Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stevie Nicks, rocking it her way

Stevie Nicks is on the road in the US with Fleetwood Mac. She's also got a new album and DVD due out at the end of this month. The DVD is Live In Chicago and from it comes The Soundstage Sessions album -- ten tracks from the concert which have had additional arrangements and vocals added in Nashville. Both are released March 31st.

Ten tracks on the album proper. Amazon will offer one bonus track ("Enchanted") and iTunes will offer two bonus tracks ("Gold Dust Woman" and "Edge of Seventeen").

Stevie's released only one solo studio album this decade (Trouble in Shangri-La). She's also released a studio album with Fleetwood Mac (Say You Will). So for Nicks fans (and we are), this new live release is of huge interest.

Stevie Nicks Crash * Landslide

And if it interests you, you may want to check out the single Amazon is offering as a download currently, Stevie performing her "Landslide" and Dave Matthews' "Crash Into Me." You can purchase either for ninety-nine cents or both for $1.89.

"Crash Into Me" is a five minute and thirty-three seconds live track that Stevie owns from the moment she tosses "You've got your ball, you've got your chains" up and to the back of her throat. She could have sang the entire song that way and we (and many others would have loved it) but she brings it down lower and manages to honor the original while owning her cover.

The music in her version makes clear the debt Dave Matthews owes to Tom Petty ("Free Falling"). Three minutes the backup vocals come in and that's a Stevie hallmark. It's been a hallmark of many a great singer, interplay with backup vocalists, but you clink and they're on tour and on album with nothing but their own multi-tracked vocals.

Stevie was a Mamas and Papas fan as a young girl and her love of vocals (plural) and the elements they can create in harmony and counter-point has led to some of her finest work ("Nightbird," for example). Between her lead vocals, the backing vocals, the guitar playing and some amazing drum work, "Crash Into Me" is a must-have for any Stevie fan.

And "Landslide?"

This Stevie Nicks song first appears on Fleetwood Mac's 1975 self-titled album. Along with "Rhiannon" (also written and sung by Nicks) and "Say You Love Me" (written and sung by Christine McVie), it would become a big hit for the group and enter their canon. 1980's Fleetwood Mac Live and 1997's The Dance feature the song. (As do various best-ofs, anthologies and greatest hits put out by the Mac.)

She's reconfigured this song. It's nothing like the intense revitalization she gave "Rhiannon" for her three-disc, boxed set Enchanted but it's still fairly amazing. You'll enjoy the song throughout, she's doing a softer vocal on the verses and there's a wonderful backing joining her for the chorus. But it's at 2 minutes and fifty-three seconds that you especially want to start paying attention. From that moment on to the end, you'll be cursing your bad luck that you didn't see this performed live. (But you can purchase the DVD.)

Stevie Nicks is a one of a kind original. As such, she was relentlessly attacked by male rock critics at the start of her career. Why didn't she do it that way, why didn't she record something more like . . . She rocked it on her own terms and, in doing so, became one of rock's most distinctive and memorable artists. The bulk of male rock critics faves and raves from 1975 to 1979 are forgotten today -- and for good reason. Stevie's a living testament to the strength needed to be a real artist and, listening to her, you never forget it. She rocked it on her own terms and she had the last laugh. Listening to her, you never forget that either. (March 31st, you do not want to miss the live version of "Sara.")
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