Thursday, September 25, 2014

Stevie Nicks - In Your Dreams (2011)

To wind-up my series of Stevie entries - leading up to the October 7th release of her new solo album 24 Karat Gold - I'm reposting a version of my original review of In Your Dreams.

30 years after Bella Donna established Stevie Nicks as a force to be reckoned with in or out of Fleetwood Mac, she was still able to command interest from the music industry. That said, the ten years since her last studio album, Trouble in Shangri-La, saw Nicks seemingly headed out to pasture. She'd been touring regularly but without new material and had dropped two compilation albums: Crystal Visions and The Soundstage Sessions. All idea that Nicks was headed for retirement was banished by In Your Dreams. It's that good. Even Rolling Stone, which had panned or downplayed most of Nicks' work since she joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975 gushed about this release.

And for good reason. If In Your Dreams turns out to be the capstone of Nicks' career, then she's going out on a very high note. However, the album ultimately suggests it would be a shame for her to stop recording as she obviously has a lot of great music left in her. Simply put, In Your Dreams is her best album since The Wild Heart and it is the best solo effort of her career in terms of merging her mystical and rock sides.

Lyrically, In Your Dreams is the most open album of Nicks' career, reminding us that Nicks is at her best when her moony mysticism and snaky incantations are married to sassy rock and roll attitude. This marriage is partly achieved by Dave Stewart's melodic and tight production. He rarely ventures into the meandering over-instrumentation that has haunted every Nicks solo album since The Wild Heart, yet he lets Nicks breath and indulge in the drama that has always formed the core of her allure. He 'gets' Stevie, and his production lets her be herself.

Nicks responds by giving tremendous, emotional performances. While there's no question her voice isn't what it used to be, she seems to have accepted that her sultry vibrato is a thing of the past and is vigorously working what she has. The result is she sounds alive, energized, and happy throughout the disk, as if she's really into what she's doing and comfortable with it. In fact, I don't think she has sounded so utterly invested all the way through an album since...again, The Wild Heart.

The songwriting on In Your Dreams is very direct and straightforward, yet full of dreamscapes and flights of fantasy. The sound is lush and full of sonic details that support the mood of the songs. There is really no way to pick a favorite song, as they each touch different emotions. And Nicks masterfully alters her vocal delivery for each of them. There's her always alluring, overgrown romanticism ('Moonlight', 'Italian Summer'), hooky pop tunes ('Secret Love', 'New Orleans'), country twang ('For What It's Worth'), thoughtful ballads ('You May Be The One', 'Cheaper Than Free'), a dirge that verges on slowed down black metal ('Soldier's Angel'), an upbeat take on Edgar Allen Poe ('Annabel Lee'), and straight ahead rock (the title track). Even the to-be-expected loopy tracks ('Wide Sargasso Sea', 'Ghosts Are Gone') work. The only song that suffers by comparison to the rest of the material is 'Everybody Loves You', which sounds like a Eurythmics song.

As on Trouble in Shangri-La, most of the best songs are the ones Nicks writes on her own. So if I were to ding In Your Dreams, it would be for Nicks' continuing reluctance to step up the plate and write more of her own material. She also continues to cull her spellbook for songs from the past (this time, fantastic gems 'Secret Love' and 'Annabel Lee'). But these are minor quibbles. The quality and energy of this album will no doubt go down as one of the biggest surprises of the year. Nicks knocked this album out of the ballpark!

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