Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Stevie Nicks - Bella Donna (1981)

Stevie Nicks is releasing her new solo album 24 Karat Gold in October. She has been my absolute favorite performer, singer, and songwriter ever since I was ten years old and bought Rumours. The new album, as well as having started to learn her song "Landslide" on guitar, made me think to post reviews of her solo albums here on Zen Throw Down. So, for a little while, this blog will be transformed into a Stevie shrine! Let's start with her solo debut, Bella Donna.

Stevie Nicks' solo career was off to a strong start before the 1981 release of her first solo album Bella Donna. Nicks had major hits via a duet with Kenny Loggins in 1978 ("Whenever I Call You Friend") and John Stewart in 1979 ("Gold"). In addition, half of the hits from Fleetwood Mac's 1979 Tusk album were penned by Nicks ("Sara" and "Sisters of the Moon"). The songs on Bella Donna take these successes as their starting point and fill the rest of the album with Nicks' more typically output.

The result was a shrewdly crafted classic rock album that appealed strongly to both her existing fan base and the general listener. Top 10 duets such as "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" and "Leather and Lace" catapulted the album to the #1 spot, making Nicks the first (and ultimately the only) member of Fleetwood Mac to earn solid commercial success outside the group. So much for the question of whether she's a viable solo act.

However, Bella Donna was much more than a calculated star vehicle. "Edge of Seventeen" is Stevie in all her mystical glory and has become a rock standard outlasting the more standard fare such as "Stop Dragging My Heart Around." Other Nicks' songs, notably "Kind of Woman" and "After the Glitter Fades," are songwriting jewels proving she has the goods regardless of whom she partners with. "Outside the Rain" is a great track if you're a Nicks fan, but then a solo album for a star like Stevie Nicks should cater to her fans a bit.

Bella Donna was the perfect album to get Nicks established as a solo artist, and it does so without compromising her image or style. That Nicks could pull this off in the all-boys'-club of late seventies rock was no mean feat. As great as Bella Donna is, however, Nicks' next album, The Wild Heart, would be even better.

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