Stevie Nicks – In Your Dreams (2011)

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Stevie Nicks is, I’ve always thought, one of those ingredients that only tastes completely right in concert with other things. Those things being the rest of Fleetwood Mac in general — and, more specifically, Lindsey Buckingham.

Sure, she’s had her own hits, away from the band. And, at one point, Nicks had almost constructed a cottage industry out of duets with people who were, in fact, not Lindsey Buckingham — from Tom Petty to Kenny Loggins to Don Henley. Each of those projects has succeeded, to admittedly varying degrees, in attracting notice from the record-buying public.

But they never could mimic the recipe of finish-their-sentence symbiosis, not to mention revenge-screw sexual tension, found in her best work with Buckingham.

Same here, despite a gristly new attitude in the songwriting and the presence of the really very talented Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. In Your Dreams, the long-awaited follow-up to 2001’s Trouble in Shangri-La and first major work she’s done since Fleetwood Mac’s mid-2000s project, arrives on store shelves today. And despite the wait, it only serves to reteach this lesson.

Nicks brought along some old notes to her sessions with Stewart, and they co-wrote seven of the new disc’s 13 songs while recording at a house Nicks owns in Los Angeles. The results, to be fair, include a number of things that feel brand new, or at least like friends we haven’t seen in some time. This crunchy sexuality just bursts out of “Wide Sargasso Sea”; there’s a pissy little swirl of venom about “Ghosts Are Gone,” and a Beatle-ish orchestral sweep on “Italian Summer.” Most of it, too, finds her diving headlong into a choppy, thrillingly Dylanesque cadence, something that’s always sounded like a fight’s about to break out. Wait, a tough-talking Stevie Nicks? Utterly unexpected from a singer who for so long has crafted this faux-spook persona as a witchy woman.

Still, Nicks’ old band hangs like a cloud over the proceedings. Remember the part about the old notes? Two of the cuts on In Your Dreams, “Secret Love” and “Moonlight,” began as fragments during Fleetwood Mac’s triumphal mid-1970s period — and “Love,” the initial single, in particular, speaks to that soapy time in the group’s history, when friends became lovers who then became exes. (Mick Fleetwood, in a moment that’s almost too on the nose, appears in the video.) “Soldiers Angel” subsequently finds Nicks singing again with Lindsey, her original lover in the band.

So, while much has changed, not everything has. Nicks, it’s made clear over the course of the record, is no longer looking for something so sweeping as love ever after, just something that works. In pairing with Stewart — who provides some absorbing production touches, not to mention an oakenly barren duet vocal on “Cheaper than Free” — she’s found that. Yet, while the work with Stewart is interesting, something significantly more uncomplicated and thus more direct than the work either with Fleetwood or (in particular) Buckingham, that doesn’t make it better.

“Angel,” where Nicks’ voice interwines once more with Buckingham’s, then is pushed along by the clarion crinkle of his guitar — like an angry, insistent banjo, if there is such a thing — well, it’s still the most remarkable thing here. For all of the years that have gone by since they first met, for all of the years that they have spent apart, for the many things they have done for and to one another, for all of things that shouldn’t still be there in their collaborations, there is simply nothing on In Your Dreams that matches the hard-eyed truths — and the very real mystery — of this song.

In my dreams? They’re at work right now on Buckingham Nicks II.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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