"I am something of a dreamer."
Stevie Nicks is back, which is something of a feat considering her de-evolution over the past decade. From her cocaine addiction in the seventies and eighties to the dependence on prescription medication, the rigors of an addictive personality came close to taking her out. From her infamous and much publicized weight gain (which drove her to swear she would never perform again until she lost the weight) to the fact that she is now a 53 year old pixie whose core audience has moved on seemed to doom her.
So how did the final product come out? It is simply her best work since 1983's The Wild Heart and she demonstrates through the music that she has pulled herself back together again by reflecting on the past and growing from it, not writing it off.
The death knell for Stevie's career seemed to ring loudly with her last release of original material, 1994's Street Angel. Although not a terribly bad album, its lack of overall focus and the feeling that Stevie was detached from it made it fall flat. Even the presence of Bob Dylan playing guitar and harmonica on her cover of Just Like a Woman couldn't keep it from becoming her poorest selling and most critically panned album ever. Even I figured it was all over at that point. Perhaps a string of "greatest hits" collections and patched together "previously unreleased material" would be all that remained.
Well, I had my doubts about Trouble In Shangri-La as I usually do about new material from artists who disappeared off the radar for years. What I find now is that it is another side of Stevie on this album, one that is no longer living in denial and rephrasing life so it looks better through her velvet and lace bi-focals. It has a feel that puts it into the adult contemporary category, but retains an edge that will cause those familiar with Stevie's work to say "oh yeah."
The extensive line-up for the album includes Sheryl Crow, Macy Gray, Sarah McLachlan and one of them Dixie Chicks. Lindsey Buckingham literally sneaks in for a little guitar on I Miss You which would seem hokey for anyone but Stevie. No one has even been more sincere about the kind of things most people grunt out an annoyed "yeah, right" about.
The highlights of the album depend on what you might be looking for. The opening title track kicks it off and may be the most powerful song on the album. If you want Stevie's old time mysticism, try Sorcerer, an interesting track because Stevie wrote it in 1972 and you know this wasn't the way she would have recorded it then. There is some intimate and personal stuff here that anyone who has followed Stevie's career will understand, and yet it translates very well into anyone's frame of reference. The themes of having lost too much and trying to find the strength to stand up again are mixed throughout. It isn't all that melancholy, she is too defiant here for that.
"These songs are dedicated to--
the priests of nothing...
and the legends."
Trouble in Shangri-La
Planets of the Universe
To Far from Texas
That Made Me Stronger
It's Only Love
I Miss You
Fall From Grace
Lyrics copyright Welsh Witch Music (BMI)
Words and music by Stevie Nicks