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1994's release, "Street Angel" marked Stevie Nicks' sixth solo album after "Timespace; The Greatest Hits of Stevie Nicks." After years of signing with Modern Records, this album moved over to EMI and it is the UK version which this review relies upon. As such the price for this album starts at £3-99 online, on the high street and upwards.
Thirteen songs make up this album and unlike the electro acoustics and effects that were so hugely used to create her successful 1989 album "The Other Side of the Mirror," Stevie harkens back to what she loves and her early influences in music, namely country and the traditional rock of Don Henley and Tom Petty in this co-produced album. However as much as these songs are great, there are none that stand out as well as other songs from other albums for the simple reason that there is no electric synthesizer use or any effects added to Stevie's voice which gives her more attitude. It could be said this is the acoustic style album but on a more personal level it received very little ratings because of a poor back up tour to support it and Stevie's addiction to an anxiety inducing drug called Klonopin. The CD itself has a few glossy photos and a full lyrics section. Putting on thirteen songs however may well present an early indication of bad luck - Street Angel by its own merit didn't too terribly well when it was released.
** Track listings **
1. Blue Denim
As is always the norm, any song that begins in the minor key of a scale and key note represents a challenge, some kind of revenge or sadness. In the case of Blue Denim, the singer plays out a story that every time she sees Blue Denim, she is reminded of a past love in some way and this memory of him is all that she has. Usually any sad song is slow and ponderous fighting out feeling and emotion with instruments which are quiet and slow moving. This is not the case with this song. Instead, its upbeat and a fast moving rock song designed to thrill the listener but fails to work successfully because the song pattern refuses to change structurally. Lyrics are very plain, rhyming on each line from the last and although there is a slight edge to Stevie's voice, the song really lacks sparkle.
"...Rhinestone collections all the time... I wonder what Greta would say...
Another lady...another time...another, heartbroken state of mind..."
Using Greta as her pseudonym Stevie sings about a lady who is surrounded by too much material love and people who she knows but they don't really know her. We've heard it from other songs written and sung by Stevie on solo albums...
This song touches on escapism but only slightly. Nice acoustics gently uproot themselves such as stick drum and bass and fast 16 beat tambourine against a gentle use of keyboard whilst guitar solos here and there supply little accompaniment against the very basic backing vocals in thirds against the major vocal line in the music. It's a good medium fast song but the story line isn't very inspiring and this is what lets it down.
3. Street Angel
Another sad song, this time supposedly showing the character of Mick Fleetwood as a Street Angel, refusing to come in doors. It's a sad song which is accompanied by splayed guitar phrases, electric and acoustic making most of its appearance here to great effect. The guitars could almost be put into a state of drowning as the story line unfolds, telling the listener of an angel of sorts. You can hear that certain notes have been erased unsuccessfully which adds to the sorrow of the song. The beats of the tambourine and hi hat cymbals ricochets off the bass as the song starts and before too long the listener may feel that they are being gently guided along by this track rather than listening to it and trying to listen out for any echoing or instrumental effects. There is also some compassion from an electric violin but its presence hasn't been used solo wise - more of an accompaniment figure than anything else.
Written by Trevor Horn and Betsy Cook, Docklands plays out another tale of a lover who has lost her love and the memory of him brings down her eventful demise of depression. Hardly a great song to cover for its story line, but musically this cover version perhaps is so much better on this album because it adds to its acoustic and guitar dimension ruling out very little electric synth appearance. As it starts with a heavy bass and drums and backing vocals hinting at it's dark mood, Stevie starts to sing a story line which gives the listener the thought that this song isn't that dark and uninviting. Not yet anyway.
Lyrics are very simple but they tell a good story and while they were not written by Stevie Nicks, the music plays along while she sings about her lost love. You can almost picture the scene of people in a ship yard standing about in crowds, doing their business with a single girl walking about, her arms folded and looking lost. This is a good song and one that I like to listen to, because it reiterates a lot of Stevie's original sound when she first started out with her solo albums its just a pity really that the lyrics are totally devoid of fantasy and fairy tale.
5) Listen To The Rain
I love this song because it sounds like a song that Tom Petty could well have written for himself. It has the fuzz guitar at the beginning suspended over a chordal guitar arrangement which makes it heavy presence felt throughout this fast rocker. It's a great little stomping hard rock song which only Stevie could sing as it shows her capable skills not only as a soloist but also as a great backing vocalist. Waddy Wachtel from the first two solo albums puts the guitars up a notch to allow the guitars to come through from her tight duo of backing vocalists, Sharon Celani and Lori Nicks (nee Perry.) It's a totally different departure from the other songs on this album as it has a complete tightness from the very beginning, almost as if she had been singing it unrecorded in the studio before attempting her final take on it.
The first verse of this song is also used in the song "Enchanted," from the album, "The Wild Heart" album of 1983 - another album fuelled by Stevie's drug habit. It's a slow ballad country in style this time; sorrowful in it's make up from the slow beat and the slow, hurtful voice she makes up. A Hammond organ fluctuates between slow vibrato and none at all to emphasize the person who did not fall in love, whose destiny was to remain alone and to remain almost neutral despite the fears of never falling in love. It is painted well in this song however. Dave Koz makes a fantastic little contribution in terms of soprano saxophone, not too touchy and fuzzy unlike the playing of Kenny G, but similar in feel and emotion. The solo on the saxophone is so dense that it's unbelievable Stevie didn't allow any echoing effects on it, to give it more of a presence.
7. Unconditional Love
This is one of the easiest songs to listen to on the album possibly because it is the least unimaginable. It is obvious from its dry acoustic and a slight away from the mic feeling that the song was recorded in a studio with little reverb available; it is possible to detect early on the dullness of the acoustics for example and the problem behind this song is the plain lyrics which don't lift the song's main character of being upbeat. The choruses come in too early and suffer from being over repeated at the end. A year before the album was released in the UK this song was put on a compilation tape with GQ magazine as part of a freebie. It was never released as a single but rather as a taster of what was to come from the solo collections of Stevie Nicks after her greatest hits album "Timespace," had been released. What a taster.
8. Love Is Like A River
It's a fast rocking song but unlike "Listen To The Rain," the story line here as well as the music written to convey it, is made up of clichés so often heard in other songs by other artists. Musically it is similar to "Love Is Like A River," but even with the heavy addition of guitars courtesy of Waddy Wachtel and constant thrashing of cymbals to highlight the stomp like capacity this song has in droves, the use of guitar doesn't really pinpoint any real sensation the lyrics have to offer. They sound as if the lyrics and the music don't really belong together. A bridge in the middle of the song relaxes everything for a moment when the singer admits "Everything around me is electric now, but I haven't burned a candle in a real long time," but as far as the bridge is concerned it sounds out of place in this fast rock song because it slows everything down by half of the beat measure and this is frankly quite confusing before it returns to its original tempo.
9. Rose Garden
Written in 1965 before her involvement with Fleetwood Mac this is a lovely slow country ballad beautifully written in a simple way and not so dissimilar to the other famous country song with the same name. Rose Garden tells the story of a woman whose partner promises her everything but a gold wedding ring on her finger and it is this lack of material item over the years which translate into a lack of respect or love for the man she thought she could love.
The more I hear this song, the more I get the feeling that Stevie Nicks loves traditional country music, such of Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton. It has some wonderful vocal harmonies, thick yet simple and Benmont Tench (K.D Lang's pianist as well as being pianist for The E Street Band) supplies Hammond organ to fill out the missing spaces of accompaniment, again fluctuating between a fast vibrato and normal to convey the song's lyrical and emotional sadness.
10) Maybe Love
This song reached the Top 20 UK charts before it disappeared totally after remaining in the charts for a total of two weeks. "Maybe Love," seemed to have passed the charts by as if it was intended for something higher. The fact that she never chooses to sing this song live should say something about it.
11. Just Like A Woman
Not before time on a commercial recording released internationally, Stevie Nicks has chosen to cover a popular song by another artist that is equally known, if not known more for his music and style. Bob Dylan's song written in 1966 is covered well by Stevie Nicks and it's quite ironic that she should have chosen this song, as the lyrics may well pin point her life years before when she could have been "the baby, with her fog, her amphetamines and her pills..." [Fleetwood Mac era in the 1980's depended heavily on drugs for Stevie Nicks; a period of her life she would like to forget about.]
Unlike the original version of this song which has Dylan withering and wavering over his music like an artist questioning his canvas, Stevie gives this song a much needed work over. Country like once again, with its use of guitars, the bass drum ricochets on the speakers at the very beginning of the music to indicate the start while a guitar falls in declining patterns to indicate the start of a sorrowful story. Remarkably there is no great guitar solo, nothing to add to the story line of the music or the lyrics which are dying to be saved as she admits that she is Just like a Woman.
12. Kick It
After years of singing about unreciprocated love, Stevie sings about kicking the habit and leaving love behind. Like an invitation to a private party, she declines the offer. She continues to sing that the meaning of love for her in this kind of affair doesn't interesting her and lets the listener know half way through the song that:
"It's a strange kind of love affair...
A symphony of sorts...
Strange kind of love affair...
A declaration of war..."
The song makes a good start by introducing a guitar solo rising as it shows off the melody and everything at last on this album seems to be well balanced including the singer and the main melody. I like this song and it's one of the best on the album because it makes sense lyrically and everything fits well. Even the bridge with an excellent guitar solo is blended in seamlessly, unlike many of her songs which the bridge often stands out like a sore thumb. It is the backing vocals at the end of the song which appear to stand out more than anything on this track which brings it to an end.
This time Stevie Nicks doesn't choose to sing about herself and she doesn't use the name Jane as her pseudonym. Weeping chords on an electric piano and electric guitar introduce the song with a familiar pattern heard on The Bangles "Eternal Flame," before their song really begins, and the listener is led to believe that the Jane the singer is singing about is someone that the listener should know, because the story that unfolds is one of sorrow, and one that belongs in an autobiography. All through the song, Stevie sings passionately to Jane to "come away from the wall," and not to hide in "the shadow of a man," which points directly to her work and a book that would come out in 1999 and the problems she has encountered with her work. Stevie brands the animals, "the lost children of the world," and it's not before the line, "the forgotten chimpanzee," that the listener may begin to realise that Jane and the song is talking about Jane Goodall who saved Chimpanzees from extinction.
The only thing that ruins this song is a heavy snare drum which marks out the beats. It would have been better to keep the same sound to hit the rim of the drum as it does at the beginning of the song than to use this full sound. Also and at times when the electric guitars and keyboards, and all the singers come together to sing the chorus, "there are angels here on earth," it makes an awful clash which makes Stevie and her strong backing vocalists appear to sing out of tune. As such despite the country-strong sound of thick vocal harmonies it's not enough to rescue a poorly written song - no matter how many electric keyboards and sounds have been painted to filter the song through.
This is not one of my favourite solo albums by Stevie Nicks. I feel that on the whole it lacks cohesion and that most of the tracks sound as if they have been done half heartedly. Given that some of them were to feature on Stevie's 3 CD-disc set years later remixed and lengthened shows perhaps Stevie may well have thought the same! Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2008
"Street Angel" by Stevie Nicks
Released by EMI/Modern Records
Catalogue number B000002JQH
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Blue Denim
3 Street Angel
5 Listen To The Rain
7 Unconditional Love
8 Love Is Like A River
9 Rose Garden
10 Maybe Love
11 Just Like A Woman
12 Kick It