Friday, August 8, 2014

Stevie Nicks - The Wild Heart (1983)

Coming off the massive success of Bella Donna, which easily overshadowed Mirage, Fleetwood Mac's well-crafted but tepid 1982 release, Stevie Nicks side-stepped the sophomore slump by topping herself with The Wild Heart. Although "Stand Back" was a smash that has become her most popular song, The Wild Heart is not as obviously commercial as Bella Donna. The Wild Heart is more of an artist's album, and Nicks' spreads her wings to command and fill the entire effort with admirable authority.

For a Nicks' fan, The Wild Heart is nirvana: longer songs with more passionate, imagistic lyrics than ever. The title track and the album closer are epics - each over six minutes long - that work the opposite ends of Nicks' spectrum. "Wild Heart" is a thunderous, passionate anthem with her most thrilling vocal work ever, and "Beauty and the Beast" is symphonic gothica for which the term ‘ballad’ is just inadequate. In between, Nicks indulges her mixture of rock and fairydust with alluring results. "Enchanted" and "Nightbird" are pure Nicks and would never have seen the light of day in the more structured programme of Fleetwood Mac.

The Wild Heart also finds Nicks updating her sound into the 80s with striking ease, especially when you consider how most 70s acts that tried to do this either completely sold out or made fools of themselves. She stretches herself well beyond the Fleetwood Mac sound (the torrid "Nothing Ever Changes") and even kicks out a trendy hit (the synth-pop confection "If Anyone Falls"). Tellingly, the one weak spot is the somewhat out of place Tom Petty duet ("I Will Run to You"). It's not a bad song but another Nicks-penned cut such as "Sleeping Angel" or "Blue Lamp", both of which ended up buried on soundtrack albums, would have worked much better.

If you are a hard core Stevie Nicks fan, The Wild Heart is superior to Bella Donna. For the casual listener, it would be a toss up between two classic albums. However, Nicks' vocal performances, expansive writing, and the way she sells these songs makes The Wild Heart the more personal, adventurous, and therefore better effort. Maintaining careers in Fleetwood Mac and on her own, however, was bound to keep her from burning white hot for long. Her next solo album, Rock a Little, would show the strain.

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