981 solo debut, the country-tinged is “After the Glitter Fades” listed in the album credits with a copyright date of 1975, but Nicks has indicated on several occasions that it was actually written a few years earlier, placing its composition date in the 1972-73 range. As such, she and Lindsey Buckingham hadn’t yet joined the ranks of Fleetwood Mac, making the lyrics about how “what I seem to touch these days / Has turned to gold” decidedly prophetic.

“This song was written about my boyfriend’s mother who was involved with a man in Chile during the coup that happened there in 1973,” she explained. “The man she loved was banished to France. Banished – or imprisoned, that was the choice. The love story never really ended, but she never saw him again. I was so touched by this story of lost love that I wrote ‘Bella Donna.’”

Nicks revealed that the moment she finished the song was the moment she knew she had the basis for her first solo record, which she believed in “from the bottom of my heart.” The story of her boyfriend’s mother changed the way she looked at love, a concept she would explore later throughout her first album. “It defined how I would feel about love forever,” she said of “Bella Donna.” “It broke my heart and gave me the strength to fight for it.”

The album is so important to Nicks’ career. Yes, vocally the album perhaps catches some of Nicks’ finest performances. From a song writing point of view, it’s equally hard not to see Nicks in the prime of her life for penmanship. But it was the expression behind the songs that really made this album worthwhile. It was the feeling of pent up tension exposed to vibrant and gratifying freedom and allowed the artist beneath to truly be seen perhaps for the first time. Nicks would release seven studio albums on her own while still being able to work as a pivotal member of Fleetwood Mac.

Standback 1981-2017 

Music from all eight of Nicks’ studio albums are included in the set, from Top 10 hits like “Stand Back” and “Talk To Me” to “The Dealer” from her latest, 2014’s “24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault”. Those solo tracks are joined by Nicks’ memorable collaborations with other artists, including “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, “Leather And Lace” with Don Henley, “You’re Not The One” with Sheryl Crow, and “Beautiful People Beautiful Problems” with Lana Del Rey.  “Stand Back” also explores her career on stage with outstanding live recordings, including performances from her 1981 Bella Donna tour (“Dreams” and “Rhiannon”), and her 2009 live album The Soundstage Sessions (“Sara” and a cover of Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me.”) Rounding out the collection are several of her contributions to film soundtracks, like “Blue Lamp” from Heavy Metal and “If You Ever Did Believe” from Practical Magic.

“Stand Back: 1981-2017” was the fourth compilation from Stevie Nicks. What sets this set apart from the previous releases is it expands the years covered obviously, but also includes several songs that have never appeared on a Stevie album previously.

The first disc contains 17 of Stevie’s singles from each of her seven studio albums. Yes, there are a few missing, her new tracks from her 1991 compilation “TimeSpace” and more glaringly 1989’s “Whole Lotta Trouble”. But aside from that all of the big hits are here.

Disc two features 18 tracks, each one a collaboration of some type, be it a duet or a prominent backing vocalist. This is the gem disc of the set in my opinion. More than half of the tracks on disc two have never appeared on a Stevie compilation before, and seven of those tracks have never appeared on a Stevie album period. In the case of “Golden” with Lady Antebellum the track has only appeared as a digital single and “You’re Not The One” with Sheryl Crow was a b-side to Sheryl’s 2002 track “Soak Up The Sun”. Other tracks such as “Borrowed” with LeAnn Rimes, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” with Chris Isaac and “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems” with Lana Del Rey appeared on the respective artists albums. Stevie has contributed to many other artists albums since 1976 and a complete compilation could be made just of those tracks.

The third disc is something of a time machine featuring various Live tracks from throughout the years. The highlight of these tracks is the Tom Petty collaboration “Needles & Pins” from his 1985 “Pack Up The Plantation Live” album, although the song dates back to 1981. The disc closes out with a handful of Stevie’s soundtrack contributions. The final track being “Your Hand I Will Never Let It Go” from the 2017 film “Book Of Henry”. This is one of the songs that most casual fans and even some die hards may be unaware of. Each of Stevie’s compilation albums offer something different for fans. “TimeSpace” from 1991 was her first comp and featured remixed versions of her previous hits and three newly recorded tracks. 1998’s “Enchanted” gave us the hits, collaborations and unreleased tracks. It also is the only set to include a “Buckingham Nicks” track. 2007’s “Crystal Visions” brought lost of hits up to date as well as previously unreleased live tracks. And now “Stand Back 1981-2017” covers much of the same ground, but also includes tracks unique to this set.
The set has been released to commemorate Stevie’s solo induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. This set proves that she is much more than just a member of Fleetwood Mac.

But with touring on hold, she’s bored and depressed, this pandemic has hit her so hard. Two projects were due out she says, offered a vestige of normalcy: “24 Karat Gold: The Concert,” a cinematic version of her 2017 solo show, and a politically minded new single, “Show Them the Way,” which will be accompanied by a Cameron Crowe-directed music video.

The show emphasizes Nicks’ solo career MTV standards like “Stop Draggin My Heart Around”, “Stand Back” and “Edge Of Seventeen”. Performing music from her “dark, gothic trunk of lost songs,” she tells the audience, makes her feel like she’s a 20-year-old embarking on a new career. “This is not the same Stevie Nicks show you’ve seen a million times,” she explains, “because I am different.”

“This is the show where you get to meet this girl, finally,” says guitarist Waddy Wachtel, who served as the tour’s musical director and has known Nicks since 1970. “She can relax and work her own rhythm. It’s a joy to see her get into her own songs instead of fighting to get her due in a band where there are three really strong songwriters.”

On the road, Wachtel says, Nicks travels via private plane because she has declared herself too old for tour buses. She loves lavish hotel rooms with pianos, a perk Wachtel thinks she’s earned: “She doesn’t have a husband. She doesn’t have a boyfriend. She wants a good room to be able to play her music as loud as she wants.”

She’s also decided that she wants to make another solo album and plans to spend the rest of quarantine turning the poetry from her journals into lyrics.

 The Albums

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