Judge Brett Cullum is on the edge of 2007.
Just like the white winged dove…
Stevie Nicks is one of the most important women in rock history, and whether she's solo or with Fleetwood Mac makes no difference. Every album she's ever released has at least gone gold, and more often than not achieved platinum status. She started as a folk singer, a journeyman poet in Southern California. She teamed up with Lindsey Buckingham, they became an item, and soon the duo found themselves part of Fleetwood Mac. As often happens with famous couples, Buckingham and Nicks split, but find themselves linked by a successful endeavor. From 1975 until 1987, Stevie Nicks remained a part of one of the most recognizable rock bands of the era. They redefined the Southern California sound, and sold hundreds of millions of albums in the process. In 1975 the band released one of their best-selling albums with two songs penned by Nicks: "Rhiannon" and "Landslide." Her contributions on the group's most successful effort Rumors included "Dreams" and "Gold Dust Woman." Another great Stevie Nicks song called "Sara" would find it's way on to the follow up double album Tusk. After Tusk Stevie Nicks decided to try things alone, and released her classic work Bella Donna which spun off her biggest anthem "Edge of Seventeen." She was a hit outside of the group that made her famous, and she even did a small but notable tour that sold amazingly well. Her solo stint was cut short by returning to Fleetwood Mac for the Mirage album, which included her contribution "Gypsy." After that album Fleetwood Mac seemed to fall apart, but Nicks never really stopped with her solo output (including the slinky, Prince-inspired "Stand Back" and "If Anyone Falls in Love.") She's been quietly continuing to release albums, and reuniting with Fleetwood Mac on occasion for a reunion tour or recording project. Stevie Nicks will turn sixty years old in 2008, and her career has spawned over twenty top ten hits. She's an icon, and nobody can rock high lace-up boots and a shawl quite like her.
I bring up this career retrospective because I clamored to get the review copy of Crystal Visions: The Very Best of Stevie Nicks; I've long been a fan and this music has been the soundtrack of my life. I still remember turning 17, and hearing "Edge of Seventeen" on a classic rock radio station while I tooled around in a secondhand white car thinking they played it just for me. When I saw the Fleetwood Mac reunion tour I demanded to be put front row in front of Stevie (each member had their own space and entrance to the stage). I'm a bit of a fan boy, and eager to tell you about Stevie's latest release. There are two editions of Crystal Visions: The Very Best of Stevie Nicks in stores, one which simply offers a 16-track audio CD and another which includes the same CD and a DVD featuring 13 videos and home movie footage from the Bella Donna studio sessions. Full length Stevie DVD? Even though I own all the CDs individually, that's going to be hard to pass up.
The CD disc includes:
The DVD disc contains:
Hardcore fans are going to grumble and moan that they already own at least a version or two of every one of the songs selected from previous CDs. Stevie Nicks has had more than one Greatest Hits package, and even with the alternate takes of some of the tracks this offers nothing completely new or unexpected on the audio portion of the program. The reworking of "Dreams" by Deep Dish reinvents the song as a dance ditty, "Rhiannon" live is even more melodramatic than the original, and the Melbourne Symphony tracks are suitably operatic. Yet for the most part, there's nothing for an avid listener to mull over, and certainly no new compositions. The CD wisely opens and closes with "Edge of Seventeen" creating bookends with her most recognizable solo work. It's a "just the hits" approach though it is missing some notable tunes such as "Sara," "Gypsy," "Gold Dust Woman," and most of Stevie's Fleetwood Mac output.
The real meat of Crystal Visions: The Very Best of Stevie Nicks comes when you pop in the DVD. For the first time we have the videos to accompany her work with the only notable omissions coming again from the Fleetwood Mac era (which admittedly produced few music videos). Not only do we get to see these "early days of MTV" gems, but Stevie comments on each one. Stevie is wry and funny (admitting she's not the best at lip synching), and goofy as an actress on the clips that require her to play a character. She explains how each song came about, and gives insight into how the clips were made. The commentary track is talkative and entertaining. The videos have been remastered, and they look great even if the technology sometimes dates them. The funniest back-to-back comparison comes from offering two versions of "Stand Back" which features a Gone With the Wind Civil War version contrasted with the more recognizable '80s clip with dancers. There's thirty minutes of Stevie Nicks recording Bella Donna in the studio and shots of her getting ready for the cover. The film quality of this footage is dodgey since it was shot on home video, but it's a rare peek behind the scenes of Stevie in a studio. All in all it's worth the investment to get the deluxe combination package, because the DVD really provides the career retrospective the songs alone can't deliver.
Crystal Visions: The Very Best of Stevie Nicks is an easy CD to pass up unless you only need the essential chart hits, but by combining it with the power of DVD it becomes irresistible. More and more music artists are trying to figure out ways to get consumers to buy their latest CDs, and including a bonus DVD has become a surefire way to force me into the record store for an official, full-length copy. Career retrospectives are especially tricky affairs because a Greatest Hits package runs the risk of overkill. Including a DVD is the best way to look back at an artist who has spanned the decades, because we can watch them age and progress musically. It offers more substance to the idea of simply rehashing the popular hits. There's a lot of answers about Stevie Nicks here, and best of all—most of them come straight from the source thanks to her gracious commentary. We still don't get any answers about why a Southern California girl reimagined herself as a Welsh witch, but some answers are just too complicated.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Reprise Records
• Commentary by Stevie Nicks
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