Stevie Nicks - In Your Dreams
“I’m not asking forever from you…” sings Stevie Nicks on red-blooded opener ‘Secret Love’. And yet, on the evidence of this, her seventh solo album, that's exactly what she’s doing. A re-awakening of some magnitude, In Your Dreams, completed under the sage direction of one Dave Stewart, is her most invigorating sans-Mac work to date. It may not be as startling as other recent key re-inventions, where trad rockers have sought left-field guidance to inject mainstream careers with a phial of street grade cred (Rick Rubin’s arm around the likes of Neil Diamond and The Dixie Chicks, for example) but Stewart is no fool and he buys into the Nicks mythology with guile. Nearly forty years since she and Lindsey Buckingham changed the shape and the fortunes of a British blues-rock band, the group’s most enigmatic member finally delivers an album worthy of her ever-idealised boho romaticism and the equal of the diamonds she’s studded into her band’s deeper legacy.
Because Nicks’s latest foray into the netherworld dreamscapes of her flighty imaginings comes after a decade of solo silence, it’s tempting to lower those expectations. Is she bored? Is that next Mac re-grouping – next year, allegedly – too far off for the IRS ? Park the cynicism. In Your Dreams dispenses with much of the skirts-swirling, howling-at-the-moon imagery of her canon and replaces it with as solid a set of songs as she’s ever conjured. That Stewart is there to keep her wild furies on track is testament to the pairing and the absolute sense in the Eurythmics man taking his direction to her mansion-cum-studio. Out go the heavily programmed, synth-soaked radio beats, the haunted balladry; in their place, a nod to the AOR sensibilities that spawned the likes of ‘Sara’ and ‘Dreams’ and a pared down approach that delivers heavy hitters in the shape of ‘New Orleans’ and ‘Soldier’s Angel’. Buckingham appears on the latter, a tribute to the armed forces that skirts lazy hero worship, posits a close-up picture of love and (pointless) loss. The former, a tribute to a ruined city is bleak but over-brimming with the madness of hope.
Elsewhere, it’s the stock-in-trade that thrills, that epic faerie tale night vision that deposited the likes of ‘Edge of Seventeen’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Only extended absence from the planet would leave you wondering what our Stevie has been reading to cause her to dream up the beguiling ‘Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)’ but it sprinkles dark matter on the Nicks template and blends kinetics and mood. Similarly, ‘Italian Summer’ came after a trip to the Med that sent her senses spinning, and ‘Annabel Lee’, a re-telling of the Edgar Allen Poe poem sets course for the graveyard on the album’s heftiest hook. A rule of thumb here: the dafter the song title, the greater the reward. Stripped back simplicity gives the whirring, heaven-scent stuff a run, too. The driving title track plays tricks with elements of Dave Edmunds’ ‘Queen of Hearts’ and you’d need a heart of stone to stay strong in the face of the closing ‘Cheaper Than Free’, an acoustic duet with Stewart that rubber stamps four decades of growing up and trying to grow up smart (“What’s cheaper than free? / You and me…”)
Hey, they say she been around a bit. Hell, yeah. And she fascinates still, if only because the ribaldry of 70s rock ‘n’ roll abandon – the cocaine, the years on the road, the inter-band affairs – remain lit by a rare candour, whether that be in open heart interview or the songwriting for which she is, surely, under-appreciated. It’s all too easy to return to her soul mate Buckingham’s oft-quoted regret that they ever even joined Fleetwood Mac, that they would have found themselves an audience regardless. On this form, finally harnessing the best of her wandering muse, in strange tandem with Buckingham’s most productive period since the 80s, who could argue?
Despite her protests, she remains irrevocably, unwittingly gothic in the truest sense, a proper mythical creature from near legendary times. She’s no more a witch than my mother-in-law but the spirit of ‘Rhiannon’ takes hold in this superb album’s deepest, darkest corners and invests in its smooth grooves an irresistible other-worldy sense of time and place. A decade since she last left band camp, and now a mere 63, her latest album stands as her best by some distance. A hefty, lengthy work that clocks in at over an hour, In Your Dreams is worth your time and your effort and, no doubt, your continuing love. It offers ample evidence that, even over 14 songs, Nicks lacks padding tracks.