Still the gays’ favorite Goth queen, Stevie makes ‘Dreams’ come true
RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
We haven’t heard from Stevie Nicks for too long. Excepting her Crystal Visions “best of” album in 2007 and a couple of live-performance releases, she hasn’t dropped a full-length solo disc since 2001’s Trouble in Shangri-La. Then again, what does she have left to prove?
But on In Your Dreams, her seventh release, she proves one thing: That she can still impress us. (Having Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart on her side doesn’t hurt none.)
The first single, the opening track “Secret Love,” sets the pace nicely. Without feeling the need to burst out of the gate, Nicks is patient with “Love,” demonstrating she hasn’t wavered in her songwriting skills. While we may not hear her on Top 40 radio anymore, “Secret” has a strong contemporary feel that’s easy to listen to without compromising Nicks’ style.
Stewart and co-producer Glen Ballard (No Doubt, Michael Jackson) have painted over Dreams with a glossy sheen that enhances Nicks’ move into today’s market rather than take away from her familiar, gritty personality. The slickest of tracks is probably “For What it’s Worth.” As the guitar plays, the strings are a little too crisp, but the construct is beautifully executed and Nicks gets into that low register that’s hard not to love.
What’s not gone is her Victorian Goth ethos. All through the album, we see her in various dramatic outfits and hats; at times, a horse or an owl accompany her. So when she sings “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream), it’s never as weird as maybe it should be. The piano builds into a power ballad as she sings about the doomed connection between a female vampire and a man: If he leaves her / he’ll be losing the chance / to stay alive. The same quality comes through on her reworking of Poe’s poem, “Annabel Lee.” What could have easily been goofy tracks are fascinating narratives. Nicks isn’t just a songwriter, she’s a storyteller — a skill forcefully on display here.
Interestingly enough, where Nicks and Stewart collaborate on songwriting is where more of her rocker chick comes out, though matured. The title track and the subsequent “Wide Sargasso Sea” have a stronger pulse, mixed well but letting her jam out just a hair.
They co-wrote the final chapter of the album with a trio of songs. “You May Be the One” goes for a bluesy flair without pretension. Nicks never sounds like she’s trying here, and Stewart plays the guitar with enough restraint to not be Eric Clapton (although nowadays he could pass for his twin). “Italian Summer” is a heavy-handed bump in the collection.
They rebound superbly on the closer, a duet (Stewart sings!). “Cheaper than Free” is without doubt the CD’s sweetest song, one that everyone should give to their significant other. Everyone. You’ll get major points. A bit dreamy, but still with a rock undertone, the song is never in the same league as Nicks’ previous blockbuster duets (“Leather and Lace” and “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with Don Henley and Tom Petty respectively), but the good thing is, Nicks doesn’t have to compete with herself.
What Nicks does here with In Your Dreams isn’t any type of comeback or “don’t forget me” album. Instead, she lets us know that she still has songs inside of her waiting to get out. And they’re some damn fine ones.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 13, 2011.