STEVIE NICKS has been an easy target for critics in recent years, what with her dreamy schoolgirl poetry and sprawling, tuneless songs. If you go back and listen to her songs on the Buckingham Nicks album and the first two Fleetwood Mac albums, though, you’d be surprised how well they hold up. She has a thrilling mezzo-soprano voice and given a sturdy musical structure she can really shine. Providing the guitar riffs and arrangements in those early days was Lindsey Buckingham, and on her new solo album, Street Angel, Nicks gets similar help from guitarists Mike Campbell (of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers), Bernie Leadon (of the Eagles) and Andy Fairweather Low.
The results aren’t as strong as her 1973-’77 efforts, but they’re better than anything since. Nicks’s songs no longer float in like the mist but now boast actual hooks and beats. The three best originals were co-written with Campbell, who keeps pushing the songs ever forward with punchy, pithy guitar figures. When Nicks wails that she’s addicted to love and wants to “Kick It,” Campbell puts the kick into the chorus. “Greta,” her tribute to Garbo, starts out like one of her blob-songs, but Campbell and drummer Kenny Aronoff give it a spine. “Blue Denim,” a surprisingly earthy meditation on an old lover’s jeans, boasts the best Buckingham-esque guitar riff Nicks has enjoyed in years.
Most of the other songs are less memorable; the title track is an especially glacial, ripe-for-parody number about “walking under rainbows.” Nicks finally recorded two songs she wrote more than 20 years ago, but they should have stayed in her trunk. The album’s highlights are Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman” (with the author himself on guitar and harmonica) and Trevor Horn & Betsy Cook’s “Docklands.” Nicks’s ability to inhabit these stories with her moody voice suggests that she’d be better off as an interpretive singer than as a songwriter.
STEVIE NICKS — Street Angel (Modern). Appearing with Darden Smith Friday at Merriweather Post Pavilion. To hear free Sound Bite from this album, call 202/334-9000 and press 8102.
Geoffrey Himes / Washington Post / August 5, 1994