24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault by Stevie Nicks
Though it’s been nearly forty years since Fleetwood Mac’s landmark album, Rumours first hit the shelves of every record store in 1977, the young woman gracing the cover poised in a ballerina like stance draped in a black shawl with cascading blonde waves flowing down her shoulder remains much the same. Time has been kind to Stevie Nicks and in return she has given us the eternal gift of her soul through her music.
Now at sixty-five, Stevie Nicks is back with her eighth solo album entitled, 24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault. All of the songs on the album were written at various points in Nicks’life, covering a nearly forty year span from 1969 until the late 1990s. Nicks has said in interviews that many of the songs were old demos made for other solo albums that had been shelvedfor various reasons and forgotten about. That is until she noticed many of them turning up on the Internet in various levels of completion. Realizing the interest, Nicks decided it was time to officially record and release the songs as a full album.
Due to the fact that the songs were all written at different points in time, the album has no real cohesion. Rather it’s like a trip through Nicks’ life. Each song is intimate and personal, giving fans a unique and rare glimpse into the romances, friendships, loves and losses, that have left their imprint in Nicks’ mind over the years.
The album starts of with ‘Starshine’ a track that was originally demoed with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 1981as a potential cut for Bella Donna. The new version of the song sticks close to the original with Nicks clear vocals floating over a Mike Campbell inspired guitar sound provided by longtime Nicks sideman, Waddy Wachtel.
Petty who has been a close friend of Nicks since teaming up with her in 1981 on the chart topping duet, ‘Stop Draggin My Heart Around’ is the focus of another song on the album, ‘Hard Advise.’ The track recalls a conversation Nicks had with Petty after she had completed rehab in the mid nineties during which she had asked him to write a song for her next album. He refused telling her she was one of the best songwriters he had ever known and that she did not need his help. The response he gave her was unexpected and Nicks was motivated to write a song that night. In the song, she credits Petty as being her best friend as well as someone who will give her the best advice he can even though she may not want to hear it.
A portion of the cuts on the album deal with romance, love and longing which is a staple amongst Nicks songwriting. She delves deep into her own emotions to bring forth the lyrics, bringing her own personal love and heartache to the forefront which serves to make the songs highly relatable to anyone who has experienced the same emotions. Since the songs are highly personal, one wouldn’t be hard pressed to assume that many were written about former flame and fellow Fleetwood Mac bandmate, Lindsey Buckingham. After having spent the last several decades writing songs about each other and their relationship, it’s hardly surprising that a few would make their way onto this album as well. “Blue Water’ recalls a woman longing for her love, asking him to stay with her until the very end. ‘She Loves Him Still” is along the same vein with Nicks admitting that no one ever could understand her relationship with the person in question in the song. Although their romance is over she can’t let him go and will always continue to love him. If the song is indeed about Buckingham, it’s clear that he continues to inspire her and adds fuel to the flames when it comes to Nicks’ emotionally raw songwriting.
Some songs on the album are of a retrospective nature with Nicks looking back on the past. ‘Watch Chain’ quite literally focuses on the passing of time. Nicks sings of how time seems to change people until they are no longer recognizable not only physically but from the inside as well. Perhaps from Nicks standpoint it is also a recounting of her rise to fame and how over time she learned to recognize a true friend from those who were just fame hungry.
‘The Dealer’ finds Nicks comparing her life to a game of cards. Nothing in life is certain and Nicks states that even though she felt that she was in control of her life at certain times the path was unclear and the game of chance led her astray. Nicks seems to be admitting that though she has made mistakes in her in youth, she has grown wiser with time and has learned how to navigate the hardships that life throws her way with a clearer mindset that comes with age.
‘Mabel Normand’ is a biographical songs that partially recounts the life of the silent film star whose name graces the title. However, Nicks has admitted in interviews that the song also is in part about herself. She felt a strong connection with Normand who like Nicks was at one point in her life highly addicted to cocaine. Scared that if she continued on with her addiction,her career and life would be headed down a similar dark path, Nicks committed herself to rehab and thankfully overcame the addiction. However, the song takes us back to a time when Nicks was extremely vulnerable and scared, one side that Nicks rarely shows to the public.
‘Carousel’ the only cover on the album is Nicks’ tribute to her late mother, Barbara who passed away in 2011 at the age of 84. Barbara was her daughter’s constant companion and best friend throughout her life and Nicks felt that including her mother’s favorite song was a sufficient way to honor her memory. It’s a touching sentiment and the song fits nicely with Nicks vocal range, allowing her to sing in a soft, lullaby quality that echoes back to the heart wrenching opening of ‘Landslide.”
Finally, ‘Lady’ finds Nicks looking towards the future. In the song, her voice soars with emotion as she asks “What will become of me?” as if pleading for someone to tell her what lies ahead so she no longer has to worry.
Though a rhetorical question, it’s one that can easily be answered. For the eternal gypsy queen, with her trademark platform boots and tiny frame wrapped in flowing shawls as she twirls across the stage lost in the music, one can conclude that Stevie Nicks will live on forever in the memory of anyone who has ever been touched by her music. Her songs are her babies, meant to carry on her legacy and what a legendary legacy it is. While she herself may be mortal, her music and image will forever remain immortal. Her songs are wrought with emotion, making the listener face their own fears, losses, loves and heartbreak. She connects to people on an extremely personal level, making her seem like a songstress goddess. Perhaps she was right all along and the sound of her husky, glorious voice will wrap around our dreams, dripping down like gold laced dust to haunt us for life. I for one am perfectly fine with that concept.