It took Stevie Nicks 40 years to become unpredictable.
Jeb Inge - Journal Copy Editor
Jeb Inge - Journal Copy Editor
After decades of chart-topping repetition and radio-friendly solo albums, Nicks entered the new millennium seemingly spent. As recently as Fleetwood Mac's 2009 tour, the white winged dove wheezed more than wowed. But like the sorcerers and witches lacing her songs, Nicks always has another trick up her mystical sleeve.
Her latest solo album, "In Your Dreams," isn't simply a trick. It's Nicks' best music since 1983.
"In Your Dreams" is unpredictable in the only way an album from an aging rocker can be: It doesn't sound like microwaved nostalgia. Sure, Nicks still relies on the well-worn themes of California witches and love's labor lost. She's been doing that since she joined Fleetwood Mac with Lindsey Buckingham on New Year's Eve 1974. But in 2011, the era of Cullens, and Bella Swans, and shirtless werewolves, her music regains a youthful glisten.
There are moments so good on "In Your Dreams," you would swear you're listening to "Gypsy" for the very first time. Lead single "Secret Love" sounds like a Rumours-era B-side, which makes sense since it was written in the same days as "Dreams." "New Orleans," which has been circulating on her tours for years, is quite simply the best thing she's done since 1981's "Bella Donna." Nicks is still a kid singing: "I wanna sing in the streets of the French Quarter/I wanna dress up/I wanna wear beads/Wanna wear feathers and lace."
But not everything here is leather and lace. "In Your Dreams" suffers from the same ails of every Stevie Nicks album: It's a solo Stevie Nicks album. And conventional wisdom has always held: Fleetwood Mac is greater than the sum of its parts.
Each of the album's 13 songs could benefit from a John McVie bass groove. Mick Fleetwood makes a few cameos, but he's largely missed, too.
And that's without even mentioning Lindsey Buckingham.
Dave Stewart may be a great producer, as he aptly demonstrates here, but no one understands the back alleys of Nicks' songs like Lindsey Buckingham. He's spent the better part of 40 years navigating them, giving the musical grandeur that defines classics like "Rhiannon" and "Gold Dust Woman." It's impossible not to wonder what magic he could weave here. That Stewart guitar solo on "You May Be The One"? Please. Have you not heard the closing guitar on "Gypsy"!?
We get a small dose of their chemistry on "Soldier's Angel" where Buckingham contributes guitars and harmonies. Suddenly it's 1979 and "Tusk" is being re-recorded. It's a shame that he's only found on one track. The repertoire shared between the two is one of the best in rock history, bested only by Lennon and McCartney.
Playing "what if" can become a nasty business, however, and it's hard to not love "In Your Dreams" for what it is: A solid album from a woman who once defined rock and roll from platform boots. There's not a lot of breathing room here. It's all business, and though it may occasionally threaten to falter, this ship stays together.
Anyone who dared to think this Welsh witch had nothing left to prove will leave "In Your Dreams" disappointed.
Because Stevie Nicks still has the charm and chops to prove, that after 40 years, dreams unwind and love's a state of mind.