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Stevie Nicks

While the mid 70s launched her career as the tender part of a resurgent and cosmopolitan FLEETWOOD MAC, the 80s decade (and beyond) affixed the Californian-based crystaline chanteuse as the complete solo artist. Several albums in, and from both ends of the solo-meets-Mac spectrum (not forgetting introductory hit singles collaborations with TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS (`Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’) and DON HENLEY (`Leather And Lace’)), perpetual rose and elixir of life, STEVIE NICKS, is head and beautiful shoulders above her skimpy-clad adversaries.
Born Stephanie Lynn Nicks, May 26, 1948 in Phoenix, Arizona (but raised in various West Coast cities), the young Stevie was something of a child prodigy, having been taught by her flagging country-singing granddad, Aaron Jess Nicks, and performing in her parents’ tavern; she went on to writing songs as leader of high school outfit, The Changing Times. Towards the end of the 60s, along with fellow guitarist/singer-songwriter, LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM (and his student buddies, Calvin Roper and Javier Pacheco), the much-lauded soft-rock quartet, Fritz, opened for the likes of JANIS JOPLIN and JIMI HENDRIX.
In 1972, the romantic and professional partnership of BUCKINGHAM NICKS continued as a songwriting duo, and the wait for their first big break came almost immediately when they were signed to Polydor Records. However, the commercial failure of their solitary self-titled LP, led the pair back to their day jobs (Nicks became a waitress and cleaning lady) and some “recreational” drug-taking. Lindsey, meanwhile, was again making inroads into the music business (he toured as guitarist with The EVERLY BROTHERS), while a frustrated Stevie remained in their rented Aspen, Colorado abode, writing songs such as `Rhiannon’ and `Landslide’ – never knowing that they’d ever see light of day.
At a New Year’s bash at the turn of ’75, and on the strength of their track, `Frozen Love’, Lindsey was invited to join the strife-torn FLEETWOOD MAC as a replacement for the solo-bound BOB WELCH. He accepted the offer with one proviso, that NICKS would also be taken on board. The package-deal on the table, Mick Fleetwood agreed; one of the shrewdest decisions he’d make in the band’s long and chequered career. Stevie and Lindsey added a touch of much-needed Californian style and sass to the band, as well as some sharp songwriting; the self-titled “Fleetwood Mac” (1975) duly scaled the top of the US charts while its follow-up, “Rumours” (1977), became one of the biggest selling albums of all time.
Stevie was a key element of the band’s allure, her huskily intoxicating vocals and sexually magnetic presence fuelling countless teen fantasies. While it goes without saying that at one time, she was arguably the sexiest woman on the planet, NICKS also penned some of the Mac’s most enduring songs including the aforementioned `Rhiannon’ (in which she fashioned the enigmatic temptress persona that would form the basis of her career), `Gold Dust Woman’ and the beautiful `Sara’; the latter was from the quintet’s ambitious double-set, “Tusk” (1979).
Parallel to her group work, NICKS also carved out a fairly successful solo career, debuting in ‘81 for her chart-topping, Jimmy Iovine-produced BELLA DONNA {*8} set. Showcasing an AOR sound not unlike the Mac, although lacking that band’s songwriting umbrella and consistency, the help from HEARTBREAKERS: Benmont Tench, Michael Campbell, Stan Lynch and of course, the aforementioned TOM PETTY (plus DON HENLEY of the EAGLES) was all the more productive on the likes of further hits, `Edge Of Seventeen’ and the country-tinged `After The Glitter Fades’.
While the Mac’s “Mirage” went platinum in ’82, the solo STEVIE NICKS continued to hit the top end of the US singles charts with varying degrees of success throughout the mid-80s with material from albums THE WILD HEART (1983) {*7} and ROCK A LITTLE (1985) {*6}; `Stand Back’, `If Anyone Falls’ and `Nightbird’ (the latter a jointly-penned duet with Sandy Stewart) all stemming from the former, `Talk To Me’ and the disco-fied `I Can’t Wait’, the main picks from the latter.
A gap of four years ensued before the release of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MIRROR (1989) {*6}, a less satisfying collection that nevertheless contained one of NICKS’ most affecting solo works, the soaring `Rooms On Fire’. Penned alongside a permutation of Rick Nowels, Mike Campbell and producer Rupert Hine, songs such as `Whole Lotta Trouble’, `Two Kinds Of Trouble’ (a duet with BRUCE HORNSBY) and `Long Way To Go’, didn’t cut it and register her with any substantial hit; a tag-on cover of JOHNNY CASH’s `I Still Miss Someone (Blue Eyes)’ was hardly in the “Tango In The Night” mould (FLEETWOOD MAC’s interim classic of ’87).
In a 5-year period that followed (Stevie left the Mac in ’93), her fans had to make do with one fresh hit track (the JON BON JOVI-authored, `Sometimes It’s A Bitch’) from a best of set, while no new material surfaced until 1994’s STREET ANGEL {*4}. Her decision to concentrate solely on her solo career was somewhat ill-conceived, given the poor showing (a paltry No.45 in the Billboard charts) of the rather derivative set, taking into account the er… “TimeSpace” between records. Outside songsmiths, collaborators and numerous session people (as per usual) were drafted in to fill in for the gloss and dare one say it… dross – among them an unlikely reading of DYLAN’s `Just Like A Woman’.
After her extended absence during the late 90s, in which she once again enchanted her way into the ranks of first love, FLEETWOOD MAC, Stevie returned with the Top 5, TROUBLE IN SHANGRI-LA (2001) {*7}. A cast of mates that included SHERYL CROW (on co-production duties), MACY GRAY, SARAH McLACHLAN and the DIXIE CHICKS’ Natalie Maines, helped enhance the record’s contemporary appeal while NICKS herself sounded older but wiser; that ineffable sensuality still colouring her best efforts. While NICKS’ soft-ish, organic material may at times let her down, her dreamy voice rarely failed to send a shiver up one’s spine (or a stirring in one’s loin!); best examples `Sorcerer’, the title track, `Planets Of The Universe’ and Sheryl’s lilting `It’s Only Love’.
Aside from a FLEETWOOD MAC reunion album, “Say You Will” in 2003, another “Very Best Of…” double-set in 2007, and a low-key live album, THE SOUNDSTAGE SESSIONS (2009) {*6} – highlighting versions of BONNIE RAITT’s `Circle Dance’ and DAVE MATTHEWS’ `Crash Into Me’ – NICKS’ fresh studio was basically put on hold until 2011’s hour-long, IN YOUR DREAMS {*7}.
Coaxed back into circulation by English producer/co-writer, DAVID A STEWART (ex-EURYTHMICS), the literate lady of leisure conjured up a string of starry-eyed folk-rock based dirges, `Soldier’s Angel’, `For What It’s Worth’, `Wide Sargasso Sea’, `Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)’, `Annabel Lee’, et al, proving her twilight years might just be her best yet.
Retaining STEWART and excavating tracks going as far back as 1969, fans would’ve been hard pressed not to imagine her follow-up set, 24 KARAT GOLD: SONGS FROM THE VAULT (2014) {*7}, was a compilation of long-lost cues. Re-recording unreleased material, NICKS brought in Heartbreakers Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell (plus Davey Johnstone and Waddy Wachtel) to unearth and create a fresh impetus for soft-rock beauties like `Carousel’ (from the pen of Vanessa Carlton), `Blue Water’ (featuring LADY ANTEBELLUM) and `Starshine’; the fact that she’s still part of the complex FLEETWOOD MAC set-up was another feather to her boa.
© MC Strong 1994-2004/GRD-MCS / rev-up MCS Dec2012-Nov2014

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