Saturday, October 11, 2014

REVIEWS "24 Karat Gold appeals because it's a new Stevie Nicks album that sounds just like an old Stevie Nicks album"

by Darryl Sterdan
Toronto Sun
★★★★ out of 5

Who wants Stevie’s leftovers? No? Your loss. Fleetwood Mac’s gypsy queen empties her freezer, enlisting an all-star band to record songs she penned between the ’60s and mid-’90s. But surprisingly, they’re far from half-baked ideas and failed experiments. In fact, at least half a dozen of these songs — including California rockers Starshine and Watch Chain, the cautionary tale Mabel Normand, the Tom Petty-inspired roots ballad Hard Advice and the bluesy I Don’t Care — are so good they’ll make you wonder what she was thinking by not recording them sooner. Ah well, better late than never, right? Rock on, gold dust woman.

"24 Karat Gold appeals because it's a new Stevie Nicks album that sounds just like an old Stevie Nicks album. The downside is that the modern-day Stevie faces some stiff competition from her younger self." - Q Magazine [November, 2014]

Stevie Nicks looks back on shimmering '24 Karat Gold'
LA Times
★★★ ½ stars out of 4

Now that young bands such as Haim and One Direction are reviving the polished pop-rock of Fleetwood Mac, it seems only right that the group’s iconic frontwoman, Stevie Nicks, would look back as well.

As its title suggests, “24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault” offers new recordings of tunes Nicks wrote as long ago as 1969; the most recent is from 1995. You can tell the material is old too. In the aching “Hard Advice” she sings about listening to the radio and hanging out in a record store. (Remember those?)

But Nicks has always found fresh drama in the past -- think of “Rhiannon,” loosely inspired by an ancient Welsh legend -- and here she sounds no less energized chewing over bygone resentments in the throbbing title track and pondering bad decisions in “The Dealer,” which rides a silky groove reminiscent of the one in the Mac’s indelible “Dreams.”

For “Mabel Normand” she reaches back further, sympathizing with a real-life silent film star thought to have struggled with cocaine.

Recorded mostly in Nashville with Nicks’ longtime guitarist Waddy Wachtel and Dave Stewart (who also produced Nicks' excellent “In Your Dreams” from 2011), “24 Karat Gold” makes room amid the retrospection for some new sounds. “Cathouse Blues” touches unexpectedly on ragtime, while “Blue Water,” with backing vocals by Lady Antebellum, shimmers with traces of country and soul.

There’s also a couple of crunching hard-rock numbers, including “I Don’t Care,” that feel powered by the same aggression Fleetwood Mac channeled on its 2013 arena tour. (Now reunited with Christine McVie, the group launched yet another road show last week and will hit the Forum in November.)

Whatever the arrangement, though, Nicks’ voice -- that signature drone that’s gotten only more appealingly imperious with age -- defines the music here. Her singing dominates as easily now as it ever did.

'24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault,' music review
New Stevie Nicks collection holds both riches and rejects from Fleetwood Mac star's past
by Jim Farber
New York Daily News
★★★ stars out of 5

Catchy music can obscure the meaning of a song just as surely as it can enhance it.

When a melody achieves perfection, it steals attention from the lyrical core.

That dynamic forms a key part of the puzzle of pop. But it has special relevance to the latest release from Stevie Nicks.

Unlike her beautifully pruned work with Fleetwood Mac, many songs on her latest solo work fray at the seams, or wander outside the confines of an ideal melody. The album does contains a few must-have highlights, but key parts feature lyrics that wobble awkwardly on their tunes. Yet those very flaws and indulgences wind up casting a clearer light on Nicks’ character, and concerns, than ever.

There’s good reason for the music’s wavering quality: The album is a collection of castoff songs from Nicks’ 45-year career. True, Nicks recorded all the music anew over the last year, but she wrote most of the material between 1969 and 1987. A few songs date from 1994-95.

Any Nicks-oholic will immediately notice her trademark lyrical tics. Words like “silver,” “dream” and “chains” keep turning up. She’s often left “alone in a room” or found standing “out in the rain.” There’s also her tendency to split her inner voice into a conversation between what “I said” and what “she said.” Nicks’ broader themes also hold — the tug between professional achievement and personal relationships, between the desire to connect and the need for free-range love.

The most finely formed songs use those themes to raise goosebumps. In the piquant “Hard Advice,” Nicks recounts the tough words from a friend who told her to quit pining for a famous musician who has already moved on. As with many Nicks songs, speculation on the boldfaced lover’s identity is very much encouraged.

“Lady” pushes further, with its grand melody and gripping lyrics that find Nicks wondering if her loneliness will one day devour her.

The sole cover — of Vanessa Carlton’s “Carousel” — both furthers the theme and breaks up the melodic familiarity.

Otherwise, the album meanders through songs of significant energy, but with middling tunes (the Tom Petty-esque “Starshine”), or with lyrics tha turn ­verbose (the mess “Mabel Normand”).

If Lindsey Buckingham had his way, this stuff would surely have been sharpened. But there’s a happy consequence to his absence. We get pure Stevie — needier than some might find comfortable, but also unexpectedly wise. It’s too much for the casual listener but catnip for the devoted.

Stevie Nicks digs up some 'Gold' and duds
by Jeffrey Lee Puckett
Courier Journal
★★ ½ stars

Stevie Nicks, '24 Karat Gold — Songs From the Vault'

Stevie Nicks has been writing songs for 45 years, so it's no surprise that her files have grown thick with worthwhile half-finished tunes. There must be an entire box of songs about Lindsey Buckingham alone, and another filled with references to silver, gold and, um, Lindsey Buckingham.

The songs on "24 Carat Gold — Songs From the Vault" are new recordings of demos made between 1969 and 1987, with a couple of tracks from the 1990s and a Vanessa Carlton cover, which hardly seems necessary. There are a lot of decent songs on "24 Carat Gold" — perfectly pleasant — but there are very few true keepers.

"Lady" is as soul-baring as Nicks gets, with just her bleeding/bleating voice and a piano; it's a powerful take on loneliness. "Blue Water," which has been floating around the Internet for years, is a beautiful example of a classic Nicks technique in the use of nature as metaphor for the intensity of Nicks' love — plus there's a gypsy (speaking of which, the title track sounds like a lesser version of "Gypsy," the 1982 Fleetwood Mac hit).

There's only one truly awful song, and it's painful. "Cathouse Blues" is the kind of generic garbage that would likely be a career peak for a third-rate weekend blues band, but here it's just embarrassing.

Stevie Nicks, ‘24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault’
Unearthing songs written from 1967 to the ’90s, Stevie Nicks fashions a new album of classic sounds and inimitable styles.
By James Reed
Boston Globe

The first question you’re likely to have about Stevie Nicks’s new album is, when was this recorded? It’s almost impossible to tell, because Nicks sounds so classic, as if surveying each decade of her long career on her own and with Fleetwood Mac. “24 Karat Gold” is Stevie at her Nicks-iest: a gold dust woman, caught mid-twirl.

Nicks notes in the press materials that most of these songs were written between 1969 and ’87, with a pair from the early ’90s, but the album was recorded this year in Nashville and Los Angeles.

To her credit, she and fellow producers Dave Stewart and Waddy Wachtel have a light touch here, letting Nicks’s silvery voice lead with grace and grit. So many of these songs evoke yesteryear Nicks, from the serpentine, “Rhiannon”-like groove of “Mabel Normand” to the starry prettiness of “If You Were My Love.” “Blue Water” has a dusky country vibe; it could have been a Fleetwood hit, right down to its line “And I wait for the sound of my gypsy.”

There are also new shades of her — all the color of midnight blue, of course — including a jazzy little number called “Cathouse Blues.” “I just care that you love me,” she growls on the heavy rocker “I Don’t Care.” And a piano ballad, “Lady,” is big and bare, a chance to savor Nicks in full splendor. 

ESSENTIAL “Blue Water”

'24 Karat Gold’ By Stevie Nicks: Album Review
by Jillian Morabito

Bust out your fringe kimonos and dust off your crystal balls—the original musical sorceress is back.

Since we don’t have Ryan Murphy to give us our daily dose of Stevie Nicks this year, we had to rely on the goddess herself to assist in our longings.

Just in time for Halloween, Nicks’ album “24 Karat Gold – Songs From the Vault” is composed of 14 previously unreleased tracks for fans, new and old, to enjoy. Recorded between 1969 and 1995, these songs are still timely, even in today’s musical world. If you don’t have time to see Fleetwood Mac on tour, this album will come in handy.

“24 Karat Gold” is filled with songs that are essentially Nicks. They are raw, featuring the singer’s irreplaceable voice. The beats are addictive, very similar to what she did on “The Other Side of the Mirror” and “Wild Heart.” Though the quality is not the best (hey, it was the 70s), the essence of the songs is still captured.

“The Dealer” is by far the most “Nicks” of the album. Even if you replaced the singer, the truthful lyrics and the 80s rock beat are essentially Nicks. The track apologizes for her wild heart saying, "If I'd really known you then/You'd've had to watch out." Ah, the struggles of love that Nicks knows all too well.

Perhaps her most sincere song is “Mabel Normand” because it parallels her own cocaine addiction. Her music has always been autobiographical and transparent. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why the world has such great respect for Nicks.

“She Loves Him Still” is the highlight of the album. It’s as poignant as “Leather and Lace” and as truthful as “Stand Back.” To add an almost Irish-like flute to the song midway is daring, but it works. The added instrument tugs at the heartstrings while Nicks sings, “No one understands this man/No one ever will/Till his dying day not even he himself can change this/She loves him still.”

The album paints a picture of the icon Nicks is. You can see her now—standing tall, bearing a copious amount of jewelry, blonde hair flowing in the breeze, dark materials draped over her shoulders. A woman, though never settled down, ended up marrying herself to her music. “24 Karat Gold” simply adds to her collection, her “children” if you will.

Don’t get us wrong, this ain’t no “Edge of Seventeen.” Though certainly not Nicks’ best work, “24 Karat Gold” is still magical. It’s definitely rougher cuts. It will certainly appeal to the die hard fans, but “24 Karat Gold” may be a bit too “deep” for fans who only know Nicks as that girl that first sang that one Dixie Chicks song (these are probably the people that prefer Five Guys to In-N-Out).

It’s not as tender as “Bella Donna,” not as sassy as “Wild Heart” and not as worldly as “Trouble in Shangri-La.” However, because it is a compilation CD, “24 Karat Gold” has elements from all of these albums, as well as Fleetwood Mac records, which is why it’s a must listen.

The album’s title track, “24 Karat Gold” speaks of “Golden wings in the sunset/Take me back.” Indeed, Nicks is reflecting on moments that shaped her—loss of love, struggles of everyday life and the journey to make oneself.

It’s not just Stevie trying making her life one day worth “24 Karat Gold,” it’s all of us as well.

REVIEW: '24 Karat Gold - Songs From The Vault' by Stevie Nicks
by Gerald Ducote
The Daily Reveille
Grade: 70/100

With a career spanning nearly 50 years, Stevie Nicks has long been the go-to image for the empowerment of women in music. She fronted the popular rock band Fleetwood Mac for over three quarters of its 47-year existence, reaching critical and commercial success as a lead singer. In recent years, when she isn’t reviving tours with Fleetwood Mac, Nicks passes her time releasing solo material, appearing on the hit television shows “American Horror Story” and having impromptu jam sessions with HAIM.

Now, Nicks has returned with another solo endeavor. Her eighth release, “24 Karat Gold – Songs From The Vault” is a collection of previously unreleased demo tracks that have been redone and compiled into an album of “vault songs.”

Despite its name “24 Karat Gold” lacks luster. The problem lies not in Nicks’ performance of the songs, but in the songs themselves. It’s easy to believe these tracks were in the vault for a reason. The songs echo entirely too much of their original time: 1970s to late 1980s. Antiquated themes and poor lyricism make for an unfortunate combination where Nicks’ voice, though still quite distinguishable, comes off as tired and ageing.

The one true positive of this album would have to be Nicks’ cover of “Carousel,” which is originally a song by Vanessa Carlton. With a voice dubbing that softens Nicks’ harsher tone, “Carousel” comes as an easier relief to the multiple rockers that fill “24 Karat Gold.”

Though Nicks has cut a wide space in the history of rock music, “24 Karat Gold” is unable to match her legacy as one of the most talented singers in the last 50 years. Hopefully she can rally her abilities into another, better album or turn her attention toward music production for other on-the-rise artists whom she admires.

The one true fault with “24 Karat Gold” is not that it sounds unlike Stevie Nicks. On the contrary, it sounds like too much of Nicks. Her performance on the album comes off as overly produced with questionable mixing. As far as instrumentation, the guitar’s presence is forceful and old-fashioned, but not in a congenial fashion that soothes the listener.

by Tim Ferrar
Recording Connection
★★★★ ½ stars out of 5

Typically, when an artist digs into the “vault” for previously unreleased tracks, the result is a set of “B-sides” intended for only the most devoted of fans to enjoy. (After all, there’s a reason they were vaulted.) But when Stevie Nicks does it, apparently, it’s gold. More specifically, the aptly titled 24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault, a brilliant late-career move that reminds us of the timeless impact the Fleetwood Mac singer has had, and continues to have, on the rock genre.

To be clear, the songs on 24 Karat Gold aren’t necessarily a set of rejects from earlier studio sessions; the “vault” is more along the lines of Stevie Nicks’ personal vault, songs from her personal files between 1969 and 1995, most written in the mid-70s during the peak of the Fleetwood Mac days, that for one reason or another never made it to record. Nicks describes the vibe in a statement on her website: “Each song is a love story…They represent my life, the secrets, the broken hearts. These songs are the memories – the 24 karat gold rings in the blue box.” In short, these are anything but B-sides: they’re great songs that have been aging like fine wine in the vault while other things were happening, waiting for their own time to be unveiled.

It would seem fate itself has a hand in determining when the right time is. It’s possible that if Nicks had had her way, most of these songs might never have seen the light of day. As it is, many fans will recognize them because they have been circulating on the Internet for some time. When Nicks discovered original bootlegs of the tracks on YouTube (“taken from my house or picked up or loaned out or whatever,” as she told Rolling Stone),she decided to release the tracks on her own terms.

In an added stroke of brilliance, Nicks opted not to use the original recorded demos of these songs, but instead decided to re-record them. Knowing she was pressed for time due to an upcoming Fleetwood Mac tour, she and producer Dave Stewart went to Nashville and recorded the tracks in three weeks, performing them live in the studio with session players. As an homage to the tracks themselves, Stewart kept the production simple, recording and producing them near to the style in which they would have been recorded back when they were written. Nicks’ unmistakable raspy voice is stellar over these tracks, her stream-of-consciousness lyricism and song structures just as fresh now as they were in the so-called heyday. The result is a high-quality, solid collection of rock songs that sound timeless rather than dated, reaffirming that Nicks is just as relevant to rock culture here in the twenty-teens as she was during the peak of Fleetwood Mac.

As to the tunes themselves, there’s a nice balance of diversity on the track list, ranging from all-out rock on “I Don’t Care” to the piano ballad “Lady” to the “Dreams”-like steady midtempo of “The Dealer.” Additional high moments include the blues-rocker “Hard Advice,” the cautionary tale of “Mabel Normand” (about a silent-film star whose cocaine addiction Nicks particularly relates to), and “Blue Water,” which tips its hat to Nashville with guest BGVs by Lady Antebellum. She even covers her own song “Carousel,” which Vanessa Carlton recorded in 2011.

And so, while other artists release their “B-side” records as “remember-whens” or time-fillers between albums, Stevie Nicks has mined her own vault for 24 Karat Gold and released an album that truly lives up to its name. As Nicks pointed out herself in a commentary on YouTube, “I don’t care if it’s a hit record—I want to make a great record.” In the process, she exceeded that goal: 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault is easily her best release in years.

Stevie Nicks – 24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault
by John Murphy
Music OMH
★★★ stars

Fleetwood Mac‘s ‘classic’ line-up (ok, the classic line-up post-Peter Green) may be back together and touring, but the wait goes on for a new album. Despite the arena tours and the yearly rumours (pun intended) about the band headlining Glastonbury, Say You Will from 2003 remains the most recent Fleetwood Mac record.

Some may say that’s hardly important with such a back catalogue of riches to draw upon, but those who are really experiencing withdrawal symptons may well be sated with this, Mac stalwart Stevie Nicks‘ 10th solo album. And it’s no ordinary solo album – as the slightly self-aggrandising title, 24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault, would suggest, this is a collection of old demo versions that Nicks has abandoned over the years, spruced up and re-recorded. So, there’s Fleetwood Mac songs that could have been, lost Buckingham/Nicks numbers – everything in fact, to make a hardcore Mac fan salivate.

It doesn’t sound like a hotch-potch of songs all thrown together either, as you may expect from that description. Indeed, most of the songs that Nicks has resurrected are strong enough to make you wonder why she scrapped them in the first place. And, considering that the timespan of these songs stretches from the late ’60s up to the mid ’90s, it sounds like a surprisingly cohesive album, even if the hour-plus running time means that a more judicious editor would have ensured that some tracks remained in demo form.

There is some gold unearthed though, albeit maybe not of the 24 Karat variety. Starshine kicks the album off to an energetic start, and the sad tale of silent film star Mabel Normand, who died at the age of 37 of tuberculosis, following years of cocaine abuse is a story that’s obviously close to Nicks’ heart. Long-term Nicks fans who scour the internet for bootlegs will be well aware of the gorgeous country workout Blue Water, which sounds – on this version at least – like it would have fitted in nicely onto the Mirage album, not least because the word ‘gypsy’ is referenced in the lyrics.

Talking of Gypsy, that famous Fleetwood Mac song is more than musically echoed in the title track, one of a few numbers that are inevitably reminiscent of Nicks’ band’s golden era. Yet this doesn’t sound like a ‘lost’ Fleetwood Mac album, mainly because Nicks’ backing band have the nouse not to copy Buckingham, Fleetwood and the McVies. Instead, it sounds like what it is – a collection of old songs, spring cleaned and brought up to date.

Obviously, Nicks’ voice has lost its wispy, breathy quality over time, but her more mature, throaty growl sounds perfect for these songs. Her performance on the powerful ballad Lady is genuinely affecting, the sound of a woman looking back on her life and contemplating regret and loneliness (as the song’s key line has it: “I’m tired of knocking on doors when there’s nobody there”. There’s also some familiar lyrical ground trodden over, such as Hard Advice’s intriguing tale of a doomed affair with a rock star and the inevitable ‘is this about Lindsey?’ song, She Loves Him Still.

With only the creaky, clunky Cathouse Blues and the rather pointless Vanessa Carlton cover Carousel counting as real duds, this is a surprisingly strong album considering it consists of songs initially rejected or abandoned by their creator. Nothing on 24 Karat Gold comes close to classic Fleetwood Mac songs, but long-term fans will delight in hearing decently recorded versions of tracks that they may otherwise only have heard as scratchy demos.

Stevie Nicks 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault
Slant Magazine
★★★ stars out of 5

24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault is a glorified act of copyright protection. Stevie Nicks reportedly decided to revisit old demos when she was informed that they'd been bootlegged and uploaded to the Internet. This was no doubt a shock to the technophobic Nicks, who doesn't own a cellphone and communicates with fans via handwritten letters that are uploaded to her website by members of her team.

The material, written from 1969 through the '90s and newly recorded here, is significantly sharper than what was found on Nicks's last studio album, 2011's In Your Dreams. The new recordings mostly dispense with the awkward electronic flourishes (vocal distortion, canned synths) that have marred other recent Nicks-related recordings. "Starshine" is given an uptempo, straight-ahead rock treatment that recalls Nicks's collaborations with Tom Petty, while on "The Dealer" she almost perfectly embodies her '70s glory days with Fleetwood Mac. The latter finds Nicks looking back at a failed relationship, though it cleverly doubles as a longer-term survey of loves lost and reconciled, particularly with bandmates Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood. "If I'd known a little more, I'd have run away," she laments, but of course she didn't, and now she's on a sold-out tour with both of those men.

Old flames occupy much of the subject matter throughout the album, and even when Nicks isn't explicitly singing about herself, it's hard not to read autobiographical meanings into the songs. The silent-era comedienne Mabel Normand, who gets a tribute song here, is a character with whom Nicks clearly identifies, singing about her "quietly crying" heart underneath all her beauty and talent. And Nicks even tips her hat to friend Vanessa Carlton with a cover of the latter's "Carousel," adding little to it beyond some fairy-tale harpsichord, though there's poignancy in seeing Nicks return the favor of paving the way for Carlton's career with a song about how everything comes back again.

Unfortunately, 24 Karat is stuffed with too many stately piano-and-guitar ballads that return to the same theme of bygone romance. The one wild turn from that format is "Cathouse Blues," a slinky ode to Nicks's high-heeled strut that sounds like something you'd hear wafting from a sweaty bar on the Mississippi River. While not Nicks's first time fetishizing the South (see "New Orleans"), it's unfortunately so ill-suited to the California mystical dream-girl aesthetic that she's carefully cultivated over the years that it comes off as an unintended joke.

There's a fundamental paradox to Nicks's brand, which she once referred to in a moment of rare self-awareness as "the Stevie Nicks thing." Though she plays the perpetually tender, romantic, emotionally available, spurned woman, Nicks has always had an air of cool detachment that puts her at a remove from listeners. On songs like "The Dealer," "She Loves Him Still," and "Hard Advice," she re-spins the same old image of a Nicks who's gripped by long-ago love affairs with fellow musicians—"dreams to be sold," as she puts it on the title track—while her current life is kept somewhere out of view. The most illuminating moment is on "Lady," which reveals the deep chasm between the na├»ve woman who wrote it after moving to L.A. to become a rock star and the 66-year-old she is now, looking uncertainly over her empire. "What is to become of me?" she pleads with appropriate dramatic irony. Nick has always given us just enough snatches of insight to keep us wondering the very same thing.

Album Review: Stevie Nicks – 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault
by Andrew Le
★★★ ½ stars out of 5

Legendary rock n’ roll gypsy queen Stevie Nicks’ resurgence in popular culture continues with her eighth studio full-length, which is (at least for diehard fans) actually more like a greatest hits that never was.

Despite a hectic schedule (including a song on Dave Grohl’s Sound City documentary, tours for herself and Fleetwood Mac, and an acting cameo on American Horror Story: Coven), infamously long, unproductive recording sessions for prior albums and long gaps between them, 24 Karat Gold only took three months to record and comes only three years since In Your Dreams.

In Your Dreams collaborator Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics), Stevie and loyal guitarist Waddy Watchel produced this album of fan-favourites whose demos have circulated as bootlegs that have since surfaced on YouTube. There is even a wondrous Vanessa Carlton cover of Carousel thrown in for good measure.

Opening tracks Starshine and The Dealer mark familiar territory, as they are mostly faithful to their original demos recorded for Stevie’s 1981 debut Bella Donna. The production is bright and the highly polished Nashville band is tight, with the sound of thumping drums, Hammond Organ, Watchel’s unmistakable guitar licks and the inimitable harmonies of faithful backing vocalists Sharon Celani and Lori Nicks. However, neither track has quite the sparkle of the demos as Stevie’s voice does not quite have the youthful glint it once had.

Meanwhile, the meandering demo recorded for 1985’s Rock a Little, Mabel Normand, finally sounds musically focused as a gritty country-rock slow-burner on 24 Karat Gold. Even with Stevie’s matured vocals, the condensed, stream-of-consciousness nature of the lyrics reflects her cocaine-addled state of mind at the time the song was written, as if she urgently had to get the words out. This album highlight, named after the tragic silent film star, is yet another impassioned warning about drug addiction after You Can’t Fix This off ‘Sound City’.

Blue Water marks a calming reprieve from the drama, sounding close to its original 1978 piano demo before adding a New Orleans-inspired twist with drums, organ and harmonies from Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley. Cathouse Blues (a very early composition from the late 1960s) is given a charming, carefree ragtime update with Stevie’s appropriately bluesy vocals.

The title track pulses steadily like Stevie’s original 1981 demo but is now sprinkled with magic dust thanks to chimes, glistening guitars and a hypnotic ‘chains, chains’ hook. Hard Advice (written about Tom Petty’s prep talk to get Stevie writing again after her mid-1990s, creativity-sapping Klonopin addiction) is propelled by a potent bridge about letting go of the past.

The cooking I Don’t Care (whose music was written by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell) is grimy hard rock that should make Led Zeppelin proud. Stevie’s ‘bitchy’ side seethes through the first few verses (written in the 1980s), before new verses (the only new compositions on this album) accelerate the song almost out of control as the band barely keeps up with Stevie’s defiant, forceful vocals.

The piano ballad Lady, demoed in the early 1970s, is a grower with a passionate vocal from Stevie that can be a bit overwhelming at times. Instead, Stevie is in her element at her softer, sultry best elsewhere. The dark, mysterious All the Beautiful Worlds is a particular revelation. Listeners would scratch their heads over why this simmering synth-pop midtempo was left off 1983’s The Wild Heart, and Stevie reaches high notes she has not touched in years. Cult favourite If You Were My Love is powerful yet quietly dignified with its sporadic echoing drumbeat, intricate guitar work from Davey Jonestone (Elton John) and heavenly three-way harmonies from the girls. The album closes with melancholy Irish flutes and music from Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler on the lovely, tender country ballad She Loves Him Still.

24 Karat Gold suffers from the same flaws as other Stevie Nicks solo albums. It runs a bit too long. Some fans have complained that other demos like Julia, Have No Heart and Space Needle are missing. Those looking for the next Landslide, Rhiannon or Dreams (or even the continuation of the Beauty and the Beast/Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You/Love Is piano trilogy) will be disappointed. However, there are genuine ’24 Karat Gold’ gems on this collection that are a revealing reflection of Stevie’s vivid memories at various points in her life. The only thing better will either be another studio album (with all-new material) or that long-awaited autobiography.

ALBUM: Stevie Nicks, ’24 Karat Gold – Songs From The Vault’
by Sharon Lacey

For a long time, Stevie Nicks seemed frustrated that many of the demos she recorded over the years were easily available on the Internet. Given that she used to frequently hand out tapes of her latest songs to her friends, it’s no surprise that quite a few eventually made their way into the hands of excited fans. Aside from the fact that it’s been a treat to hear many of these unreleased, unfinished gems, it turns out that it may not have been a bad thing for Nicks after all. Last year, a YouTube video of an old Buckingham Nicks demo led to Fleetwood Mac finally recording the song “Without You” for its Extended Play EP — and it also seems to have awakened her to many of these forgotten tracks apparently lost in her “vaults.”

Nicks’ new record, 24 Karat Gold – Songs From The Vault, is filled with songs that dedicated fans will be more than familiar with in demo form, but it turns out that many of them are even better as finished, fully fleshed-out recordings. So maybe Nicks was right after all.

The new album reunites Nicks with producer Dave Stewart: it was obvious the pair had huge chemistry on their last record together, In Your Dreams, as it was the first time that Stevie had clicked so completely with a collaborator since Jimmy Iovine, who produced her first two solo albums in the early 1980s. In Your Dreams took over a year to finish, but the real revelation with 24 Karat Gold is that it sounds even better than Dreams, despite the fact it was quickly recorded in just two weeks in Nashville before Nicks had to rush back to Fleetwood Mac tour rehearsals. There’s no doubt that Nicks has made some great solo records since her glory days as a pop superstar in the 1980s, but this new album is the one that comes closest to capturing the magic of her greatest releases, Bella Donna or The Wild Heart. Yes, it’s that good.

Firstly, it’s the most natural record she’s made in a long time. This may well be due to the speed it was recorded, meaning that the songs weren’t overthought or overproduced, but it’s no doubt also thanks to the talented musicians backing her this time, many of them old friends. Aside from some top Nashville session players this also includes her faithful guitarist and band leader Waddy Wachtel (who also worked for many years with Warren Zevon and Linda Ronstadt) and two of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers: Mike Campbell and inimitable Benmont Tench, who no Nicks record is truly complete without.

The songs themselves date back to 1969 (the jazzy old Buckingham Nicks track “Cathouse Blues”) and the most recent is from 1995 when Tom Petty gave Nicks his infamous talk telling her to get back to writing (“Hard Advice”). There’s also a surprisingly good cover of the Vanessa Carlton track “Carousel.” The best track, though, may well be its first single, “The Dealer,” which, thanks to Benmont Tench’s distinctive Hammond organ, sounds as good as anything on Bella Donna. “Lady,” originally called “Knockin’ On Doors,” is an early 1970s piano ballad about her and Lindsey Buckingham’s frustrations trying to make it in the music business pre-Fleetwood Mac. Stewart wisely chose to keep it as simple as possible and not over-embellish, as sometimes he tends to do, and the end result is starkly beautiful and shows off Nicks’ still powerful voice in the best possible way.

The most rocking song on the record is easily the punky-titled “I Don’t Care,” its hard rock guitar riffs written by Mike Campbell during the mid-’80s. It’s Nicks’ homage to her heroes Led Zeppelin but is probably one of the more slight tracks on the album despite the thrill of hearing her sound so defiant. More effective is “Mabel Normand,” her moving tribute to the tragic silent movie actress and director. It’s a huge leap from the demo circulating, upping the pace of the original to build the intensity and allowing her to deliver one of her best vocals on the album with some evocative stream-of-consciousness lyrics. Similarly, “If You Were My Love” originally had more of a bluesy feel but here almost becomes a gorgeous hymn, and the gentle country of “Blue Water” has some nice backing vocals courtesy of Lady Antebellum.

“Belle Fleur” seems to be a  nod to Joni Mitchell’s Ladies Of The Canyon (“Mountain Ladies, live in the Canyon”) and so fittingly has some nice Laurel Canyon-style folk rock touches, while the standout harmonies on “All The Beautiful Worlds” and the driving piano riff of the title track are sure to be impressive live.

What is most remarkable about 24 Karat Gold though is that is manages to stay true to the sound and feel of the era of each of its tracks, yet still sounds completely contemporary. It’s hard to believe some of these tracks never made it onto an album before, but one thing’s for sure, Stevie Nicks sounds more timeless than ever, and the end result is one of her best albums yet.

CD Review: STEVIE NICKS 24-Karat Gold Songs from the Vault
by Slim Jim Keller
Away Team
Music News, Reviews and Artist Interviews
★★★★★★★★★ out of 10 stars

Stevie Nicks had some down time between her last tour cycle and Fleetwood Mac’s new tour with the recently reunited Christine McVie, so she decided to go through her gigantic catalog of demos over the last 30 years and pull a collection together highlighting the best of those that didn’t quite make the cut over the years.

24-Karat Gold may just be the album every Stevie Nicks fan has been waiting 20 years for. I mean if we must get right down to it, it has been a very long time since the Great Laced One has released a solid album. The only exception to that is Trouble In Shangri-La. That album is outstanding and the production top notch. Sheryl Crow was able to bring out something in Stevie that had been missing for some time.

2011’s In Your Dreams was decent and is still in heavy rotation on my iPod, but it isn’t a Stevie Nicks album as much as it is a Stevie Nicks and Dave Stewart album. His influence is heavy on that album and since he played and co-wrote (lyrics aside) almost every song on the album it stands to reason that his influence would be felt and heard heavily throughout. That doesn’t make In Your Dreams a bad album, but it, to me, makes it a duo album more than a Stevie solo album since the sound and the feel of the album is less Stevie than it is Dave.

Which brings me back to 24 karat Gold. Again, this is the album all Stevie Nicks fans have been waiting years for. The sound…. The song writing… the vocals… the music. It is classic Stevie Nicks. Which makes sense considering some of these songs are 30 years old or more. That being said, this album doesn’t sound dated by any means. The songs still resonate today and are as powerful as they were the day they were written. Dave Stewart’s production can only be felt in just that, the production that is flawless. The broad scope of sound from the delicate acoustic guitar strummings in Twisted to the bottom heavy thumping bassline opening of the title track, and even in Stevie’s vocals themselves. They aren’t overly processed; they aren’t hidden in the tracks or too stark and naked. They are perfection. Simple, elegant, and pure Stevie.

The whole feel of the album could and should be a little disjointed since the songs were all written over such a long time span, but the reality is, the entire album feels as if it could sit somewhere between The Wild Heart and The Other Side of the Mirror. In fact considering how disjointed and ill sounding Rock a Little is, this probably should sit right between those two albums in sound, and texture. The album as a whole is surprisingly cohesive and flows well from song to song.

As a long time fan and ardent collector, I’ve had most of these songs in their original demo forms for many years. And I am happy to report that even though the songs were recorded in such a short span of time they’re true to the demos and time they represent. So if you’re concerned that say, Cathouse Blues (one of her first songs if I remember correctly) lost its swagger, or Lady loses the intimacy of Stevie and her piano.

Just rerecorded, updated a bit, and polished nicely.

Sure many of you have heard these songs over the years; sure you may have two or three versions of most of these lying around somewhere like I do. But to hear them in all their crystal clarity is nothing short of outstanding and magical.

Mabel Normand and Belle Fleur are the stand out cuts for me. From the basic autobiographical nature of Mabel Normand and the gritty tone and lost oasis magical landscape of Los Angeles in Belle Fleur they both smack of pure unadulterated Stevie Nicks and you wonder why they never made the cut the first time around? Then there’s cuts like All the Beautiful Worlds and I Don’t Care, and Blue Water, and If You Were My Love, and on and on and on… that just blows you away over and over again, song by song. And you can’t ever imagine these songs sitting on the cutting room floor somewhere.

And then you silently thank Ms. Nicks for going back, rescuing these gems, and giving them the treatments they deserve and sharing them all with us.

Stevie Nicks 24-Karat Gold Songs from the Vault is currently sitting now at #2 on my top albums of 2014. And that’s saying something considering what’s been released this year.

24-Karat Gold is out now. Go ahead, you know you want to go get it… go ahead; you’ll thank me later. And enjoy All the Beautiful Worlds.

Stevie Nicks 24 Karat Gold Warner Bros, out now
by Adam Woods
The Mail on Sunday
★★★ out of 5 Stars

Taking a break from Fleetwood Mac, Nicks shot down to Nashville with a stack of unrecorded old tunes for a solo fling. It would have been interesting to see what Lindsey Buckingham and co might have made of the strongest songs: the sultry title track, the rambling lost-love hangover Hard Advice or The Dealer, with its Mac-like harmonies.

Stevie Nicks - 24 Karat Gold Songs From The Vault
By Adrian Thrills
The Daily Mail

Back on the road with Fleetwood Mac to mark the 35th anniversary of Rumours, the charismatic Nicks has been busy in her Nashville studio.

This is a new record, but most of its songs were written in the Seventies and Eighties, giving them the mesmerising feel of past hits Rhiannon and Landslide.

Opening track Starshine is a full-pelt, Mac-style rocker, but the highlight is Hard Advice, a heartfelt song of lingering love that is almost certainly about Stevie’s ex-boyfriend and bandmate Lindsey Buckingham.

Out Now!  Order from

1 comment:

greg said...

I'm pleased and somewhat surprised to see how generous most of the critics are being toward Stevie's new CD. I myself bought the album at a local record store (I haven't spoken those words in many moons) ever since learning the album version contains a code enabling buyers to download a digital version for free. Sweet!

Upon first listening to the new music, I was anything but thrilled. Past experience has taught me that the more I dislike anything the first time around, chances are I'm going to end up with a fond appreciation for it further down the line. The Wild Heart? HATED it the first time I gave it a spin. Over time it became my favorite Stevie album (although it's debatable these days). I've listened to 24 Karat several more times, and I'm beginning to understand where Stevie was going with some of the songs. I'm even considering several of the tracks to be some of her most genuine work in the last couple of decades.

Personal favorites include:

1. 24 Karat Gold ( a HUGE surprise since I despise the demo)
2. Blue Water
3. Belle Fleur (although I dislike the lazy limo door reference)
4. The Dealer
5. Lady
6. Carousel
7. All the Beautiful Worlds
8. Cathouse Blues
9. If You Were My Love

The only song I'm really struggling with is Mabel Normand. None of the lyrics sound "Stevie" to me. It's almost like Stevie trying to rap her way through the songs since she's really not singing so much as she's ranting. The fact that there's no chorus to pull me in doesn't help matters either. Then again, Beauty & Beast has no chorus and I consider that song to be one of her crowning achievements.

Overall, I certainly don't consider the album a disaster by any means. I'll always consider it a gift from Stevie to her fans. It's so hardcore Stevie, that I think only her most loyal fans would be able to appreciate it on the level of which it was was intended in the first place. That's not to infer that new hardcore fans waiting in the wings won't consider 24 Karat a gem someday themselves.

I think it's safe to assume that with glowing reviews from publication like the LA Times, Stevie will feel compelled to continue down this road of recording old demos. So many of her songs are tragic-themed, that it's almost seems meant to be. Her voice of today conveys the pain and angst of the lyrics more than ever, which should afford her the option of recording well into her 70s if she chooses...and I have a feeling she will. :)

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