Sunday, June 05, 2011

‘Dream’ comes true for Stevie Nicks

“In Your Dreams” (Reprise) ★★★/4 
Worcester Telegram
by Craig S. Semon

For those of you who think it’s time for Stevie Nicks to stand back, stand, back from the studio, “In Your Dreams” shows the 62-year-old, rock ’n’ roll enchantress still has plenty of tricks up her leather-and-lace sleeves and the power to conjure up enchanting spells in her songs.

With her engaging rasp and gypsy-ccentric take on life, Nicks is still the encompassing free-spirit and engaging earth mother who’s one with the cosmos but is always at odds with affairs (and I mean affairs) of the heart.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer calls her latest opus her own little “Rumours.” Well, it isn’t quite that good, but “In Your Dreams” is easily her best disc since 1981’s “Bella Donna.”

Nicks asks the musical question “Must secret loves secretly die?” on the aptly titled leadoff track and first single, “Secret Love.” This Fleetwood Mac-like composition was written during the “Rumours” session and sounds like a lost B-side from a time when fleeting, forbidden relationships were all the rage (especially if you were in Fleetwood Mac). Nicks’ bewitching vocals hover above a bubbling caldron of jangly guitars and gurgling keyboards. Nicks belts, “I am not asking forever from you/I’m just asking to be held for awhile/In a timeless search/From a love that might work/We’re already payin’ the price.” Nicks might have to pay the price for her indiscretions but her fans are reaping the benefits.

Whether it’s instinctually and/or unconsciously, Nicks is a believer of forbidden, outrageous love affairs, as evidenced with “For What It’s Worth.” In the combination mantra/confession of guilt, Nicks declares, “I got to sing. I got to dance. I got to be a part of a great romance.” Nicks’ voice sounds lively and youthful and her teary-eyed ruminations sound vibrant and timeless. With some sparkling acoustic and lap steel guitar supplied by Tom Petty’s ax-grinding Heartbreaker Mike Campbell, Nicks’ world-weary wisdom of being trapped in a relationship that was doomed from the start is passionate, poignant and poetic.

Despite being old enough to retire, Nicks sounds like she’s on the edge of 17 on the title track, “In Your Dreams.” Accompanied by a lively, countrified-rock arrangement, Nicks sums up her private and professional persona in the simple lines, “I’m just a dreamer/A storyteller/It’s all about you.” And, whether it’s her faithful listener or lover at the moment she is singing to, Nicks proves she is eager to please.

When a fling takes a turn for the worse on “Wide Sargasso Sea,” Nicks does what any level-headed, jilted lover would do. Burn the house down to the ground with herself inside to give her ex something to remember her by. While the song is over the top, Nicks keeps the song grounded with her flowing, storytelling lyrics and her undying commitment to the material.

“New Orleans,” a tame (and often lame) travelogue set to music, often sounds like a combination of Nicks’ shopping and things-to-do lists. Nicks bemoans, “I wanna get back to New Orleans/I wanna sing out/In the streets of the French Quarter/I wanna dress up/I wanna wear beads/I wanna wear feathers and lace/I wanna brush by Anne Rice/Go down Bourbon Street.” I wanna. I wanna. I wanna. Even a “Girls Gone Wild” TV promo has more decorum and drama.

I don’t know what’s sadder, Nicks confessing that she’s a fan of “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” film or the fact that she was inspired to write a song about it. On the bubblegum Goth ballad “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream),” Nicks sings about the love between a sullen, social outcast and her brooding, blood-sucking, pretty-boy boyfriend. Despite its schoolgirl banalities, Nicks sinks her teeth in the anemic goo with the fervor of a teen-wolf on a feeding frenzy. In the end, Team Edward will swoon in delight while anyone who is old enough to drink will want to drive a stake through their heart.

“Soldier’s Angel” is a rare feat. It’s a deeply moving and heartfelt tribute to our wounded and lost soldiers that never becomes preachy, schmaltzy or too sentimental. Seeing through the eyes of a soldier’s mother, widow, nurse and the soldier themselves, Nicks gives their hard-to-convey thoughts an urgency and an immediacy that is taut, emotional and gripping. In one of the song’s most heartfelt and poignant verses, Nicks muses, “I’m a soldier in their army/They are the soldiers of my heart/I try to make them smile again/though it tears me apart/Their bravery leaves me spellbound/I try to be a small part/Of bringing them back again/They are the soldiers of my heart.” Made up of goofy, lovey-dovey couplets the queasy duet, “Cheaper Than Free” has Nicks and the Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart clumsily chime in unison, “What’s faster than a fast car/A beating heart/What’s deeper than a deep well/The love in which I fell/More important than freedom/Being needed/More exciting than high fashion/High passion.” I have one for you. What’s cheesier than a jar of Cheez Whiz? This song.

While “Cheaper Than Free” is a colossal clunker, it doesn’t take away from the fact that “In Your Dreams” is often a success.

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