Rock On Gold Dust Woman…
When just a young boy, I became obsessed with Stevie Nicks. Her long flowing locks, her elaborate costumes of black chiffon and lace, her strong, sultry, almost ethereal vocals, her witchy woman persona…all left me mesmerized by her beauty and mystique and always desperately wanting more. I was so obsessed that in the middle of my bedroom dresser sat my greatest treasure, a battered vinyl copy of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, and on the wall hung a giant poster, worn in places from re-taping and re-arranging, of the Gold Dust Woman herself, Stevie, dressed in black and gold and in mid spin while dancing (wildly so, I could only imagine). As I grew older I collected everything she ever produced, from vinyl records and cassettes that I’d eventually wear out with use, to compact discs and box sets, bootlegs and digital downloads. About five years ago I got to realize a life long dream by accompanying my BFFs Dawne and Donna to a concert at a place called Casino Rama in that great metropolis of Orillia, Ontario. Dawne too, was a life long fan of Stevie, something we bonded over many nights during drinks and bad sing alongs before hitting “the bar”. We had wavered a bit on going – flights were expensive, the timing wasn’t great work wise- but despite all the reasons not to, we thought she’s not getting any younger, so how many more times will she tour? How many more opportunities would we have to see Stevie live?, so with that, it was settled, and that June we were jetting off for our long overdue weekend with Stevie.
The concert proved to be one of the greatest nights of my life.
Once inside the casino showroom, we quickly figured out we could skip out of our seats and stand in front of the stage, stand directly in front of our idol, be THIS close to her as she sang and danced to all of our favourite songs. And so we did, cheering and dancing and signing along as Stevie hit the stage, and continuing to do so for the two plus hours she performed, as energetically and enthusiastically (it seemed) as I imagined she did 20 years ago. After her second encore, as she prepared to exit the stage, she leaned forward, reached down, and clasped the hands of some wildly enthusiastic fans, one of which was me. Yup, Stevie touched me, squeezed my hand, and smiled before letting go. I could die now. (Well, not really….I still need to meet Tori Amos! Um…but that’s another post!)
Since that penultimate experience, I hadn’t really kept up on Stevie’s career or followed it very closely. I mean, c’mon, seriously, how was I supposed to top that? I’d heard talk of the Stevie/Rod Stewart tour (and briefly pondered how hard Rod would likely hit on poor Stevie, and how, um…hard he could hit nowadays), but other than that, things seemed quiet in Stevieland. So it was with some surprise that I heard of her collaboration with Dave Stewart (formerly of the Eurythmics) on her new album “In Your Dreams”. I remember some time ago reading a review in Rolling Stone that stated that Stevie was often only as good as the producer she was paired with…that she needed a strong musically gifted sort to ground her etherealness and bring her back to earth from her land of fairies and gypsies and magical thinking. And despite being such a die-hard lifetime member in the I Heart Stevie Forever club, I couldn’t help but agree. Although albums like 1982’s Wild Heart and 1981’s Belladonna remain undisputed classics to this day, 1994’s Street Angel was mostly a misfire (although, never fear, I can do a mean rendition of “Blue Denim”) and a certain collaboration with Jon Bon Jovi called “Sometimes It’s a Bitch” should really just best be forgotten. And perhaps, for it, Jon should be shot. 1998’s Trouble in Shangri-la, at first seemingly a promising return to the golden age of Stevie, instead came across somewhat disjointed and uneven, and although I’m also a huge fan of Sheryl Crow, her presence on that album seemed to almost overwhelm the Witchy Woman. And so when I eagerly went off to purchase “In Your Dreams” ( a mere $12.99 at HMV, a price I found almost insulting – for Stevie – and worrisome for me, as if it was a harbinger to what was contained within.) But I was SO Wrong.
“In Your Dreams” is ASTONISHINGLY good. Almost shockingly so. In fact, dear I say it, it might be one of the best of Stevie’s illustrious career. From the very first note, and the opening lines of her new single “Secret Love “, it’s clear this is a woman very much in control of her own destiny. Stevie’s voice (at 62!!!) sounds more supple and strong and honey toned then it did 20 years past. The songs are almost instant classics….harkening back to the early glory days of our rock goddess, but still sounding fresh and relevant and in centered very much in the now. Dave Stewart has brought with him his expert craftsmanship as a premiere musician and exquisite producer, but yet, unlike my home girl Sheryl, his presence never overwhelms here…it never seeks to. Instead, it merely enhances and magnifies the magic that these two music legends have come to form together. The songs are mostly love songs, the usual ponderings of Stevie’s, with pining for loves lost or the fiery passions for new love found, and, always, the danger of that secret, forbidden love. Stevie’s lyrics are perhaps more literal than what’s come before, but even when more grounded in reality, they still retain the beauty she bestows on them with their cleverly structured rhyme, catchy choruses, and sultry turns of phrase.
In Secret Love, Stevie’s “not asking for forever from you, I’m just asking to be held for a while” as she ponders “must secret love secretly die”, a song undoubtedly about one of her famous yet secret (make that forbidden) trysts with some other random rock god, affairs mere mortals would struggle to comprehend. “Italian Summer” is striking with its sweeping, staggering orchestral string arrangements. “Ghost are Gone” is a crazy rock song with a driving, almost hammering chorus and a fast, country tinged beat. New Orleans wistfully recalls the beautiful exotic city and it’s people struggling to rebuild to its once former glory; “I see a sea of smiles, I see a haunted city reaching out, I see hope in all their faces…” For What’s It Worth’s is memorable for its simple, heartfelt, and oh so catchy lyrics:
Looked out the window, we watched the cars drive by
I look at you and I start to cry
What you did was you saved my life, I won’t forget it
You said “Even if I left my girlfriend
Packed up my stuff loaded up my car
Drove down to your house with good intentions
Came through your door for what it’s worth”
Meanwhile, “Moonlight (The Vampire’s Song) juxtaposes Stevie’s epic love story with Lindsey Buckingham with that of Bella and Edward of Twilight. At first glance, seems disastrous, (Team Edward Stevie? Really?) but Stevie makes it work…almost brilliantly.
Some call her strange lady from the mountains
Now others say…. she’s not really real….
Like a candle burs bright wants to burn faster~ well maybe then… at least she really feels..
Burning like a candle in the middle…
She’s lonely lost
She’s disconnected. She finds no comfort in her surroundings.
Beautiful, Insecure she has nothing. She moves from situation to situation…. like a ghost.
Then she see’s him ….candle burning.
STRANGE~she runs with the one’s she can’t keep up with
Ohhh~~ it’s so STRANGE~~ slows down so desperate to stop her
Meet her in the middle they both run from the one who hunts them.
They drop to the forest floor
They drop to the forest floor
My favourite, stand out track is, of course, Annabel Lee. (I guess you could blame it on the English major in me.) Annabel Lee is a very literal translation, almost a musical version, of the famous poem of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe. The song has in fact been kicking around in bootleg form since the early Nineties, but it’s inclusion on this album represents its first “official” version. Annabel Lee, the last composed by Poe, was first written in 1849, but Stevie’s interpretation makes it seem timeless, and somehow it seems so very fitting to hear her sing….no, to live, to embody, these ancient words….
And the moon never beams
Without bringing me dreams
And the sun never shines
But I see the bright eyes
I lie down by the side
I lie down by the side of my darling
My life my life and my bride
I lie down by the side
See you on the next tour, O Timeless One, cuz I’m coming back to find you. Hmmm. Should probably start planning the wardrobe. If I remember right, I think it took me awhile to find just the right clothes last time. Still, expect I’ll wear black.
Here’s to the continuing adventures of rock’s reigning queen, Stevie Nicks.
Rock on Ancient Queen, follow those who pale in your shadow…
Long live the Queen. Rock on indeed…
And quick, what are you waiting for, GO BUY THIS ALBUM! 🙂