Nicks gets by with a lotta help from her friends

By Cathalena E. Burch
Arizona Daily Star
Friday, December 7, 2001

PHOENIX — Stevie Nicks’ waited until taking her final bow before choking back a tear that was welling for the better part of her 2 1/2-hour show Thursday night.

“Take care of each other and be good to each other. Life is so fragile,” she said, referring to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York.

The 9,000 people loosely filling Nicks’ hometown arena cheered in support and allowed their favorite daughter a moment of emotional indulgence.

They owed her that much for helping them to forgot about the attacks, the war on terrorism and much else to do about the world outside of America West Arena.

Nicks and a few of her friends took the audience back to the cold war 1980s, before anyone had really heard of a madman named Osama bin Laden.

Thursday night’s show was a fund-raiser for the Arizona Heart Institute Foundation. But with the exception of State Attorney General Janet Napolitano and a suit-clad foundation official saying a few words, you never would have known that the evening was dedicated to such warm-and-fuzzy pursuits.

The audience came to see the legendary Nicks and her enviable cast of friends — Mick Fleetwood, Lindsey Buckingham, Don Henley, Sheryl Crow and Natalie Maines.

From the opening chords of “Stop Dragging My Heart Around,” Nicks turned back the clock 20 years, to the days when her ethereal, mystical voice ruled the radio.

Not daunted by age or the ever changing pop music landscape, she sounded and looked just as she had back then, sans the after-effects of heavy partying. She swirled, she twirled, she bent down in that swoop and turn that made everyone want to be a gypsy like her.

Granted, she didn’t bend as low as she did in her youth, but the magic was just as tangible.

And infectious.

Nicks barely uttered the first words of “Stand Back” when the crowd took over, their chorus overflowing the arena. They boldly and loudly sang along to every song she performed: “Edge of Seventeen,” “Rhiannon,” “Gold Dust Woman,” “Enchanted.”

One by one she invited each of her special friends to share the mike on a song that forever ties them to Nicks: Henley on “Leather and Lace,” Maines on “Too Far From Texas,” Crow on “Sorcerer” and Buckingham on the classic “Landslide,” a song the pair dedicated to Nicks’ father, Jess.

As Buckingham picked the intricate notes on his guitar, Nicks let the words slip out like lines of poetry, softly and packed with the emotional weight they’ve carried since she penned the song 30 years ago.

The pair share a musical bond that can’t be broken, which could explain why they and their Fleetwood Mac bandmates, sans Christy McVie, are in the studio now recording a new album.

Nicks is forging new but seemingly just as solid bonds with her newest friends, Crow and Maines. She gushed over both women, crediting Crow with the very existence of her latest album, “Trouble in Shangri-La.” She said that after two days in the studio with Maines, she felt as if they pair had been performing together a lifetime.

Nicks also let her friends hog the spotlight individually, which gave Henley a chance to resurrect two of his classics: “End of the Innocence” and “Boys of Summer.” Buckingham jammed on the guitar and then invited Fleetwood to bang on the drums for a number.

But the applause was most deafening when Nicks was solo, spinning a tale of a “Gold Dust Woman” or asking the question “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You,” not anticipating an answer.

The crowd answered back by singing along.

For a little while, Sept. 11 and all that has come after it didn’t exist, and the tears that Stevie Nicks was holding back could just as easily have been tears of joy.

Album of the Week: Trouble in Shangri-La, Stevie Nicks (Reprise)

By Steve Dougherty, Picks & Pans
People
May 7, 2001

When Sheryl Crow helped induct Stevie Nicks and her Fleetwood Mac mates into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, Crow called the siren “the woman all young girls wanted to be and all men wanted to be with.” After years of drug abuse and health problems in the 80’s, Nicks has not only cleaned up her act, she has polished it. On her first solo album since 1994, she reins in her loopy side with an assist from Crow, who coproduces, plays guitar and sings backup on a few tracks. And though Nicks dresses like Rhiannon heading for Wicca practice on the cover photo, she keeps things real lyrically — ”Sorcerer” is apparently about a deal dealer, not a mystic. Enlisting the gravelly soul of Macy Gray on “Bombay Sapphires” and the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines on “Too Far from Texas,” she also keeps it real vocally. Best of all is “Fall from Grace,” a rocker about sin and redemption from one who has been there and back.

Bottom line: Another side of pop paradise

Stevie Nicks: Biography

WEA Records International
March 5, 2001

“My music often unfolds like the book of my life,” declares legendary rock poet Stevie Nicks. And that’s precisely the way she wants it to be. “I believe in telling the truth…actually, it’s only way that I can exist as a writer.”

It’s to that end that Nicks created the sterling, often confessional Trouble in Shangri-La, her first solo collection since 1994’s Street Angel. She says the project has been slowly evolving for several years, “taking different shapes and forms. But it never seemed quite right until recently. I needed to live my life. I need to replenish my well of life experiences.”

And she certainly has. Easily one of her most powerful recordings to date, Trouble in Shangri-La is brimming with the rich prose and vibrant imagery that has inspired a veritable army of disciples. “Every step along the path of my life, I’ve been writing it all down, taking incredibly detailed notes,” Stevie explains. “Instead of partying, I run back to my room, open my journal, and pour out my heart onto paper. It can take minutes, or it can take all night. But it’s always deep. And it’s always real.”

For Stevie, getting back in touch with the part of her self that was confident about her song writing skills was a crucial element in the creation of Trouble in Shangri-La.

“I’d been hearing about how I should write with this person, or record that person’s material, and it started to wear me down,” the artist reveals, adding that it took longtime pal Tom Petty to remind her that she’s a top-flight songwriter in her own right. “I remember asking [him] to work with me on some songs. I wasn’t feeling my best; I was unsure about a lot of things. And he said, ‘No…you don’t need anyone to help you with your songs. Do it yourself.’“

At first, Stevie was crushed. “But it was the jolt I needed,” she shares, adding that the album gem “That Made Me Stronger” was borne out of their fateful conversation. “It was a pivotal moment for me. The clouds cleared, and things started to naturally flow again.”

‘Naturally flow’ is an understatement. The songs started to come on like a tidal wave. And while Stevie notes that her songs rae “sometimes a continuation of one another,” with common lyrical threads and theme, the songs that comprise Trouble in Shangri-La also show the artist at her most experimental and varied. Classic Stevie tunes like the acoustic-based “Candlebright” and the gentle “I Miss You” are tempered by refreshingly inventive compositions like “Bombay Sapphires,” with it’s delicate undertow of Caribbean rhythms and its atmospheric keyboards, and “Love Changes,” which is seasoned with a splash of funk percussion.

“To not grow is to die,” Stevie asserts. “Of course, you want to work within a framework that best suits your talent and style. But you also want to continually shake things up.”

For Stevie, shaking things up included inviting an array of new friends and musicians to participate in Trouble of Shangri-La. Macy Gray vamps with seductive soul on “Bombay Sapphires,” while Sarah McLachlan harmonizes on the stately, piano-driven ballad “Love Is.” Also, Dixie Chick Natalie Maines is a complementary presence on the country-spiced rocker “Too Far From Texas.” Stevie recalls that every collaborator came to the project at times when “the songs seemed to be calling out their names. These are strong, wonderful women with incredible musical talent. To have them on this album is a such a special gift.”

Stevie recalls her first meeting with Gray as being particularly memorable. “Her vibe is so wild, so intense. She walks into the room and it’s like everything starts to move.” She’s like a walking tornado. She’s a total blast. We had a great time working on the song. Our voices blended so well together.”

Ultimately, the greatest gift to Trouble in Shangri-La is the kinetic creative union forged by Stevie with Sheryl Crow. “We’d been circling the idea of working on this album for quite a while,” Stevie says. “But we could never quite make it happen because of scheduling conflicts. So, we just went forward with our respective business, but we stayed in close touch. Suddenly, things cleared up and we wound up in the studio together.”

Nicks and Crow eventually worked on five of the set’s thirteen tunes. As Stevie explains “Our connection is deep…deeper than I can even put into mere words.”

Crow, who has long cited Nicks as a primary musical influence, wholeheartedly returns Stevie’s ardor. “To even be in the same room as Stevie was a dream come true for me. To work with her was beyond description. It was extraordinary.”

Both agree that the key to their successful collaboration was mutual trust and respect. “From the moment in the studio, it was clearly a safe environment,” Stevie says. “And that opened up the lines of communication and allowed us to try new ideas out.”

Among the more satisfying results of their experimentation is “Sorcerer,” on which Nicks scales to a rich falsetto during the song’s verses. “She was completely open and in-the-moment while we were working,” Crow notes. “She never stops working or striving to be a better artist.”

Stevie also never stops fighting for the lyrical integrity of her songs. She recalls being the studio with co-producer John Shanks (The Corrs, BB Mak), who helmed a number of songs on Trouble in Shangri-La, and playfully tangling with him while cutting the anthemic “Fall from Grace.”

“The original version of the song had all of these verses…too many, in John’s opinion,” Stevie recalls. “So, we set out to edit the song to fit a workable structure, and it was just breaking my heart to let some of the words slip away.”

Nicks remembers one particular session when pals Laura Dern and Rosanna Arquette were hanging out in the studio, and they caught a glimpse of the original draft of the song. “And they were like, you can’t cut all these words,” she remembers. “Poor, John, they were yelling at him and giving him a hard time. It was all done in fun and good spirit, but it convinced me that I had to fight for my words. Before the night was done, we got every syllable in. And it’s become one of my favorite songs on the album.”

In fact, “Fall from Grace” is among the songs that Stevie plans to add to her concert set when she hits the road for a tour this summer. “It’s the perfect balance to ‘Edge of Seventeen,’” in terms of energy. It’s great a song to rock out to. I love just cutting loose to that one.”

Actually, Stevie says there isn’t a song on Trouble in Shangri-La that she wouldn’t love performing onstage. “I’m so incredibly proud of this album,” she adds. “These songs have been such a big part of my life. I’m so pleased and excited to get them out there for the world to hear. There’s usually a period when an artist is nervous about how people will react to their new material. I’ve been there. But there’s something about this set of songs. I have such a great, positive feeling about it. I’m more itchy for people to finally hear them than anything else. That’s a pretty good sign, isn’t it?”