Best of 2014: Albums, Part 2

After In Your Dreams underwhelmed just about everyone in 2011, I was pretty convinced that Stevie Nicks would not record another album. Her very vocal disappointment in how well it sold despite working her ass off promoting it, combined with her dismay over the state of the industry spoke volumes as far as the prospect of future music from her. So when I heard that there was going to be another Stevie Nicks album, to say I was surprised is putting it mildly. The fact that she was recording old demos that have been around forever and a day in various forms made me excited. Old songs from when Stevie was at her most prolific? Where do I sign up? So many great Stevie songs have been left unrecorded. What a great idea!

Hi-Res Stevie Nicks 24 Karat Gold Songs From The VaultI tried to keep my expectations in check, because I’ve been burned before with Stevie. Despite my very ardent fandom, she’s put out lackluster albums over the years and let’s not even get into how In Your Dreams contained about an EP’s worth of good songs – not great for having to wait 10 years between solo albums. She teased all the songs on her Instagram and released about 4 of the songs ahead of the album – all of varying quality.  More and more I was convinced it would be a Granny Nicks project, one that I would cast aside relatively quickly.  “The Dealer” was ok, “Lady” took a little getting used to, but “Starshine” was top notch as was the title track “24 Karat Gold.”  Slowly but surely, I was getting sucked into a Stevie Nicks album like I hadn’t since 2001’s Trouble In Shangri-La.

24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault doesn’t quite shimmer like Trouble In Shangri-La, but it’s miles better than In Your Dreams. Despite the fact that they share the same producer – Dave Stewart, formerly of Eurythmics – the albums are actually quite different. I still am not convinced that Stewart is the right producer for her, but the songwriting and the strength of Nicks’ vocals push through the sometimes gauzy production.  Many of these songs have been begging for a proper recording for decades. Take “All The Beautiful Worlds” – a quick scan of my iTunes library shows three different demo versions of that song, all in poor quality. As one of my favorite of her early demos, I’m glad to see it finally get a home here.

The thing I love about Stevie Nicks is how, given everything she’s gone through in her life, I never expected her to be around at 66, let alone still recording and touring.  But we’re lucky that she is because she is like a wise old member of the village who has seen and done everything and now we get to hear what she has to say. She’s told her tales through her songs, sometimes explicitly, other times not so much. She owns everything she’s done – good and bad and in between.  That she has chosen to look back so far in her career at this point really is a gift to the long-time fans.  It’s been almost 30 years since I first put Rock A Little down on the turntable and getting stuff like this is like Christmas and my birthday all rolled up into one.

Stevie said that she went about choosing songs for this album by watching YouTube videos that people made of her demos – some, according to her, stolen from her house. I can only imagine Stevie doing this as she is quite the Luddite when it comes to this kind of thing.  Rumor has it that there is going to be a second volume to this album, a prospect that I welcome, so I guess there’ll be more YouTube watching in Stevie’s future..  However, if it comes at the price of no final Fleetwood Mac album with the Famous Five, a part of me will never forgive her.

The last album in my best of 2014 series features two sisters…and not of the moon.

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