The songs written by Stevie Nicks always stood out as the most soulful and original in the Fleetwood Mac repertoire; they’ve also proved to be among the most enduring and certainly the most frequently covered by other artists. While operating within the limits of instantly accessible mainstream pop/rock, Nicks’s wonderfully melodic compositions for the band retained a mystery and a depth that took them onto another level. Enhanced by the blurry intimacy of her distinctive vocal delivery, songs like “Dreams,” “Landslide” and “Rhiannon” have become classics that still speak to the listener very personally, sounding fresh and revealing each and every time you hear them.
The trajectory of Nicks’s solo career has been a somewhat chequered one, but her status as inspiration for a range of younger artists was affirmed on her last album, 2001’s Trouble in Shangri-La, a record which found her collaborating with Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow and Macy Gray. Following the Unleashed reunion tour with Fleetwood Mac, Nicks now returns with a new solo album, In Your Dreams. Produced by Glen Ballard and Dave Stewart, the record can’t be said to take Nicks in many new directions musically: the sound is slick AOR, and occasionally a little too polished for its own good. But the album’s best tracks are memorable and accomplished, and fit snugly into Nicks’s body-of-work.
Indeed, proceedings get off to a superb start with three songs that are as strong as any Nicks has penned. The opening track and first single “Secret Love” isn’t the Doris Day cover the title might lead you to expect, but rather a bright, mature and well-crafted pop song that Nicks originally wrote for Rumours but that didn’t make the cut; here, it serves as a warmly inviting welcome to the album. Spacy synths and the sound of a chiming streetcar-bell then usher in “For What It’s Worth,” a delightfully brisk folk-pop strum that finds Nicks nostalgically recalling an illicit romance. The ringing, propulsive title track - one of several songs that Nicks has co-written with Stewart for the album - is equally good.
After this dynamic start, In Your Dreams loses momentum a little, its songs satisfying more fitfully. Best of the bunch is the vampires-and-Anne-Rice-referencing “New Orleans,” a lyrically clichéd but melodically irresistible paean to The Crescent City; the supple, tender pop song “Everybody Loves You”; and the punchy rocker “Ghosts Are Gone.” “Wide Sargasso Sea,” a riff on the Jean Rhys novel, starts out tentatively, but builds to a good fiery finish. And a couple of tracks that, by rights, shouldn’t work actually prove beguiling. An adaptation of Poe’s “Annabel Lee” set to soft-rock accompaniment sounds like a fairly grisly prospect but an artful arrangement and a strong vocal from Nicks combine to make the piece quite effective. And “Italian Summer” is such an unabashed slice of romantic melodrama that all the listener can do is swoon contentedly in submission.
At the less successful end of the album is “Soldier’s Angel” an over-wrought and somewhat hokey duet for Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham, and “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream),” a song suggested by Nicks’s viewing of one of the Twilight films, that ends up as bland and colourless as its inspiration. And in an unfortunate bit of sequencing Nicks saves the very worst track for last: “Cheaper Than Freer” is an embarrassment, a clunky chunk of country-rock that finds Nicks and Stewart trading some excruciating lyrics (“More exciting than high fashion? High passion!”). Such dips in quality control mean that In Your Dreams sadly skirts greatness. But there’s enough strong material here to make this a most enjoyable release overall, and a worthy new addition to Nicks’s catalogue.
Reviewed for Wears the Trousers.