Positive (10) / Mixed (4)
Fleetwood Mac star heads to Nashville, chasing the songs that nearly got away.
As if Stevie Nicks hasn’t done enough soul-searching during her 40 years in one of the world’s biggest bands… On her eighth solo album, Nicks immerses herself in her past, gathering 16 of her long-lost songs together like errant children and dressing them in traditional costume — the billowing robes and gypsy shawl — before sending them out, fully Nicksed, into the world.
24 Karat Gold – Songs from the Vault finds the 66-year old getting her memories in order with the help of longtime associates Waddy Wachtel (he first played with her on 1973’s Buckingham Nicks) and Dave Stewart, producer of Nicks’ last solo set, 2011’s In Your Dreams, and a band of hired hands in Nashville who knocked out new versions of Nicks’ old songs in 15 days last May. In Your Dreams, somewhat tarnished by Dave Stewart’s sweet tooth, took 14 months. Fleetwood Mac records take far longer.
The songs in question stem from demos Nicks wrote at various stages in her career between 1969 and 1995, intended for her solo or Fleetwood Mac albums. One ballad, the bonus track “Twisted,” written in 1995 with Lindsey Buckingham for the film Twister, she felt deserved a wider audience. “When songs go into movies you might as well dump them out the window as you’re driving by because they never get heard,” she tells Uncut.
Many of these songs will be familiar to Mac devotees, having appeared online and on bootlegs or box sets in one form or another. Indeed, Nicks’ main incentive for the project was to record definitive versions of those unauthorized tracks floating around online that her assistant had drawn to her attention. Nicks hates computers and was once so worried about internet piracy that she didn’t release a solo record between 2001 and 2011, so this principled stance represents some sort of progress; if you can’t beat’em, join’em. “Just because I think computers are ruining the world, I can’t expect everyone to be on my wavelength,” she reasons. But to most, 24 Karat Gold is effectively a brand new album, albeit one that one occasion has the luxury of revelling in the twists and turns of a vintage Nicks number like “Lady,” formerly a fragile piano demo from the mid-’70’s called “Knocking On Doors” that’s now a footstep away from “Landslide.”
With these demos newly upholstered as mid-tempo soft-rock ballads by a solid Nashville outfit, it’s tempting to view the collection as an alternative look at Nicks’ life in music, each song offering a slightly different take on key moments in her colourful career. Nicks, too, her live-in voice stained with experience, seems to relish the chance to reacquaint herself through her lyrics with the girl she once was. The earliest cut here, a corny speakeasy pastiche called “Cathouse Blues,” was written by a 22-year old Nicks in 1969 before she and Buckingham, who played on the original, moved to Los Angeles. By “The Dealer,” a musky Tusk-era tumble, she’s already world-weary: “I was the mistress of my fate, I was the card shark / If I’d’ve looked a little ahead, I would’ve run away,” runs the chorus.
On Bella Donna cast-offs “Belle Fleur” and “If You Were My Love”, Elton John guitarist Davey Johnstone reprises his original role and plays on these new versions. Her trusted foil, Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers, rolls up his sleeves for AOR james “Starshine” and “I Don’t Care”, tracks he just about remembers writing with Nicks in the early 80’s. “Mabel Normand,” a moving parable based on the tragic life of the 1920s silent movie star, came to Nicks when she herself was dancing with the devil in 1985. Following the death of her godson from an accidental overdose in 2012, the song has a more profound resonance today.
As befits a compilation of songs that weren’t up to scratch first time around, 24 Karat Gold contains a few tinpot tracks that even the Nashville boys couldn’t fix. Most, too, spill over the five-minute mark. but as fresh testament from one of Rock’s great survivors, it makes for a fascinating listen.
24 Karat Gold – Songs from the Vault will be released October 6th in the UK.
Piers Martin / Uncut (UK) / September 23, 2014 (November 2014 issue, p.82)
Stevie Nicks: 24 Karat Gold – Songs from the Vault
* * * *1/2 (four and a half stars out of five)
With the subtitle Songs from the Vault, you’d be forgiven if you thought 24 Karat Gold was an archival collection of unreleased material and, in a way, you’d be right. 24 Karat Gold does indeed unearth songs Nicks wrote during her heyday — the earliest dates from 1969, the latest from 1995, with most coming from her late-’70s/early-’80s peak; the ringer is a cover of Vanessa Carlton’s 2011 tune “Carousel,” which could easily be mistaken for Stevie — but these aren’t the original demos, they’re new versions recorded with producer Dave Stewart. Running away from his ornate track record — his production for Stevie’s 2011 record In Your Dreams was typically florid — Stewart pays respect to Nicks’ original songs and period style by keeping things relatively simple while drafting in sympathetic supporting players including guitarists Waddy Wachtel and Davey Johnstone and Heartbreakers Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell. It’s certainly not an exacting re-creation of Sound City but Stewart adheres to the slick, hazy feel of supremely well-appointed professional studios, so 24 Karat Gold has a tactile allure. Sonically, it’s bewitching — the best-sounding record she’s made since 1983’s The Wild Heart but, substance-wise, it’s her best since that album, too. If there aren’t many remnants of the flinty, sexy rocker of “Stand Back” (the opening “Starshine” is an exception to the rule), there’s enough seductive, shimmering soft rock and the emphasis on Laurel Canyon hippie folk-rock feels right and natural. Retrospectively, it’s a surprise that Nicks sat on these songs for years, but that only indicates just how purple a patch she had during Fleetwood Mac’s glory days. It’s a good thing she dug through her back pages and finished these songs, as she’s wound up with one of her strongest albums.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine / All Music / Monday, October 6, 2014
Review Stevie Nicks looks back on shimmering 24 Karat Gold
24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault (Warner Bros.)
* * *1/2 (three and a half stars out of four)
Now that young bands such as Haim and One Direction are reviving the polished pop-rock of Fleetwood Mac, it seems only right that the group’s iconic frontwoman, Stevie Nicks, would look back as well.
As its title suggests, 24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault offers new recordings of tunes Nicks wrote as long ago as 1969; the most recent is from 1995. You can tell the material is old too. In the aching “Hard Advice” she sings about listening to the radio and hanging out in a record store. (Remember those?)
But Nicks has always found fresh drama in the past — think of “Rhiannon,” loosely inspired by an ancient Welsh legend — and here she sounds no less energized chewing over bygone resentments in the throbbing title track and pondering bad decisions in “The Dealer,” which rides a silky groove reminiscent of the one in the Mac’s indelible “Dreams.”
For “Mabel Normand” she reaches back further, sympathizing with a real-life silent film star thought to have struggled with cocaine.
Recorded mostly in Nashville with Nicks’ longtime guitarist Waddy Wachtel and Dave Stewart (who also produced Nicks’ excellent “In Your Dreams” from 2011), “24 Karat Gold” makes room amid the retrospection for some new sounds. “Cathouse Blues” touches unexpectedly on ragtime, while “Blue Water,” with backing vocals by Lady Antebellum, shimmers with traces of country and soul.
There’s also a couple of crunching hard-rock numbers, including “I Don’t Care,” that feel powered by the same aggression Fleetwood Mac channeled on its 2013 arena tour. (Now reunited with Christine McVie, the group launched yet another road show last week and will hit the Forum in November.)
Whatever the arrangement, though, Nicks’ voice — that signature drone that’s gotten only more appealingly imperious with age — defines the music here. Her singing dominates as easily now as it ever did.
Twitter: @mikaelwood. Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Mikael Wood / Los Angeles Times / Monday, October 6, 2014
Stevie Nicks, 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault
The first question you’re likely to have about Stevie Nicks’s new album is, when was this recorded? It’s almost impossible to tell, because Nicks sounds so classic, as if surveying each decade of her long career on her own and with Fleetwood Mac. 24 Karat Gold is Stevie at her Nicks-iest: a gold dust woman, caught mid-twirl.
Nicks notes in the press materials that most of these songs were written between 1969 and ’87, with a pair from the early ’90s, but the album was recorded this year in Nashville and Los Angeles.
To her credit, she and fellow producers Dave Stewart and Waddy Wachtel have a light touch here, letting Nicks’s silvery voice lead with grace and grit. So many of these songs evoke yesteryear Nicks, from the serpentine, “Rhiannon”-like groove of “Mabel Normand” to the starry prettiness of “If You Were My Love.” “Blue Water” has a dusky country vibe; it could have been a Fleetwood hit, right down to its line “And I wait for the sound of my gypsy.”
There are also new shades of her — all the color of midnight blue, of course — including a jazzy little number called “Cathouse Blues.” “I just care that you love me,” she growls on the heavy rocker “I Don’t Care.” And a piano ballad, “Lady,” is big and bare, a chance to savor Nicks in full splendor. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Blue Water”
Stevie Nicks performs with Fleetwood Mac at TD Garden on Oct. 10 and Oct. 25. James Reed can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJamesReed
James Reed / Boston Globe / Monday, October 6, 2014
Review: Stevie Nicks – 24 Karat Gold
Immediately 24 Karat Gold is exactly what you’re expecting from Stevie: it’s all jazz piano and bluesy guitar with that husky rock n’ roll girl voice that just makes you want to dedicate the rest of your life to growing your hair our and wearing lots of tassels. But Stevie has been solo for quite a while, and her personal style has developed somewhat, with moderate to pleasant results.
Lyrically, the album is much weaker than those that have come before it; the storytelling is clumsy and a bit desperate, and often the languid content is mirrored by a lethargic tone. There’s a glassy attempt at depth in many of the songs, and in favour of her once minimalist style of writing Stevie seems to be pouring any thought she fancies into 24 Karat Gold, with the tone of a person who wrote an entire album to make someone listen to their problems.
Saying this, one place where Stevie Nicks could never fail is musically: there is no denying that she stands strong with off-beat piano and the smoothest guitar melodies, not to mention the odd use of the pedal to remind us all that she’s a rock n’ roller at heart. Rescued by their excellent instrumental arrangements, “Lady” and “I Don’t Care” are probably the best songs on the album, followed by the slightly weaker “Carousel,” which is one of the few songs on the album that doesn’t sound like a 100bpm diary entry.
There are lots of positives to this album; Stevie’s voice is warm and relaxing, and there is not an ounce of aggression in her tone. I would recommend the album is you’re feeling pensive, or just nostalgic for old skool chick rock.
Jodie Rigden / The Knowledge (UK) / Monday, October 13, 2014
ALBUM REVIEW: Stevie Nicks 24 Karat Gold – Song from the Vault
Fleetwood Mac may have just started a mammoth tour of the United States, their first with songbird Christine McVie in 17 years, but Stevie Nicks has still managed to release a new solo album, this month.
24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault, is a collection of 14 songs from Nicks’ enormous back catalogue of demos that never made it onto her records- songs which were written between 1969 and 1995.
Recorded over a three-month period, Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart was once again on production duties. After producing her last album, In Your Dreams, which was something of a let-down both musically and lyrically compared to 2001’s Trouble in Shangri-La, 24 Karat Gold makes much more of a statement than both of the aforementioned releases.
This may be, in part, due to Nicks herself also producing the record, with the help of long-time collaborator Waddy Watchel, who featured heavily on her early solo albums.
The reason this record has much more of an impact than her more recent albums, is possibly because each of the 14 tracks follow the same theme. In the liner notes, Nicks states: “ Each song is a lifetime. Each song has a soul. Each song has a purpose. Each song is a love story… They represent my life behind the scenes, the secrets, the broken hearts, the broken hearted and the survivors.”
Kicking off with the Rolling Stones-esque Starshine, Nicks’ unmistakeable nasal voice remains as constant as her chiffon scarves and platform boots.
Next up is “The Dealer,” which was demoed for both her first solo album, Bella Donna, and her third, Rock A Little. Finally making it onto 24 Karat Gold, it is very similar to the superior first version, demoed for Bella Donna.
Other fine up-tempo tracks include “I Don’t Care,” the token snarling ‘rock-out’ moment, which features at least once on most of Nicks’ solo records; and “Cathouse Blues,” more honky tonk in flavour.
That being said, this album’s finest moments take shape in the form of its darkest tracks. The title track begins with a pounding bassline, and goes into a haunting piano rhythm and jarring guitar part from Mr Watchell, as Ms Nicks sings about the chains of love.
Mabel Normand is another highlight on the record. Originally demoed for the Rock A Little album in 1985 – a time when Nicks was paying the price for her years of cocaine abuse – it documents the life of the silent film actress it is named after, who had the same substance battle several decades before. It becomes clear that Nicks is writing about Normand and herself in the song, as she sings: “She did her work, but her heart was quietly crying. I guess she even felt guilty about even dying.”
Gorgeously simple ballads, such as If You Were My Love and Hard Advice, nicely juxtapose the rockier material on the album.
24 Karat Gold is probably the most consistently fine selection of Nicks’ self-penned material since her 1983 album, The Wild Heart. A fine selection of similar yet different songs, each holding their own within this album, which is not something that could be said for Nicks’ last solo effort.
This is a real insight into the last 45 years of the life of one of the most unique and mystical talents there has ever been. Nicks has held nothing back, this time.
James Nuttall / Yorkshire Evening Post (UK) / Monday, October 13, 2014
Stevie Nicks 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault Review
Listening to 24 Karat Gold is like being caught in a time warp. Then is now, now is then, and the listener feels confronted by Stevie Nicks’ 1981 solo debut Bella Donna’s scandalous twin: the sister sent away for telling truths no one wanted known.
But time and truth have a way of not being denied. Ditto songs that yearn to be heard. And so Nicks, one of romance and gypsy mysticism’s great ciphers, returns to these songs of love left to die, romances unrealized and adventures that haunted her long after their end.
Written from 1967 through the mid-’00s, it is the chronicle of a wild heart that knew no caution and took the battering inherent to living amongst the outlaws. Advance press confirms these songs were inspired by Fleetwood Mac partners/former paramours Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood, Don Henley and good friend Tom Petty.
In the fraught wreckage of a life fully inhabited, if perhaps faithlessly shared, Nicks puts her angst outside her skin and stitches the songs up with Waddy Wachtel’s searing guitar lines, notably on the Petty homage “Hard Advice.” In many ways, Wachtel’s twisting sting and bass player Michael Rhodes’ melodic throb give these songs shape and offer presence.
But the real star is Nicks’ voice, every bit as throaty and suggestive as in her “Rhiannon”/”Edge of 17” heyday. Earthy and resonant, it teases on the gently undulating “Cathouse Blues,” sweeps wide-open across the luminous “Starshine” and haunts the lonesome piano-grounded “Lady.”
If “I Don’t Care” is an awkward lite-metal track that topples into pensive songwriter territory and “All The Beautiful Worlds” is a pretty-enough romp through a painfully self-conscious implosion, the ambitious “Mabel Normand” considers Nicks’ own storied addiction against the prism of an obscure ‘20s comedienne of that name.
And that is the challenge of this collection.
Nicks teams again with Dave Stewart, and the excesses are indulged to a lush extreme which doesn’t always serve her songs. While “Blue Water” feels like classic-if-generic SoCal ‘70s rock, with harmonies from country’s boy-girl-boy crossover Lady Antebellum, Mark Knopfler’s co-written “She Loves Him Still” is as gorgeous as any of Nicks’ signature ballads (“Landslide,” “Beautiful Child”), proving Nicks’ magic remains.
That’s the vexation and amazement of Gold’s frozen-in-amber reality. For as much as her acolytes wish they could twirl in chiffon scarves and platforms, few remain as ageless or beyond the clock as Nicks; in that gap ripples the nostalgia that stains these songs.
Holly Gleason / Paste Magazine / Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Stevie Nicks: 24 Karat Gold-Songs from the Vault
* * *1/2 (three and a half stars out of five)
The title is misleading: Originally written by Nicks between 1969 and 1995, these are new recordings cut with Nashville session pros. But it’s an inspired move — after all, Music City pop scientists have cribbed shamelessly from Fleetwood Mac for years. With California expat steel man Dan Dugmore as cultural bridge alongside veteran Laurel Canyon scene guitarist Waddy Wacthtel, plus Nicks’ longtime backing singers Sharon Celani and Lori Nicks refracting Mac harmonies, Nicks conjures the old black lace magic and makes it feel new.
Not all the material is top shelf, and her voice is starting to show its milage. But Nicks uses it to her advantage. Most convincing: “Mabel Normand” a tribute to a powerhouse silent film star and legendary coke fiend with whom Nicks apparently identifies (go figure). Best flashback: the triple harmony California dreaming of “Belle Fleur” (“Canyon dancing/ All night long”). Second best flashback: “The Dealer,” a casino metaphor that — like many songs here — may or may not be about Lindsey Buckingham. Most surprising: “Cathouse Blues,” a Dixieland-band-bordello strut in which the singer confides, “I need some new red velvet shoes,” then purrs, “I’m still a dreamer’s fancy. True that.
Will Hermes / Rolling Stone / October 26, 2014
CD Reviews: Stevie Nicks
Stevie Nicks 24 Karat Gold – Songs From the Vault
* * * * (four stars out of five)
For all the guys who fantasised about being with her and the girls who wanted to be her, Stevie Nicks is back to her best with an album of new tracks that could have been plucked from the ’70s and ’80s.
After the theft of demos from her house, Nicks put Dave Stewart in the producer’s chair and with a host of rock legends reworked the previously unheard tracks.
24 Karat Gold is so laden with gems it seems absurd only to hear them now.
Stewart stays faithful to a hazy vibe synonymous with Nicks’ sultry huskiness, as Stevie reels back her years of romantic misfortune.
Single download: Mabel Normand
For those who like: Fleetwood Mac, Marianne Faithful, Sheryl Crow, Tom Petty
Mark Orton / Otago Daily News (NZ) / Monday, october 20, 2014
Album Review: Stevie Nicks – 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault
“Each song is a lifetime. Each song has a soul. Each song has a purpose. Each song is a love story.” – Stevie Nicks
Before there was Taylor Swift there was this woman: a self-confessed poet, a woman that has lived a notoriously interesting life; Gold Dust Woman anyone? Stevie Nicks remains to be an influential story teller, and a clever one at that.
24 Karat Gold isn’t a continuation of that journey but a glimpse of a past; a tale that has intrigued the masses for over twenty-five years, yet was understood through her music. It is difficult to categorise such an album, with its eclectic mixture of country, folk and old school rock that I would simply call a story.
Opening with a bluesy number “Starshine,“ 24 Karat Gold is an album that existing fans will rejoice in and cause new fans to emerge, and with that undertone of country flowing through there is certainly room for it within the world of Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire. In all honesty, Nicks created the way for such story tellers to exist.
Personally, I feel a lot can be learnt from this album, especially for young songwriters. Stevie Nicks has that extra layer, that extra part of her soul to bare that allows her to create a diversity and power that can be told through this medium. We even get a hint of rock ‘n’ roll with punchy “I Don’t Care” and a guest appearance from Lady Antebellum on “Blue Water,” a true test to their ability that her trust was gifted to them. Ending with the mellow “She Loves Him Still,” which is the perfect way to wind down the album with its addition of the cello and violin, it reiterates the fact that Nicks creates beautiful music, as well as stories.
For those afraid that 24 Karat Gold is all about being deep and meaningful, don’t be. You will be taken on a journey of emotions, where you will want to dance to “Cathouse Blues” and “If You Were My Love,” as well as wish you had it to play on your record player, which is exactly how I feel. As someone who appreciates and loves vinyl, this particular record suits it to the ground and reminds me of how music is as its best: raw and honest.
My favourite track is a tricky one to pick, but it has to be “The Dealer” – I can feel it in my heart.
Georgie Robbins / Cult Noise (UK) / Friday, November 14, 2014
Mixed Reviews (4)
Music review: 24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault
New Stevie Nicks collection holds both riches and rejects from Fleetwood Mac star’s past
* * * (three stars out of five)
Stevie Nicks, star of Fleetwood Mac, has rerecorded songs from earlier years for her new solo collection.
Catchy music can obscure the meaning of a song just as surely as it can enhance it. When a melody achieves perfection, it steals attention from the lyrical core. That dynamic forms a key part of the puzzle of pop. But it has special relevance to the latest release from Stevie Nicks.
Unlike her beautifully pruned work with Fleetwood Mac, many songs on her latest solo work fray at the seams, or wander outside the confines of an ideal melody. The album does contains a few must-have highlights, but key parts feature lyrics that wobble awkwardly on their tunes. Yet those very flaws and indulgences wind up casting a clearer light on Nicks’ character, and concerns, than ever.
There’s good reason for the music’s wavering quality: The album is a collection of castoff songs from Nicks’ 45-year career. True, Nicks recorded all the music anew over the last year, but she wrote most of the material between 1969 and 1987. A few songs date from 1994-95.
Any Nicks-oholic will immediately notice her trademark lyrical tics. Words like “silver,” “dream” and “chains” keep turning up. She’s often left “alone in a room” or found standing “out in the rain.” There’s also her tendency to split her inner voice into a conversation between what “I said” and what “she said.” Nicks’ broader themes also hold — the tug between professional achievement and personal relationships, between the desire to connect and the need for free-range love.
The most finely formed songs use those themes to raise goosebumps. In the piquant “Hard Advice,” Nicks recounts the tough words from a friend, who told her to quit pining for a famous musician who has already moved on. As with many Nicks songs, speculation on the boldfaced lover’s identity is very much encouraged.
“Lady” pushes further, with its grand melody and gripping lyrics that find Nicks wondering if her loneliness will one day devour her.
The sole cover — of Vanessa Carlton’s “Carousel” — both furthers the theme and breaks up the melodic familiarity.
Otherwise, the album meanders through songs of significant energy, but with middling tunes (the Tom Petty-esque “Starshine”), or with lyrics tha turn verbose (the mess “Mabel Normand”).
If Lindsey Buckingham had his way, this stuff would surely have been sharpened. But there’s a happy consequence to his absence. We get pure Stevie — needier than some might find comfortable, but also unexpectedly wise. It’s too much for the casual listener but catnip for the devoted.
Stevie Nicks appears with Fleetwood Mac at the Garden Tuesday.
Jim Farber / New York Daily News / Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Stevie Nicks 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault
* * * (three stars out of five)
24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault is a glorified act of copyright protection. Stevie Nicks reportedly decided to revisit old demos when she was informed that they’d been bootlegged and uploaded to the Internet. This was no doubt a shock to the technophobic Nicks, who doesn’t own a cellphone and communicates with fans via handwritten letters that are uploaded to her website by members of her team.
The material, written from 1969 through the ’90s and newly recorded here, is significantly sharper than what was found on Nicks’s last studio album, 2011’s In Your Dreams. The new recordings mostly dispense with the awkward electronic flourishes (vocal distortion, canned synths) that have marred other recent Nicks-related recordings. “Starshine” is given an uptempo, straight-ahead rock treatment that recalls Nicks’s collaborations with Tom Petty, while on “The Dealer” she almost perfectly embodies her ’70s glory days with Fleetwood Mac. The latter finds Nicks looking back at a failed relationship, though it cleverly doubles as a longer-term survey of loves lost and reconciled, particularly with bandmates Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood. “If I’d known a little more, I’d have run away,” she laments, but of course she didn’t, and now she’s on a sold-out tour with both of those men.
Old flames occupy much of the subject matter throughout the album, and even when Nicks isn’t explicitly singing about herself, it’s hard not to read autobiographical meanings into the songs. The silent-era comedienne Mabel Normand, who gets a tribute song here, is a character with whom Nicks clearly identifies, singing about her “quietly crying” heart underneath all her beauty and talent. And Nicks even tips her hat to friend Vanessa Carlton with a cover of the latter’s “Carousel,” adding little to it beyond some fairy-tale harpsichord, though there’s poignancy in seeing Nicks return the favor of paving the way for Carlton’s career with a song about how everything comes back again.
Unfortunately, 24 Karat is stuffed with too many stately piano-and-guitar ballads that return to the same theme of bygone romance. The one wild turn from that format is “Cathouse Blues,” a slinky ode to Nicks’s high-heeled strut that sounds like something you’d hear wafting from a sweaty bar on the Mississippi River. While not Nicks’s first time fetishizing the South (see “New Orleans”), it’s unfortunately so ill-suited to the California mystical dream-girl aesthetic that she’s carefully cultivated over the years that it comes off as an unintended joke.
There’s a fundamental paradox to Nicks’s brand, which she once referred to in a moment of rare self-awareness as “the Stevie Nicks thing.” Though she plays the perpetually tender, romantic, emotionally available, spurned woman, Nicks has always had an air of cool detachment that puts her at a remove from listeners. On songs like “The Dealer,” “She Loves Him Still,” and “Hard Advice,” she re-spins the same old image of a Nicks who’s gripped by long-ago love affairs with fellow musicians—”dreams to be sold,” as she puts it on the title track—while her current life is kept somewhere out of view. The most illuminating moment is on “Lady,” which reveals the deep chasm between the naïve woman who wrote it after moving to L.A. to become a rock star and the 66-year-old she is now, looking uncertainly over her empire. “What is to become of me?” she pleads with appropriate dramatic irony. Nick has always given us just enough snatches of insight to keep us wondering the very same thing.
LABEL: Warner Bros. RELEASE DATE: October 7, 2014
Paul Rice /Slant Magazine / Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Stevie Nicks – 24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault
(Warner) UK release date: 6 October 2014
Fleetwood Mac‘s ‘classic’ line-up (ok, the classic line-up post-Peter Green) may be back together and touring, but the wait goes on for a new album. Despite the arena tours and the yearly rumours (pun intended) about the band headlining Glastonbury, Say You Will from 2003 remains the most recent Fleetwood Mac record.
Some may say that’s hardly important with such a back catalogue of riches to draw upon, but those who are really experiencing withdrawal symptons may well be sated with this, Mac stalwart Stevie Nicks‘ 10th solo album. And it’s no ordinary solo album – as the slightly self-aggrandising title, 24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault, would suggest, this is a collection of old demo versions that Nicks has abandoned over the years, spruced up and re-recorded. So, there’s Fleetwood Mac songs that could have been, lost Buckingham/Nicks numbers – everything in fact, to make a hardcore Mac fan salivate.
It doesn’t sound like a hotch-potch of songs all thrown together either, as you may expect from that description. Indeed, most of the songs that Nicks has resurrected are strong enough to make you wonder why she scrapped them in the first place. And, considering that the timespan of these songs stretches from the late ’60s up to the mid ’90s, it sounds like a surprisingly cohesive album, even if the hour-plus running time means that a more judicious editor would have ensured that some tracks remained in demo form.
There is some gold unearthed though, albeit maybe not of the 24 Karat variety. “Starshine” kicks the album off to an energetic start, and the sad tale of silent film star Mabel Normand, who died at the age of 37 of tuberculosis, following years of cocaine abuse is a story that’s obviously close to Nicks’ heart. Long-term Nicks fans who scour the internet for bootlegs will be well aware of the gorgeous country workout “Blue Water,” which sounds – on this version at least – like it would have fitted in nicely onto the Mirage album, not least because the word ‘gypsy’ is referenced in the lyrics.
Talking of “Gypsy,” that famous Fleetwood Mac song is more than musically echoed in the title track, one of a few numbers that are inevitably reminiscent of Nicks’ band’s golden era. Yet this doesn’t sound like a ‘lost’ Fleetwood Mac album, mainly because Nicks’ backing band have the nouse not to copy Buckingham, Fleetwood and the McVies. Instead, it sounds like what it is – a collection of old songs, spring cleaned and brought up to date.
Obviously, Nicks’ voice has lost its wispy, breathy quality over time, but her more mature, throaty growl sounds perfect for these songs. Her performance on the powerful ballad Lady is genuinely affecting, the sound of a woman looking back on her life and contemplating regret and loneliness (as the song’s key line has it: “I’m tired of knocking on doors when there’s nobody there”. There’s also some familiar lyrical ground trodden over, such as Hard Advice’s intriguing tale of a doomed affair with a rock star and the inevitable ‘is this about Lindsey?’ song, “She Loves Him Still.”
With only the creaky, clunky “Cathouse Blues” and the rather pointless Vanessa Carlton cover “Carousel” counting as real duds, this is a surprisingly strong album considering it consists of songs initially rejected or abandoned by their creator. Nothing on 24 Karat Gold comes close to classic Fleetwood Mac songs, but long-term fans will delight in hearing decently recorded versions of tracks that they may otherwise only have heard as scratchy demos.
John Murphy / Music OHM (UK) / Thursday, October 9, 2014
Stevie Nicks: 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault
Stevie Nicks Empties the Vault
Everyone wishes that their favorite artist or band would release a rarities album filled with unreleased songs, B-sides, and other hidden gems. With 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault, that is exactly what Stevie Nicks fans gets, an album composed of reworked, and in some cases, completely reimagined demos, some dating as far back as the late ‘60s. And despite this collection being composed of songs recorded at different periods in time, it’s still a surprisingly cohesive and unified album that is as much a part of Stevie Nicks’ canon as are beloved albums like Bella Donna and The Wild Heart.
Although it is a distinctly Stevie Nicks experience, certain songs on 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault do borrow from other bands, and/or popular musical styles from the time they were originally recorded. With its glam infused blues sound, lead track “Starshine” is reminiscent of early ‘70s Rolling Stones, and its eerily easy to envision Mick Jagger singing along with Stevie. “Mabel Normand” has that patented Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers pop-rock sound to it that adds an intriguing dimension to Nicks’ hauntingly vivid lyrics. Adding to the diverse nature of the album is “Twisted”, a song that sounds better suited for the adult contemporary charts of 1995.
Not only is it a refreshingly eclectic sounding album, it’s still one that is wholly and uniquely Stevie Nicks. Amongst the decade spanning diverse sounds, reminiscent of other bands, Nicks even finds time to include other artists on this album. Lady Antebellum provides backing vocals on “Blue Water”, as well as a superb cover of Vanessa Carlton’s “Carousel”, which deals with the uncontrollable passing of time, something that Nicks’ lyrics have dealt with for over 40 years now.
One of the album highlights, “She Still Loves Him”, features one of the most poignant and underrated collaborations of her career with music and a melody written by Dire Straits member Mark Knopfler. “She Still Loves Him” answers the question of “What Stevie Nicks album would be complete without a love song to Lindsey Buckingham?” It’s the direct sequel to one of the most beloved B-sides of all time in “Silver Springs”, another songs written by Nicks for Buckingham. Nicks is the titular “She” as Buckingham is “Him”, the misunderstood object of her affection, and it’s a proclamation, better yet, an exaltation of her love for him despite the passing of time and the impossibility of ever being with him again. The entirety of her relationship with Buckingham can be summed up in one of the last lines of the album: “Oh no, they would not like it much anyway, but she still loves him.” It’s strikingly powerful, yet somberly intimate which makes it a Stevie Nicks classic after the first listen.
Despite the fact that the songs on the album were recorded at different points, and despite the fact that they are influenced by the times in which they were recorded, what saves the collection from falling off the rails, which it very easily could have, is Stevie Nicks’ ever present aura. All of her songs, even when with Fleetwood Mac, possess an intangibility to them. There’s a certain enchantment to all the songs on the album that blends in nicely with the rest of her catalog. Even an outlandish track like “Cathouse Blues” with its snazzy 1940s sound is still imbued with Nicks’ gypsy charm.
Just as much as she borrows from other musicians and sounds, she also borrows from herself on 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault. “Dealer” sounds like an updated version of “Gypsy” even though it was written and recorded around the time of Tusk. Nonetheless, it’s still interesting to listen to these tracks knowing their chronology and literally listening to how her own personal sound and style has changed over the years. If you know Stevie Nicks, it’s pretty easy to ascertain when each song on this album was originally recorded.
One thing that has most definitely changed over the years is Nicks’ voice. At her best, she sounds exactly how you’d think 29 year old Stevie Nicks would sound at age 66. At her worst, on “If You Were My Love”, she sounds like Bob Dylan with a stuffy nose. Despite some pitfalls and missteps, the raspy, scratchy vocals of Stevie Nicks are still preserved and come through rather nicely when all is said and done.
Bear in mind that being 16 tracks deep, this is a long album clocking in at 70 minutes. Understandably, pacing problems ensue. While it’s thoughtful of Nicks to dig deep into her unreleased catalog, the middle third of the album drags on a little too much as the middle five songs can, and should have, all been cut down by a minute each. The pacing of the album isn’t as flawed as Exile on Main Street, nor does drag its feet through its most boring section, but halfway through 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault listeners will get antsy waiting for the pace to quicken again. Thankfully with “Watch Chain”, one of the standout tunes, the album recovers and conservatively sprints to the finish line with tracks that range from the passable (“Hard Advice”), to the mesmerizing (“She Still Loves Him” and “Carousel”).
It’s great to see an artist dig so far back and deliver an album of unreleased, and unused material, especially when their fanbase has been begging for one. 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault owes its inception to the rampant number of bootlegged copies circulating YouTube. Clearly there was a demand for an album like this, and Stevie Nicks certainly delivered. Albums like these are intended solely for the real fans, as casual listeners would like two or three songs, but they wouldn’t fully appreciate it as much as others would. With such a mix of songs spanning almost 40 years, Stevie Nicks proves that if you open the vault, you might as well empty it out.
Andrew Doscas / PopMatters / Tuesday November 25, 2014
Andrew Doscas is a pop culture analyst who seeks to explore the intrinsic meaning of all medium that make up our popular culture. He tries to make sense of society by using Batman Forever, The Who and the 1993-1994 New York Knicks as makeshift paradigms for the entire universe. In his spare time he writes for his own blog at nowherebutpop.com where he tries to defend One Hot Minute and explain why most musicians eventually go insane.