By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Brian Palmer
Check out the cover of Bella Donna, on which she's dressed like either a mummified Jenny Lind or a New Age Barbie (lithium crystals sold separately). On The Wild Heart, she's covered from head to toe in a long robe that looks as if it were borrowed from the hermit on the inside cover of Led Zeppelin IV! Say what you want about Madonna, but the Material Girl saw a marketing void and, by cracky, she filled it.
The problem with Ms. Nicks' solo albums until now is that they've all sounded like by-projects of the Fleetwood Mac albums they concurrently came out with. Most of the material feels as if it had been passed over by the band for sounding too much like "Dreams." You can almost hear John McVie saying, "C'mon, Stevie, I'd like to play some other notes besides F and G!"
Unfortunately, the band learned this valuable lesson after Tusk, for which every song she submitted bore an uncanny resemblance to Mac's only No. 1 hit. Henceforth, she would no longer keep her visions to herself.
On her first solo outings, she continued to alienate guys with more of those "women's songs." Although only Stevie and her background vocalists are ever captured for posterity on the album covers, the guys are given more than equal time in the grooves. In fact, men have played a significant hand in three of her biggest hits. Who can forget "Stop Dragging My Heart Around," on which Stevie and guest Tom Petty trade quips about how worthless Tom is? That ungrateful witch--and even after he lent her the Heartbreakers for her entire solo career. She probably doesn't even sneeze in a recording studio without Benmont Tench there to say, "Gesundheit!"
Then there was her celebrated duet "Leather and Lace" with Don Henley. Not only did they trade vocals, but they managed to sound like two Jewish tailors down on Orchard Street, swapping fabrics bolts. "Give to me six yards of your leather, Don, and take from me six yards of my lace." Oy!
Nicks' most notorious and successful coupling was with Prince. He supposedly collaborated with her on her Top 5 hit "Stand Back," but is not listed in the album credits. Perhaps he was getting in some early practice in the fine art of namelessness.
Now that Stevie has finally left Fleetwood Mac for good, her albums no longer seem like one-third of the pie served up too many times. There's a completeness and variety on Street Angel's corner. Uptempo songs. Good God Almighty, thank heavens for little uptempo songs. Promotional material accompanying this snappy new release says it hearkens back to her first two guitar-oriented solo albums. Bullshit. It's way better than those boring outings. Two songs into it, you'll hear more hooks and chord changes than on her first four solo albums combined.
If anything, Stevie has finally figured out that the key to a successful solo album is covering all the bases. She now rocks as hard as Lindsey and pops along as effortlessly as Christine. Even better, it sounds as if she's finally locked that no-good witch Rhiannon in the enchanted broom closet for good. No guest duets this time out, but everyone's favorite Wilbury, Bob "Lucky" Dylan, shows up on Stevie's kind rereading of "Just Like a Woman," which says less about Stevie's stature in the pop pantheon than it does about Bob's willingness to show up at everything from the Grammys to a car-wash opening these days. According to her bio sheet, Stevie recounts, "Bob didn't want to do anything on it--until I begged him. I told him, 'There's got to be some sort of spiritual connection. A lot of people will have never heard this song, and it's got to have you on it.'" And it does! Can Bob really believe Stevie's assertion that more people will hear this version buried near the end of her album than his hit version which still gets mucho airplay on oldies and lite-music stations? She has him under a spell, I tell you. This scary line of reasoning could easily land the gullible Mr. D a duet with Joey Lawrence on a very special episode of Blossom and ruin Dylan's ever-lapsing credibility more than a Self Portrait II would if he isn't careful. Regardless of his intentions, he doesn't sing a note, plays negligible acoustic guitar, and his harmonica is so low in the mix, it might as well be in the next life. Maybe they just left it in his mouth while he was sleeping.
If there are those of you who need one reason to care about Stevie, let "Blue Denim" sidle up to you. In 32 seconds, you'll be whooshed into a scrumptious Fleetwood Mac chorus that recalls those halcyon days of 1976. "In some ways, he'd forgotten me/In some ways, he got to me," she sings about a departed lover in easily accessible layman's terms.
Stevie sounds sexy again, like she actually has a reason to leave her bedroom filled with stuffed animals. "I'll come back to get you," she howls over yet another tasty Mike Campbell coda. This Heartbreaker has got to be rock's most uncelebrated guitar slinger, right after Lindsey Buckingham. Key word here is "tasty."