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Stevie Nicks third album Rock a Little was written in 1985 and achieved gold and platinum status from the day that it went on sale. From the album two songs remained in the U.S chart positions at number 3 and number 14 respectively with the two singles I Cant Wait, and Talk To Me. Jimmy Iovine would no longer produce the mainstay of her music as he had done with the previous two albums, for the single reason alone that Stevie and him were no longer in a stable partnership. Using Keith Olsen (he had co-produced Fleetwood Mac, the EP album when Stevie and Lindsey first joined Fleetwood Mac) and Mike Campbell to produce most of the songs on the album, she would also invest her trust in Rick Nowels, an old school friend to write and co-produce songs.
** This is a long review and first appeared elsewhere online such as Ciao **
** Track listings **
(1) I Cant Wait
I Cant Wait, is basically a love song, crying out to be taken into the arms of someone, and the usual feeling that imparts with itself when someone cant wait to see their lover the next time around. It is not a song where like Stand Back from the Wild Heart album is full of revenge and sympathy. Here the song projects the feeling How will we feel 20 years from now....how will I feel about you....will I still be in love with you? Evidently although the first line is used from this quote towards the end of the song, its all about the impatience of waiting for the lover to appear, and understandably the song is full of electric guitar riffs, electronic keyboards and a unmistakable drum machine.
Its a great song though to listen to and like most of the songs on this album, Stevie has grasped the art of electronics and a production of a much warmer sound compared to her heavy reverb from the previous sound studios on the last two albums before this one. But what a stunning song to start off with as it has a superb stereo imaging effect right through to the middle bridge towards the end of the song which is not included on the 12 version. Once again Stevie relies on her friends Sharon Celani and Lori Perry Nicks to supply backup harmonies, all in all creating a well rounded off track bristling with perfected gloss and seamless harmonic changes between the main singer and the back up crew.
The problem is that out of all of her Top 40 hits, I Cant Wait, doesnt sound like a song that Stevie Nicks could have managed to write, even if Rick Nowels wrote the song for her. It sounds great and it has a wonderful stealth to it thanks to Stevies strong unwavering voice, but it somehow lacks quality thanks to its all electronic production and a synth bass line which does little to inspire. I could imagine singers like Tina Turner or Cher singing this song although Stevie makes it her own with her special warble and casting her voice down in echoes. Its one of the strongest songs on the album however and what lies ahead afterwards may come as a disappointment.
2) Rock A Little (Go Ahead Lily)
Unlike the last two albums which introduce the title track, this is the second song of the album. I guess because its slow and sentimental in sound that it was put on as a precursor retrograde track compared to the fast rocking beat of the first song. Like Sable On Blonde, from The Wild Heart album, this song sounds like its more of a conversation rather than a direct song about something. Stevie sings about a woman called Lily, but almost always in her songs, she loves to use the third person to describe herself.
Interestingly this song was the only song which was produced by Jimmy Iovine and since him and Stevie were parting company as lovers, perhaps the song is about him. She clearly states something at the end of the song, after talking about hitting the stage, using Lily as her pseudonym that ...You say nothing... but this line has been used in songs by Stevie Nicks before following heartache and heart break. Then in retrospect or hindsight she sings:
...This is how songs are written; stories are told, rumours are started... Not a bad title track but it clearly shows that she left him for good at this point in her life. As a song it is an interesting one, but musically its a bit disorganised despite the warm falling cascade of electric piano.
3) Sister Honey
This is a faster up beat song, bringing a sound not dissimilar to Prince from the drum machine and the interrupting keyboards played off beat. I have always loved this song but from the chorus when she starts singing Can we still be friends? as it totally change the ideas maybe this is intentional. Then its back to the main idea of the song, talking about Sister Honey:
She will help you, make up your mind...tell her you need her... she needs you brother... My favourite line in this song is Strange fascination, some kind of temptation, which brings the next verse into line. All in all a strange song but produced against the backlash of the electronics and the guitars floating around her.
4) I Sing For The Things
This could almost be a song that she could have done on Fleetwood Mac. Its got Stevie close up to the mic in this song, similar to the same way she sings When Will I See You Again, on Fleetwood Macs 1987 album, Tango In The Night. This is a great little love song that repeats itself over and over again, very much like the idea of the central theme, Have you ever be in love? Have you touched the soul of someone? Did the fear inside you make you turn and run? A great little country ballad and sits perfectly next to older songs such as After The Glitter Fades, from Stevies first solo album.
Musically the only thing I dont like about this song is when the chorus comes in and theres a horrible string sounding keyboard sustaining its note over the harmonies. It dulls the feeling of listening to the song I think. But anyway, moving swiftly on....
5) Imperial Hotel
This is another conversation type song with some kind of message that I have never been able to really define. It concentrates on the idea that you can get someone but you cant keep them. Whether or not she is talking about love I cant say. The scene that Stevie creates is something of a conflict and tension in this love tale. Its a song that has the bass guitar and the country like sound of Tom Petty rising and falling against Stevies requests and responses. She certainly proves that Tom Petty is a main inspiration to her. Its quite clear that she thought of him in mind when this song was written, musically and structurally having shades of later hits by The Heartbreakers such as Learning to Fly, but faster with again, more of an influential straddling of modern day country and traditional folk.
6) Some Become Strangers
I love listening to this song because its one of those songs that has a simple story and she creates something of a little drama in it. Listening to the way the song fades out towards the end almost as if the guy she is referring to, isnt talking to her; the way the guitar drips in sustaining motion fading out so that she can howl Baby-oh... youre no stranger, not that I am, well... youve become that stranger and let your soul become a stranger...
Clearly this song is again about feeling trapped in a love affair, and the idea that lovers can become strangers, especially when they dont want to walk out of an affair. It could almost be a song about Jimmy Iovine, but this is pure speculation!
7) Talk To Me
This is a great song which Stevie loved when she heard it and remarks (Taken from the Timespace album,) ...I loved Missing You and I loved the words to Talk To Me) but she did not write this song and therefore this song is presumably a cover version. It has a great saxophone solo through it and some of the words are brilliant. I am sure if she had written a song like this, she would have put the same words on it.
Well theres no sense in dancing around the subject... a wound gets worse when its treated with neglect... All that this song is doing is pleading that someone talks to them, lets them into their own world of secrecy as well as painting trust and confidentiality. But its beautifully crafted.
8) The Nightmare
There are two versions of this song. The first version was released as part of B side to a 12 of Talk To Me but the normal version appears on the album and thank god it does. All this song is doing is talking about a nightmare and its not done very well. The drums dont sound as if they should belong to this kind of song for starters, choosing to use an open rim with a short reverb does no favours for a song which then has dampened and echoing keyboards. The electronic effects are good though, producing an eerie effect but its too short before Stevie starts to sing about dreams, and ...you cannot know a dream till youve known the nightmare...
I dont know what Stevie Nicks was taking when she wrote this song. The whole period surrounding this album contained her drug addiction and different people in her life in terms of lovers so this album on the whole really does have a mixed quality to it. I have to say that although I used to like listening to this song, I realised that it could have been better done if she hadnt had used such a dull percussion to push the song along. There arent many harmonies either which is unusual to typify a subject in this song that she emphasizes is about love and dreams. About the only great time that this song starts to get interesting, is towards the end when she exclaims with her back up singers, The Nightmare...this is not the world, this is not the world.... but its too far on in the song to make any kind of impact and then introducing some kind of statement to the whole affair, she sings she wants him to fight...anytime, anywhere, she wants him to stand up, she wants him to win... Could it be that this whole story is about a dream that she is having but becomes a nightmare when a force stronger than love takes hold of her and she is unable to stand up to it? You decide!
9) If I Were You
I dont know Rick Nowels personally, but this is a song that Stevie wrote for him. Typical of her style she doesnt include lyrics towards the end of the song in the album cover. This song is obviously written for him telling him, that If I were you, I would take the love I have given to you... Stevie also talks about when a boy becomes a man, trying to act perhaps like a mother to him. Its really a song about a great friendship. I suspect reading between the lines that the song may be talking about some kind of decision, perhaps coming out or something like this because in the end of the song, she concludes... I know just what you feel, I know just what you want...I can tell from the tired look in his eyes, that hes gay, thats he gay and theres nothing more in this life... before the song fades out.
Musically though the song has hallmark trademarks of a keyboard inspired track. It begins with haunting electric piano up in the high end of a scale which drums out the main melody of the chorus, but is somewhat ruined by the same open drum heard in the last song. What rescues it however is how the song moves through the verses and choruses and thankfully with the help of strong harmonic backing vocals, vocals echoes and guitar licks, the song becomes stronger over time before it fades out. This could well have been the connection or evidence to the boy becoming the man in the lyrics...
10) No Spoken Word
Another argument or a lack of love brings this song onto full steam. I think she did this as another Stand Back song with the same kind of theme. Stevie also sings this in some of her live sets, and its easy to see why. It has a foot stomping beat from the moment it begins and continues while she seems to shout over the loudness of the music. I love it when she says in this song No Spoken Word, no small command, what was it she wanted, she thought she had everything... which more or less means that even after having everything in life, as well as good fortune and luxury, love can be the only thing that cannot be bought. I love it when she scrawls her voice across the word everything, in the chorus. Whilst the lyrics are hard hitting, the music doesnt sound all that strong despite guitars, keyboards and the familiar sense of a basic rock beat fills around the song. Maybe it is supposed to be this way as the words are more memorable than the song here.
11) Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You
This is the best song, I think on the album second to I Cant Wait which cannot be put together with this slow, sad song. Its dripping with emotion thanks to the way it simply begins with a rising chordal sequence played out on the piano.
The first time I heard this song I think I may have cried!! This may be the beginning of Stevie Nicks putting sad, farewell songs, leaving the best song to the end, at the end of records. Its a gorgeous slow song but would have been better recorded with an orchestra instead of the use of keyboards. I love the use of the piano too, dripping in sadness against her voice, with the same repeated lick over and over again. If theres one song that may get you into the solo music of Stevie Nicks, this is one song you should listen to. I dont know anyone who has never liked this song.
Double efforts which show much evidence to the use of electronic tricks extend themselves a lot in this song; from the vocal echoes to the end, the fade out with her voice muttering spoken words to the way the song climaxes with strong string synth accompaniment and fragments here of high keyboard notes designed to just get you into tears forming; this is a song which is destined to make anyone sad but it is also helped along by Stevies voice which is sorrowful and meaningful.
** Inlay Design **
Rock a Little has a few pictures of Stevie and once again all the song words are printed.
Price wise, this album is quite a bargain if you know where to look. Avoid prices of £9-99 but some record shops such as Amazon, HMV and Virgin have this album on sale for £5-99. At this price it is probably worth it if you are a Stevie Nicks fan starting out.
** Conclusion **
Rock A Little for some people who bought the album and never listened to it again panned it as being too boring and too lost in fairytale romances that either accompanied her in real life or were loosely based when she was high on Cocaine! I have never thought about the latter because an album by Stevie Nicks isnt always about simple love and her lyrics, although sometimes meaningless can hit individuals with real meaning. But I think theres a fantasist in all of us and Rock A Little shows this. Its not a great album, certainly not as good as her fourth album, The Other Side of The Mirror which brought the famous Rooms On Fire, single to the nation, but it deserves some credit for the fact that her writing has always been slightly out there, and off-beat. This album gives more insight into her country roots and rock edge she maintained with Fleetwood Mac as well as her own creative music she has already displayed in her first and second albums. Perhaps she wanted to literally take the meaning of the title of this album even though the title was not her first choice...Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2007.
Rock A Little
Downloads of the songs on this album can be found on Amazon
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 I Can't Wait
2 Rock a Little (Go Ahead Lily)
3 Sister Honey
4 I Sing for the Things
5 Imperial Hotel
6 Some Become Strangers
7 Talk to Me
8 The Nightmare
9 If I Were You
10 No Spoken Word
11 Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You