Friday, August 22, 2014

Stevie Nicks - Crystal Visions (2007)

Stevie Nicks kicked off the new millennium with a unexpectedly resounding bang. Her solo album Trouble in Shangri-La shot to #5 on the charts and went gold within a month, then two years later she and Fleetwood Mac (sans Christine McVie) had their own triumphant return to the charts with Say You Will. After that, Nicks was largely busy with Fleetwood Mac's tour, which I saw during their stop in Chicago. It had been a long time since I'd seen Stevie Nicks perform (I saw her during the tours for Rock a Little and The Other Side of the Mirror), and she was in fine form and voice. I'm now looking forward to seeing the fully reunited Rumours-era line-up perform in Chicago this October.

In 2007, a few years after all this chart action, Nicks released Crystal Visions. Despite being a rabid fan, I resisted buying this release because I felt three compilations from Nicks in sixteen years was a bit much. What was the point? Timespace remains Nicks complete greatest solo hits collection since she had not charted any further singles. Meanwhile, Enchanted is her retrospective box set, and one career retrospective is about all most artists need or deserve. What could Crystal Visions possibly bring to table?

For a casual listener Crystal Visions is totally unnecessary, and does not supplant Timespace as the best compilation of Nicks' solo hits. For a fan, though, Crystal Visions is worth buying because it is an interesting take on combining her absolutely biggest solo hits with her most famous songs from Fleetwood Mac. This makes Crystal Visions the closest thing to a total career compilation that may ever be available for Nicks. It might even work better than an actual compilation of studio recordings since I'm not sure it makes much sense from a listening standpoint to set her Fleetwood Mac songs and solo work side by side. The sound of the material - and her sound - is really quite different. Crystal Visions solves the problem by creatively representing her Fleetwood Mac songs in a way that updates them and creates a more cohesive sounding album.

Admittedly, the approach works better for some songs than others. "Dreams" is represented by the appealing Deep Dish dance hit for which Nicks recorded a new vocal, "Rhiannon" comes to us as a rocking live performance. Ironically, the one song that appears in something like a vintage version is "Silver Springs" which was cut from Rumours. That said, Stevie's vocal coda on this take of the song has a tougher edge to it than the official version released on the b-side to "Go Your Own Way" in 1977. Considering the only other way to get an original version of "Silver Springs" is to buy Fleetwood Mac's patchy box set (The Chain), many may prefer to make the acquisition through Crystal Visions. In addition to the pluses, Nicks includes a wicked live performance of Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll". On the other hand, "Landslide" is recorded live with an orchestra behind Nicks and comes off a bit overdone. I'm also not sure anyone is a big enough fan to jump for joy over having yet another live version of "Edge of Seventeen" enter their music collection.

Crystal Visions is more than just a set of tracks, however. It also includes a DVD of all Nicks' music videos, complete with audio commentary from Nicks. The commentary reveals a thread of dry humor that is rather endearing when you think about how she's relating stories around the recording and marketing of some of her biggest hits. A special treat on this DVD is the original big production video for "Stand Back", which Nicks famously - and expensively - rejected for a reshoot. The reshoot became the official video everyone has seen. In my opinion, while the original video isn't bad (for the 80's), Nicks was right to pass. The video she ended up for "Stand Back" has a lot more energy and visual appeal. Finally, the DVD also contains footage from the Bella Donna sessions which is interesting to watch.

So, while Crystal Visions is - as ever - a fantastic collection of songs with some great new-ish material on hand, it's really for a die-hard fan who doesn't mind dropping the bucks on an indulgence. One can't fault Nicks too much, though. She's worked very hard over the course of her storied career and accomplished a hell of a lot. If she wants to rest on her laurels a bit, she's certainly earned it.

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