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Stevie Nicks - Reissues album review

The witchy woman’s first two solo albums

Stevie Nicks The Wild Heart album cover

You can tell a lot about a band when their members go out on their own. Of Fleetwood Mac’s Buckingham-Nicks songwriting tag team, Lindsey took his more experimental ideas circa Tusk and ran with them, which is probably why he never enjoyed a big-selling solo album. Certainly none as big as Stevie, whose first two solo forays are now reissued as deluxe editions with bonus tracks (alternative versions and demos) and live recordings. Those albums – Bella Donna (1981) and The Wild Heart (1983) – were huge successes, the first reaching No.1 and selling six million in the US alone, and the second hitting No.5 and selling two million.

There’s a lesson here: don’t mess with the formula. Fans of the Mac won’t be scared by anything in Bella Donna’s grooves (as they would be by Buckingham’s contemporaneous Law And Order). That sultry, sorrowful, witchy sob is intact, and if the songs aren’t quite as luscious as the Mac’s, their country-tinged heartland rock is harmonically pretty and hooky enough to appeal to the band’s demographic. How Still My Love could be a Rumours outtake.

The duets – Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around, with that other blond bombshell, Tom Petty; and Leather And Lace with Don Henley, from the era’s other rock behemoth – are believable in their hammy emotionalism. Edge Of Seventeen is the standout, Nicks embodying the white-winged dove of the lyric to a tee.

Despite similar personnel (producer Jimmy Iovine, Waddy Wachtel on guitar) The Wild Heart is slicker, more synth-y, bearing a less characterful, more generic AOR sound. Nicks sounds even more defeated, an alluring weariness that rescues the weaker material. Sable On Blond is almost worth the price of admission alone, a Dreams rewrite featuring Mick Fleetwood, with a concomitant simpatico essence missing elsewhere.

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.