Rating: 4 out of 5
STEVIE Nicks’ In Your Dreams is the singer’s first LP of new material for a decade and, for fans in particular, it’s well worth the wait.
Nicks’ distinct vocals retain the same power as her Fleetwood Mac days, while her song-writing demonstrates a wealth of ambition, taking in everything from New Orleans and Twilight tributes to tracks inspired by the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Edgar Allan Poe.
In doing so, she’s also amassed a strong army of supporting talent, including Mac band-mate Lindsey Buckingham, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell, long-term guitarist buddy Waddy Wachtel and Dave Stewart.
In truth, it’s debatable whether Nicks will win any new fans, such is the classic (and familiar) traits she brings to proceedings (there are moments this could pass for a Fleetwood Mac record). But given the length of time it has taken to emerge, In Your Dreams has to go down as a welcome comeback for the artist.
And there are plenty of highlights among the 14 tracks, starting with the opener, Secret Love, an oldie she wrote way back in ’76 and which could easily have ended up on a Fleetwood LP. It’s steeped in classic values… guitar backing, strong sense of melody, folk-rock tendencies and a notable chorus. And it gets things started in suitably assured fashion.
Nicks herself describes the LP as “a full blown rock ‘n’ roll album with some beautiful ballads’ but early on it’s more ballad driven. Secret Love isn’t really a rock song, while For What It’s Worth is a Dylan-esque folk ballad with country elements that showcases a tender side to the singer that’s welcome, but perhaps too early. It does, however, mark one of Campbell’s contributions.
Fortunately, that rock vibe drops with the rousing foot-stomper that is title track In Your Dreams, the sort of offering that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Petty record. It’s a real good time.
The ambition of her song-writing then becomes evident on Wild Sargasso Sea, a song that is based upon the novel of the same name that Jean Rhys wrote as a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. It’s a brooding slow-burner that contains plenty of atmosphere and some cracking lyrics. And yes, it has to rate as another highlight.
New Orleans, like its name suggests, is a belated tribute to the spirit of that city and its ability to recover from everything thrown at it, while the piano backed Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream) is the Twilight homage – and it’s suitably cinematic and another ballad.
But while both songs are good, former fan favourite Annabel Lee emerges as the next real highlight, a tribute to Edgar Allan Poe that offers another classy throwback to Dreams-era Mac that lasts for six minutes and quotes Poe.
It’s a great, great rendition of a song that has long been available in various bootleg forms, especially given the orchestral touches Nicks also imbues into proceedings.
Another highlight, Soldier’s Angel, follows in a couple of songs time… a bluesy tribute to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center that deserves to stand alongside PJ Harvey’s The Hands That Maketh Murder as a great war record.
I wasn’t overly convinced by the sudden drift towards a synth sound (and a pop moment) on Everybody Loves You but fortunately Nicks chooses not to pursue that line and straight away comes back strong with the rousing guitar rocker Ghosts Are Gone, another highlight, and You May Be The One, which cleverly combines a bluegrass opening with a retro piano pop vibe and a great deal of romanticism.
Italian Summer, meanwhile, draws things to a close amid swirling strings and more romantic leanings, before Dave Stewart duets on the solid album closer Cheaper Than Free.
But if these final two songs don’t quite measure up to the highlight status of the album’s best work, then it’s still a supremely satisfying end to what is an undoubtedly well crafted comeback. Like we said, it’s been worth the wait.