Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Review Stevie Nicks Complete Studio Albums & Rarities

Stevie Nicks
Complete Studio Albums & Rarities
Author rating: 9/10

Massive career-spanning box sets are a completist’s dream. In this installment, Rhino takes on Stevie Nicks’ solo career. The 10-CD set features each disc housed in a replica sleeve with copies of the liner notes, all be they too small to actually read. There is no big booklet examining the titles, featuring essays or ephemera. It’s just the music. And as far as that goes, it doesn’t get much better.

Bella Donna, from 1981, is the gold standard, and the conventional wisdom is that things go progressively downhill from there, at least until the 2000s come along and Nicks enters the revitalized stage of her career. The big hits on Bella Donna (“Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with Tom Petty, “Edge of Seventeen,” “Leather and Lace” with Don Henley) need no introduction. But even the other tracks here shine. It’s Nicks’ coming out party.

The Wild Heart, released two years later, doesn’t have quite the same hit power as Bella Donna, but songs like the title track and “Enchanted” are only some of the non-hits that sparkle with the best of Nicks’ solo work.

Rock a Little, from 1985, was a largely forgettable affair, steeped in ‘80s effects, but the upbeat “I Can’t Wait” is perfect ‘80s radio, and the ballads “I Sing for Things” and “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You” touch with the best of her ballads.

The Other Side of the Mirror (1989) stands up better to time with songs that are not obscured by the decade’s worse impulses. The tunes are mostly earworms, benefiting as always from Nicks’ inimitable voice and overall charisma, and with four tracks with either co-writing credit and/or guitar playing by Heartbreaker Mike Campbell. Unfortunately, “Two Kinds of Love,” with Bruce Horsby, in hindsight only proves that Hornsby was no Tom Petty in terms of male Nicks duet partners. A cover of Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone” does the Man in Black proud.

With 1994’s Street Angel, Waddy Wachtel, architect of the infamous chugging riff of “Edge of Seventeen” is back in a more prominent role, where on The Other Side of the Mirror he seemed more of a bit player. The result is an album that is more immediate, more thrown back to the classic Nicks albums of the early ’80s. And while there may be no big hit tracks other than “Maybe Love Will Change Your Mind,” which reached 57 on the Billboard chart, it’s a better album upon revisiting that it was perhaps given credit for at the time, being released amid the grunge explosion.

After Street Angel, Nicks laid low for the rest of the ‘90s, not releasing another album until 2001’s Trouble in Shangri-La, and the album finds her entering the new millennium sounding reenergized and supported by a cast of admirers including Sheryl Crow, Macy Gray, and (Dixie) Chick Natalie Maines, all who provide supporting vocals. But the album sounds not so much like a star-studded affair, rather a return to what Nicks always did best, write killer songs.

Another 10-year break after Shangri-La found the release of In Your Dreams, which was produced by Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, who also duetted with Nicks on “Cheaper Than Free.” Lindsey Buckingham also returns to provide guitar and backing vocals on “Soldier’s Angel.” Aside from the undeniable pop melody of the title track, the rocker “Ghosts Are Gone,” and the soaring choruses of “Italian Summer,” In Your Dreams is predictably solid fare.

By 24 Karat Gold, Nicks was firmly in the middle of her resurgence. Fleetwood Mac was well into its own third (or eighth?) life, and Nicks’ solo profile was as high as it had been since Bella Donna. For the album, she recorded demos of old songs written between 1969 and 1987, with a couple newer tracks/covers thrown into the mix. And it shows, the album being one of her strongest solo records since that glorious debut.

The set is capped with a two-CD compilation of rarities consisting of soundtrack cuts, B-sides, and non-proper album tracks. It’s 23 additional songs essential to the complete Stevie Nicks collection, and it’s a boon to have all these various songs in one place. They are in no way throwaways, the set culminating in Nicks’ 2022 version of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.”

It’s all here with Complete Studio Albums & Rarities. And it’s worth your while in grand sum.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Review Stevie Nicks Complete Studio Albums & Rarities Showcases Her Magic

Stevie Nicks
Complete Studio Albums & Rarities
4.5 out of 5 stars

While Stevie Nicks’ latest release, Complete Studio Albums & Rarities, may not seem like that enticing of a project on paper, having the expanse of Nicks’ career all in one place is the best way to showcase her magic.

The project starts out with cuts from Nicks’ debut solo album, Bella Donna. Her witchy motif is in full swing on the title track while she showcases some of her musical affiliations with a pair of timeless duets: “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with Tom Petty and “Leather and Lace” with Don Henley. The remastered versions of the tracks bring even more color into these Nicks classics.

Following the Bella Donna section is The Wild Heart. Highlights include the title track (which sees Nicks at her most enchanting), another duet with Petty, “I Will Run To You,” and “If Anyone Falls.”

As the title suggests, the track list continues in chronological order. The rest of the Complete Studio Albums portion of the project features cuts from Rock a Little, The Other Side of the Mirror, Street Angel, Trouble in Shangri-La, In Your Dreams, and 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault.

The content is pretty much what one would expect. There aren’t many surprises within the first part of this release. But, if anything, take it as an excuse to revisit Nicks’ work. When an artist is so omnipresent, they can be taken for granted. Given the prestige of her work, we all think we have our favorite Nicks song signed and sealed. But, when diving deep into the breadths of her career, it’s highly likely that new favorite songs will emerge.

For instance, on Bella Donna, it’s “Edge of Seventeen,” which has become the standout over the years. But, closing out the album is a stunning little mid-tempo number called “The Highwayman,” which has far fewer streams but is every bit as hypnotizing. Similarly, a deep cut on The Other Side of the Mirror, “I Still Miss Someone (Blue Eyes)” calls to mind Nicks-helmed Fleetwood staples like “Sara” or “Gypsy.” This release gives songs like these a second chance at finding their audience.

The back half of the release, Rarities, has a little more to chew on. Many of the songs on Rarities are only available on this release. If you are a Nicks fan, you’re likely starving for new content from the rock icon. Save a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” Nicks hasn’t shared new music in several years.

There are a few rarities that demand attention. Standouts include “Real Tears,” “Love’s a Hard Game to Play,” and “Garbo” but, really any of these deep cuts will be an enticing listen for Nicks’ wanting fans. Each of them continues Nicks’ reign as the most haunting, mystical, and captivating rocker around.

Rarities is also a testament to how prolific Nicks is as a songwriter. It’s not enough to have her name-making past work on display, Nicks wanted to go the extra mile and share songs that have not yet received their dues. This would fall flat if it was understandable why these songs didn’t make the original cut but, luckily, they are every bit as powerful as the songs that became Nicks’ signature releases.

Nicks is an artist with a sprawling history. From her time in Fleetwood Mac to her continued solo career, few rock stars have been so enduring. It’s high time we brought Nicks back into focus and really meditated on what made her the symbol she is today. This release provides just the outlet.

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Review Stevie Nicks: Complete Studio Albums & Rarities Boxset

Stevie Nicks: Stevie Nicks: Complete Studio Albums & Rarities. Box Set Review.
Rating * * * * *

Even to the adoring listener, a single will only offer what amounts to a snap shot in time of what has been consuming the artist, the influence almost transitory…unless it forms part of the larger picture, the album in all its glory which is the equivalent perhaps of an Instagram message, but more of a detailed novel which frames the length of time in which the artist has given over which might be a few months, or in some cases, years between arrangements and full release.

If an album is defined as the weighty tome, then the pleasure and scope unearthed when an artist releases a career defining box set, every studio album, all the rarities, the lesser known stamp of authority which fills the entire day with a sound that is more nine volume history of the world written by the one person to have lived through every explosion, every revolution, every brief encounter and long lasting lover affair, then to have in your possession one of the true performers and icons of the last fifty years, is a phenomenon of advantage and a voice of enticement that will allow your heart and soul to soar.

In Stevie Nicks: Complete Studio Albums & Rarities, time is of the essence, time is arguably all, for memories fill the moment which turns to hours and decades with the ease of a kiss on the cheek delivered by a siren tempting sailors at sea with an insight into relationships, addiction, break ups, fame, fortune, and fortitude to which few in rock’s circus can ever emulate or dare to behold.

Every album, all the hits, the issues and damage, all mixed together in a way that frames Stevie Nicks’ special place in the hearts of the fam and in music across the world, this is the sensational beauty and belief that has gone into a boxset of, dare it be said, exceptional excess, a scintillating drama to which only one of the female vocalists of one of the most endearing groups of all time, only a survivor, could oversee.

From 1981’s Bella Donna, through the fierce control of The Other Side Of The Mirror and with a sharp eye on the aftermath in 24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault, and the abundance of tracks that even the most ardent fan will surely be unaware of in the rarities offering, Ms. Nicks complete catalogue is there to be savoured. In short bursts of reminisce, or in the full countdown of a well-earned day at the stereo, this is one box set that is like its creator, full of life and nature.

Ian D. Hall