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As a long admired fan of Stevie Nicks, the little blonde singer from Fleetwood Mac's soft rock era from the mid 1970's up to 2003, I was one of many fans eager to get their hands on this latest release from Reprise records. Out of all the packages, which chart Stevie's lesser-known solo music (especially here in the UK), this is the first time that an actual official two-compact disc album has been released. Serving up a double dose of the greatest hits and an extra DVD format disk with a colourful photo booklet that includes all her promotional single videos, glossy snap shots and "unseen footage based on home videos," long standing fans of Nicks and Fleetwood Mac may well be in for a treat.
But that would be all very well if such an album has never actually existed before in terms of a greatest hits album. In the mid 1990's, Nicks released "Timespace," the best of Stevie Nicks. Later in 2002 a budget priced compilation album called "The Divine Stevie Nicks," came onto the market offering consumers a taste of one of many pop female artists this catalogue featured. Then in 2004 a triple CD compilation hard backed booklet called "Enchanted," was launched by Nicks which more or less included the B-sides, the soundtracks and....the greatest hits. Well fast-forward to 2006 and basically Crystal Visions is just another greatest hits album yet again, this time with visuals to accompany your appetite.
So whilst £19-99 may buy you a good collection of videos at last to keep for your own pleasure and enjoyment, the first disc is a re-hash of songs you will all have heard before with a few but limited differences. And if you can't afford the DVD then there's always the old faithful "You Tube" website which shows some of the videos for free.
For a start it appears that a symphony orchestra tour with Stevie from Melbourne in 2006 appears but you'd be hard pushed to realise that the orchestra has been written with arrangements that gives its existence much impact or justification. Undoubtedly the best song that has a few orchestral lines is Stevie's oldest song, "Landslide." Whoever did the arrangements for the other three songs featured live such as "Edge of Seventeen," with strings and brass over blowing and distinctly out of tune with the guitars and perhaps compensating needs a lesson in how to arrange instruments. "Rock and Roll," another live song features the orchestra shown on You Tube but the version here seems to muffle the band; There is really not enough gloss here on the strings, let alone full orchestral arrangements that sit well. "Edge of Seventeen," for example is a full 9 minutes long and doesn't deserve to be so long with Nicks at the helm dragging out the lyrics, as if fans by now never really knew what was the song was all about given that in the second DVD you'll be treated to how the song came about. Whilst there are some interesting new lyrics, they don't last long and they become rather forgettable as the song develops. Sometimes I wonder if Nicks is musical at all with the way she tries to wrap additional melodies around accompaniments which are supposed to sound as if they fit when they clearly don't.
Then there's the cover version of a Led Zeppelin song. She writes and gushes over this inclusion as "...this was the sound of my high school days..." so she ends up covering "Rock and Roll" but its not another awe inspiring throat wrenching version of " I Need to Know," originally written by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers or a live version of "Gold and Braid." Here Stevie just sings the song rather like she's doing Karaoke but it doesn't stand out in any particular way other than the fact that it's a rocking song which actually starts to get faster and sounds like it is losing control.
And where would a greatest hits package be without some sound or song from where it all started? As such Stevie has included the song which was supposed to appear on Rumours, called "Silver Springs." But look at the linear notes on this CD and there is no mention of whether it has been remixed at all. Infact on closer hearing the song has been shortened from the original and demo version of the Rumours remastered Limited Edition album with only the acoustics which have been cut from the original with a young Nicks bleating away closer to the microphone ever than before. You do get to hear the dance chart's song, "Dreams," remixed by Deep Dish however and Stevie's later recorded vocal, but look for other chart songs covered such as "Stand Back,' by Linus Loves, or "Dreams," by Wild Colour and I'm left wondering why Deep Dish made it to the list and not others.
As such if you don't have or have never heard the solo work of Nicks, you'll find all single versions of her discography such as "Edge of Seventeen," "I Can't Wait," "Sorcerer," "If Anyone Falls in Love," "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," "Silver Springs," "Dreams," "Rhiannon," "Rooms on Fire," and "Talk to Me." Now out of all these songs, it is important to point out that there is a definite time line here charting older songs that have been recorded earlier in her career, helped along by the built in acoustic and reverb of her older songs such as 1981's "Bella Donna," album to the energetic and synth-built songs of 1986's drug-fuelled album, "Rock A Little." However it is disappointing that whilst Nicks has included "Sorcerer," from her 2001 Trouble in Shangri-La album featuring Sheryl Crow, one doesn't get to hear "Planets of the Universe," which charted as low as number 5 in the dance chart when it was released.
The DVD section is a much better effort, although the songs in the first compact disc are further repeated with their accompanying videos. There are no actual cameo spots intermittent in the video roll however which is a pity as I'd have preferred to see Stevie talking rather than the phoney voice over she does as she introduces each video to tell the viewer what each song is about. There are humorous parts in this DVD however, although they are short with the dialogue offered as well as home made videos showing Stevie at the start of her solo career doing promotional work. Whilst the song videos certainly show their age at the time, with faded fashions and limited technology, Nicks doesn't make much of a personal appearance to what she looks like now and that can be a downside to any listener or viewer who wants to make that extra personal connection. Oh you get the good dialogue of how videos were made and ones which were a waste of money such as two versions which appear on the success of one of her better known songs, "Stand Back," but the lack of the original video to "Edge of Seventeen," is frankly shocking (again for fans you can find the original version on You Tube.) given that it this song in particular is better known for its cameo spot in the film, "School of Rock," as well as being a top ten hit internationally. Heart felt moments can be seen in videos of songs where Stevie looks professional and plays her anguish into the microphone whilst at other times there points in videos shown where a clear lack of direction is evident.
At the time of purchase Crystal Visions commanded a price of around £20 for this double disk extravaganza, but more current prices of £5 and under show that perhaps, the world is fed up hearing the old greatest hits. There are other hits of course, songs that many fans relate to which this album doesn't provoke. You'd have thought by now Nicks could have picked up on this idea instead of another greatest hits package that without the visuals feels decidedly out of date already. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2008
** Some info from this review also appears on an Amazon review under my name, standbackuk. **
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Edge Of Seventeen
2 I Can't Wait
4 If Anyone Falls In Love
5 Stop Draggin' My Heart Around - Petty, Tom & The Heartbreakers/Stevie Nicks
6 Silver Springs - Fleetwood Mac
9 Rooms On Fire
10 Talk To Me
11 Landslide - Nicks, Stevie & The Melbourne Symphony
12 Stand Back
13 Planets Of The Universe
14 Rock 'N' Roll
15 Leather And Lace - Nicks, Stevie & Don Henley
16 Edge Of Seventeen - Nicks, Stevie & The Melbourne Symphony
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Stop Draggin' My Heart Around - Nicks, Stevie & Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
2 Edge Of Seventeen
3 Stand Back
4 Stand Back
5 If Anyone Falls
6 Talk To Me
7 I Can't Wait
8 Rooms On Fire
9 Whole Lotta Trouble
10 Sometimes It's A Bitch
11 Blue Denim
13 Sorcerer - Nicks, Stevie & Sheryl Crow
14 Bonus Footage