Phoenix resident Stevie Nicks' new album, In Your Dreams, was released today. Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield has already given the album rave reviews, calling it Nicks' best album in a decade.
It's hard to argue with that, especially considering that Nicks hasn't released an album in a decade (her last solo record was Trouble in Shangri-La in 2001). But is the Valley songbird's latest album really "her best work since the 80s"? I listened to In Your Dreams, and came to my own conclusions.
First,In Your Dreams
is way, way better thanTrouble in Shangri-La
. The latter album was one of the first times Nicks didn't have a star songwriter or producer working with her -- not that she didn't try. Nicks had met her old friend Tom Petty for dinner at the Copper Star Club near US Airways Center and asked him to write some songs for her. According to Nicks, Petty told her to write her songs herself. The result was a collection of predictable and uninspired pop songs that couldn't be saved even with a guest vocal from then it-girl Macy Gray.
For In Your Dreams, Nicks teamed up with Eurythmics member Dave Stewart and super producer and songwriter Glen Ballard (Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill; Michael Jackson's Bad). The result is some of the best material she's recorded since her early solo albums with Jimmy Iovine.
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The key players' in Nicks' camp are still there, namely guitarist Waddy Wachtel (one of the most underrated session players of the past fifty years), and her longtime backup singers, Sharon Celani and Lori Nicks (wife of Stevie's brother, Christopher). Stevie Nicks' voice sounds as strong and supple (and ethereally nasal) as ever on In Your Dreams, but with Stewart and Ballard behind the boards, she's managed to recapture the sound of two periods in her career: her early years with Lindsey Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac, and her 1980s pop chanteuse grooves.
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The title track sounds like a mid-70s Fleetwood Mac tune, but with a country-pop feel. There's also "For What It's Worth," which is a jangly country-folk song reminiscent of Nicks' first recordings, with Buckingham Nicks. Lindsey Buckingham joins Nicks on this album, contributing some very haunting, sparse guitar to the song "Soldier's Angel." It's the perfect sonic foil for Nicks' voice, which has a ragged edge on this number.
Other album highlights include the piano ballad "Moonlight," "You May Be the One" (which sounds like an old Motown slow jam), and "Everybody Loves You." The latter track is a duet with Dave Stewart, and resonates with his symphonic keyboards to the point where it almost sounds like the best dreamy '80s pop ballad not recorded in the '80s. But our favorite song on In Your Dreams is "Ghosts Are Gone," which Nicks described as a "crazy, wild rock 'n' roll song." Nicks is 62, so "crazy" and "wild" are subjective, but this song is as close to "Edge of Seventeen" as Nicks has gone in decades. Her voice still sounds great against a backdrop of gritty guitars.
I won't venture to say In Your Dreams is better than Belladonna or The Wild Heart, but I do hope Nicks sticks with her roots-rock revival, because she's one of the greatest female rock singers of all-time, and this album is promising. Maybe it will help Nicks get back to where she once belonged: dancing across the top of the charts in high heeled boots and chiffon.