May 29, 2001
New Album Highlights Collaborations
By Molly D.
"I'm really old school."
It's not something you'd expect to hear from Stevie Nicks, she of the shawls and suede platform boots, the white-winged dove and "Rhiannon." But when the star explains her reasons for not using a computer or cell phone, it seems as natural as day. If there's one thing Nicks doesn't need, it's an update.
The scarf-laden chanteuse behind Fleetwood Mac's most successful years released Trouble In Shangri-La on May 1 (Reprise). It's her first solo album since Street Angel (1993). Nicks' latest was produced in part by Sheryl Crow, and lists Sarah McLachlan, Macy Gray and Lindsey Buckingham as collaborators. But Shangri-La is still very much a Stevie Nicks album. After a seven-year absence from solo recording, she's back to add to her prestigious discography.
If Nicks' newest release sounds familiar, it's because the scratchy, little-girl-grown-up vocals and mystic persona are hers alone. The sultry voice and otherworldly lyrics have made her music a top-seller in any decade: more than twenty years after the song's original release, "Landslide" was Billboard's No. 25 Hot Adult Contemporary Single of 1998, and Fleetwood Mac's Rumours (1977) is still the third best-selling album of all time.
Interest in her music is ramping up again: with the current recycling of all things '70s, younger listeners are hearing "Sara" and "Rhiannon" for the first time. VH1's Behind The Music has also renewed interest in the star, with the Nicks episode in heavy rotation.
Speaking of Trouble In Shangri-La, Nicks tells Listen.com, "This is something I had to do on my own. I wanted to work with Tom Petty on the album, but he told me I could do it on my own -- should do it on my own, was good enough to do it on my own... this is my vision. I did what I wanted to do with the record. I don't want to hear one of the songs on the radio when I'm an old woman and drive off the road because I hate the way it sounds. That won't happen with this record. This is my record."
Sheryl Crow never lets her own aesthetic overwhelm the tracks she's produced, probably because Nicks' music was a key inspiration for her. "We'd been circling the idea of working on this album for quite a while and it was never the right time," Nicks says. "But we could never quite make it happen because of scheduling conflicts...things cleared up and we wound up in the studio together."
Crow's laid back Blues Rock vocals are prominent on "Sorcerer," with its loping guitar work and mystic vocals: "A man and woman on a star stream / In the middle of a snow dream / Sorcerer / Show me the high life." The Crow-produced "That Made Me Stronger" sounds most like a Sheryl Crow song: the chorus is downright jangly, and the instrumentation smacks of Adult Contemporary newness. But Nicks' strong lead and backing vocals soar past the jangle, and make the song her own.
The album ends with "Love Is," a similarly strong ballad. Sarah McLachlan's sharp, high-octave "doo doo"s occasionally betray the obvious influence of Pierre Marchand (McLachlan's long-time producer). Despite McLachlan's distinctive backing, Nicks' vocals claim the song in the same way she owned many of the Fleetwood Mac-era songs she sang with Buckingham.
Despite the self-reliant attitude that got Shangri La made, Nicks seems eager to collaborate with others. Asked if she would treat listeners to another Nicks-Petty duet (the pair earned a Grammy nomination when "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" went to No. 3 in 1981), she says, "I would sing with Tom all the time if I could. It's the harmony of our voices...harmony is what I've always been doing. It's what Lindsey and I were doing [in Buckingham Nicks and Fleetwood Mac]. It's the harmony that's important...like the Everly Brothers."
For Nicks fans, though, it's not just the harmonies that keep them coming back -- it's the songwriting. "Every step along the path of my life, I've been writing it all down, taking incredibly detailed notes," Nicks says. And her songwriting routine -- is it what we picture, with the flowy curtains and the candles and the piano? "Absolutely. People know when they see me dressed, heading to the room, it's my time. There are candles...it's what you would expect," she said.
What does Nicks do when she's not busy being Stevie Nicks? "I decorate. I just love beautiful things. I love going and looking for more beautiful things. I go to the mall, to furniture stores, all over the place. I just love beautiful things."
And what does Nicks wear to the mall? "I'm casual. You can't look like this all the time." One constant -- make that two constants -- is her pair of Yorkshire Terriers. "One is named Sara Belladonna and the other is Sulamith India Grace. I take them everywhere. My mother's Yorkie is Rhiannon. These dogs have brought such love, such fun to my life. They are amazing companions."