Stevie the Sorceress|
Nicks' "Enchanted" box set reveals the woman behind the bewitchery.
-- Jim Farber
No one chronicles the consequences of L.A. high life better than Stevie Nicks. Her new triple-CD box set gives her enough time and space to make the point like never before, letting us fully appreciate her character, admire her melodies, and contextualize her flaws.
Of course, there's no shortage of flaws in Nicks' work. In her worst recordings, she sounds as wobbly as a billy goat with strep. And all too many of her solo tracks suffer from glossy '80s production values (which, ironically, sound less contemporary than those from the '60s and '70s). Even her catchiest tracks, like "Stand Back," can be hampered by gauzy period synthesizer work. To boot, Nicks' solo songs often want for Lindsey Buckingham's canny arrangements. He focused her efforts like no one else.
Yet on her own, Nicks goes further in establishing a real character beyond her cartoonish witchy-woman persona. In fact, she can ultimately claim the fullest viewpoint of any of Fleetwood Mac's main writers. She's at once victim, seducer, and observer of the men who litter the Hotel California, revealing them with an insight that The Eagles were too arrogant to admit.
In general, Nicks' best appraisals appear on the first disc of this set, which corrals 15 tracks from her first two solo works (including the underrated country ballad "After the Glitter Fades" and her biggest hits, like "Stop Dragging My Heart Around"). The second CD gets into trouble by necessity, since her career had meandered by then.
For true fans, the third CD holds the most value. It features rarities like a demo of a new song Nicks penned for Fleetwood Mac's reunion last year, "Sweet Girl"; a solo piano version of "Rhiannon," plus unreleased covers of songs by other California bards: Tom Petty's "Free Falling" and Warren Zevon's "Reconsider Me."
Even these performances pale next to the recordings she made on Mac's 1997 comeback LP, "The Dance." For that work, she found a far fuller voice than on her '80s recordings, exuding as much color and wisdom as Marianne Faithfull.
Of course, with Nicks, the flaws can also draw us close. The harder we listen to the box set's tracks, the less ditsy her character seems. Apparently, there's more clarity to her crystal visions than we ever gave her credit for.
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