May 1, 2001
A wiser Stevie Nicks builds her new Shangri-La
BY HOWARD COHEN
Despite the portentous title of Stevie Nicks' first solo CD in seven years the Fleetwood Mac singer assures fans her "crystal visions'' are clear again.
Trouble in Shangri-La, her collection of relationship-based songs, hits stores today and the tracks come "pretty much from my life,'' Nicks says.
But the CD's release comes at a time that finds Nicks healthy and seemingly in vogue again.
Such wasn't the case when her last album, 1994's problematic Street Angel, nearly capsized her career. Now, today's pop stars like Sheryl Crow, Courtney Love, Sarah McLachlan and Macy Gray are citing Nicks' influence on their music. Destiny's Child samples Nicks' Edge of Seventeen on its new CD.
Entertainment Weekly reports that Nicks' distinctive, witchy wardrobe found favor with fashion designers like Oscar de la Renta, Jill Stuart and Bob Mackie who all have created Nicks-inspired threads.
Trouble in Shangri-La also finds some of her famous fans joining her. Crow, Gray, McLachlan and Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines sing harmonies.
Even ex-lover and Fleetwood Mac bandmate Lindsey Buckingham appears for the first time on one of her solo albums, playing guitar on I Miss You.
And no, that particular song is not about him Nicks says, stifling the likely assumption. After Nicks' summer tour ends she and Buckingham will reteam with the other members of Fleetwood Mac (minus a retired Christine McVie) to record a new group CD.
"If you take Christine's synthesizers and organ out of the mix then the whole thing will go back toward the guitar so that's an exciting premise for all of us because we love to rock,'' Nicks says enthusiastically.
During the Fleetwood Mac reunion tour in 1997 Nicks and Buckingham became friends again, putting aside the bitter differences that inspired impassioned songs like his Go Your Own Way and her Dreams, Silver Springs and the new Planets of the Universe, a number Nicks wrote when she was breaking up with Buckingham in 1976. She withheld it until finding a place for it on Shangri-La.
"It's one of the heaviest songs I've ever written and I wrote it in anger in all my drama -- as dramatic as I was and probably still am. I went back and wrote the first part of the song a couple months ago because I wanted to soften it a little bit.''
Shangri-La also includes two songs initially conceived prior to Nicks' joining Fleetwood Mac -- Candlebright, planned for the 1973 Buckingham Nicks duo LP and Sorcerer, nixed in favor of Rhiannon for 1975's Fleetwood Mac LP.
Nicks started recording the album in Atlanta with producer Dallas Austin of TLC fame after noticing how much TLC's 1999 hit Unpretty resembled her layered style. However, the songs they cut together were scrapped.
"The whole album was going a certain way and Dallas had to move on, he can't spend a year doing an album,'' Nicks says on the telephone from her Santa Barbara, Calif. home. "I came back to L.A. and started to do other songs with Sheryl and I realized the record was going in a completely different direction. The songs didn't fit. The songs that I did with him were very R&B and then I'm dueting with [country's] Natalie and all of a sudden this record was not making any sense at all.''
Finally, the chosen Shangri-La guests were custom fit to each track. Crow has become "a very good friend'' and has performed often with Nicks.
"To even be in the same room as Stevie was a dream come true for me. To work with her was beyond description. It was extraordinary,'' Crow said in a release.
Singing the country-rocker Too Far From Texas with Maines was a highpoint.
"Natalie is a trip,'' Nicks says. "She came in and knew her parts so perfectly and we cut that song live. . . . When we got [the guests] we had to work quickly. But it was like Natalie and I were singing together for 100 years, like we were two little mountain singers. What a pleasure.
"The last of our problems was the singing. Getting everyone there was hard but the singing was the easiest thing.''
More than a quarter-century ago, a more innocent Nicks sang wistfully how Time makes you bolder / Even children get older / And I'm getting older too. Turning 53 on May 26, Nicks has finally caught up with her own words. All those years of hard living as a rocker will tend to do that -- if you can survive intact.
"I'm smarter and wiser,'' Nicks says happily. "When I sing Landslide now I think, `You really were such a baby when you wrote it!' I think I've always felt like an old soul. I've always felt like I was reincarnated a million times just rehearsing for this particular life.''
But maturity and ditching bad habits like abusing cocaine and alcohol haven't altered how Nicks writes her songs. Fans who longed for another album on par with her 1981 chart-topping solo debut Bella Donna will find a familiar Nicks on Shangri-La. The songs remain personal glimpses into her storybook life.
"A lot of me hasn't changed,'' Nicks says. "I'm very much the same writer who tries to stay a little bit naive and a little bit believing in the childlike innocence of people so that I can write the songs that help people because I'm not writing from such a jaded point of view. I have not been married and had a terrible divorce like so many women my age have. Or had three or four children which I would have stopped everything for. I did not go through those experiences. And I made the choice not to, maybe because I didn't want my writing to change.
"The trends and the fads around us change but the things I write songs about really don't change. I'm still dealing with relationships,'' she continues. "As it is, I'm not really going with anyone so I live in a pretty romantic state of mind.
"At any moment I could meet my soul mate. I may never meet that person. But the possibility is always there and that makes you still believe in that childlike innocence,'' Nicks says, echoing a lyric from one of her oldest songs: Love is only one fine star away /Even though the living is sometimes laced with lies / It's alright / The feeling remains even after the glitter fades.
"I haven't had a terrible, terrible experience that has just wiped out my ability to write beautiful things anymore.''