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The Other Side of the Mirror was Stevie Nicks fourth album and was released in 1989.
The album generated a lot of air play given that the released single Rooms On Fire did extremely well in the U.S and the U.K at the time. That single created a foothold for Stevie as she had recorded very little music using electro acoustics and similar effects to allow her music and her voice to come across as being something credible. For years her previous albums had only dabbled in the use of keyboards and organ to supplement harmonic thought and structure, but this album now employed the creative talent of Rupert Hine, a keyboard technician who had already placed his work and skill in the music of Tina Turners revival in the 1980s and later 1990s. As a result the man who co-wrote the minor hit for Ms Turners song, I Might Have Been Queen, got to produce and direct this album for Stevie Nicks. Also making somewhat of a major appearance is the jazzy Bruce Hornsby and The Range with some fine piano playing, vocals and the haunting tones of saxophone courtesy of Kenny G.
** This is a long review **
** Tracklistings **
1) Rooms On Fire
This song was co-written by Rupert Hine and it shows with its rich, thick harmonic structure displayed in the piano harmonies and keyboard use. Echoes are prevalent in this album as it conjures up mystism and magical emotions. The theme of the song is that every time you walk in the room, the walls are on fire. A simple yet refined take on promoting the love for someone and the effect it has on the heart every time they come into view.
This is one of my all time favourite songs by Stevie Nicks. The reason for this is that she uses third person narrative to tell of the story in the song and unlike some of her songs (and there are many!) the story line doesnt get too heated, doesnt get too confusing and as a result it sticks in peoples minds after they have heard it. The line, If I do say so myself, is a line that some of my friends remember about this song in particular. There is also a nice bit of acoustic guitar across the bridge when she sings, Long nets of white cloud my memory, before the chorus is repeated again. Use of percussion overdubs is evident in this song, with the use of tambourine especially being rung out in echoes and the drums sounding as if they are farther away, as if heard in the distance rather than near the mic. Also the other reason I like this song, is that its a very happy song as well. There are not many songs that she writes where she remains to be happy.
2) Long Way To Go
This was the second UK released single and the extended version that appeared as a single was particularly good as it got rid of much of the bareness of keyboards and allowed the use of electric guitar to remain the true instrument. In retrograde she is no longer happy about someone. This is a song about revenge but the listener is not told exactly why she is unhappy. All that she says over and over again is Its a long way to go to say goodbye I thought we already did that have fun tell the world
3) Two Kinds Of Love
The second U.S released single, its a duet of sorts with Bruce Hornsby & The Range and a fountain burst of sound from saxophonist Kenny G. Bruce Hornsby doesnt make his presence known piano wise in this song. The listener is given an array of acoustic guitar bouncing over a wall of keyboards and a dream like sound with the voices and instruments almost drown both the singers. The bridge at the end of the song allows Kenny G to work his magic solo wise on soprano saxophone. Its an unusual duet style because it embraces all three artists fairly.
The story here, within the music talks about falling in love, but the kind of love you would associate with a friend and the temptation to over step the mark.
4) Ooh My Love
Another heartbroken song where Stevie tells the story of a lady trapped in a fantasy. She uses another pseduonym of someone unknown, but someone that could easily be anyone who dreams about living in a castle, of some fairy tale, where everything is idyllic, everything comes down to this person. And yet, there is loneliness that feeling of surrounding yourself with love and yet when its all taken away the person feels lost.
Its not a great song structurally but again Stevie uses a lot of keyboards to submerge the feelings and to convey dream like qualities with echoes and distant backing vocals.
This could well be a country music song for all that Stevie has tried to water down the music into the same kind of electric sound that the other songs have on this album. There is nothing spooky about this song despite the song title. The only Ghost which remains to be the problem is the difference of ghosts from the past and living in the present.
Theres a constant lick of electric guitar throughout this song that sounds as if it is pining in sadness and its the sadness once again which brings the feeling that without her music, she is nothing. She uses the husband moniker to describe the only love she has is her music and the ghosts of her past is what she has lived through with the ghosts of the future being a symbol of something to escape from. Phew!
The only thing that dulls this from being a great song is that despite the use of instruments grouped together Stevie chooses to use a stick snare drum which sits oddly against the beautiful arrangements.
6) Whole Lotta Trouble
This was another U.S single that was released from this album and it is the only single to feature Stevie singing alongside trumpets and saxophones, like a jazz band. It is this brass feel which uncannily goes well with the hard brushed edge of Stevies voice. I love it when she sings and says sarcastically as if in retrospect; oh no oh no not guilty, have mercy The feel is quite bluesy despite the band playing against the beat and its this use of syncopation (beats against beats of time) that the feeling of music becomes very strut like. You could well imagine her strutting her stuff on stage to this song if she ever sung it live! Lyrically its very similar to Long Way To Go, in the sense that she is singing about someone who has given her a lot of trouble.
Incidentally this song was co-written by Mike Campbell, a member of the Heartbreakers (Tom Petty). On the Timespace album, Stevies linear notes state that the song is written for Tom Petty & Bob Dylan and is inspired by Michael Campbell.
7) Fire Burning
Stevie never forgets her roots in this song. This song is the most country like, beginning at the song with strumming guitar rising in sequences setting out a style that could only be influenced once again by Tom Petty or the E Street Band. Its more difficult to typify the story in this song with the question of love because the lyrics are very confusing to understand and the sole idea of Fire Burning is strange. All she says throughout the song is There is no fire burning, its just a soul crying
As such the imagery following any story behind a soul crying isnt carried fully as she has done with previous songs. There is no regard to continuity. She could have picked a better set of lyrics in a song that musically carried a heavy rock beat against traditional country rock styles. Its not an impressive song and its hard to believe keyboard impresario Rupert Hine added his craft to this song.
8) Cry Wolf
Aside from Rooms On Fire, this is one of my other favourite songs. Pity it was never written by Stevie because it has some of the simplest lyrics written and her arrangement of the song is much better than the person it was intended for. Originally, this song was recorded by the late Laura Brannigan who had little fame in the U.S and the U.K with the chart topping song Self Control, in the mid 1980s.
Similar to the fable of the Boy Who Cried Wolf, the song plays out the same story but talks about love that has been lost. Stevies version is quicker and much denser without the use of a string quartet that accompanied the original song. I love some of the lyrics in this song such as the first verse;
You couldnt wait for answers
You just had to try those wings
And all your happy-ever-afters
They didnt mean a thing
So Im not gonna try at all
To keep you from the flame
Just remember not to call my name
and later on,
if you start to stumble
if you start to crack
if youre feeling humble
dont look back
The song starts so well because it adds shivers to the back of my neck every time I hear this on earphones. The use of keyboards is very out there, not like an X-File moment or similar feelings conveyed in the wonderful music that makes up most of the soundtrack to Twin Peaks. Thats not the same kind of sound employed here. The sound of a calling pipe or a low pan pipe can be heard softly in the distance at the start of the song which brings the echoing off beat tambourine and snare drum beats.
The effects drop Stevies voice almost into a pool of water. You can hear the way her voice is suspended over the light and airy keyboards but not too much to drown her voice into it. The sound of the piano comes over stronger, like a guardian pulling the effects back down to the ground, almost as if it is used like a signal to warrant the chorus approaching. Its nothing more than a simple 1, 4, 5 chordal arrangement but it works very well. The use of the chords supplementing the piano from soft guitar effects and spatial notes add colour to the overall effect translated through the music to the lyrics. Now this is a song worth listening to, as Rupert Hine seems to have gone overboard with the stereo imaging effects and the sound of soft keyboards. Its a pity she never chose to release this as a single or a soundtrack song for a film.
Unlike past albums there isnt actually a title song on this album to suggest The Other Side of The Mirror, but Alice, is the most likely candidate to get the closest. Stevie uses Alice as her pseudonym giving the listener the idea that she is like Alice of Wonderland. There are reasons to this
Namely, Alice can see another world beyond the mirror. A world which is exempt of hate and war and all the things that she loves are beyond the mirror into a world she can call her own. She tells the listener the things that she loves in the imagery of symbols of protection; Buried beneath a solid piece of armour or a steel plated vest some carry a stiletto in their garter along with everyone else that they carry Stevie could well be conjuring up saucy motives in this brand new world of hers! Again like many of the songs on this album, this song conveys escapism at its very best. Stevie Nicks has realised that on the other side of the mirror, the life and the security she pines for has not materialised in the way she hopes. It could well be that the story in this song is someone looking into a mirror and looking to escape and all the while, reality sets in while she calls or dreams about Alice going through the similar motions.
Musically this is a better song than a lot of the songs on this album such as Fire Burning. Stevie Nicks chose this as a b-side song to her U.K second single, Long Way To Go.
Again the music begins with rising sequences in motion, indicating an uphill struggle as the music uses classical melismas to describe the emotion in the physical sound as it climbs to the chorus. Kenny G comes into his own, throwing his soprano saxophone tones off the walls to create a solo that could only come from him. Echoes once prevail, which convey the singer is dreaming, unable to get out of the struggle to leave reality behind and go beyond the mirror. This is one of the best songs on the album I think and one of the most underrated.
Stevie returns to the studio with this stroppy bluesy rock number full of slap bass like guitar and heavy percussion. The listener could well be invited to a conversation here the way the lyrics begin or a story. Stevie resorts to using third person narrative to drum out the story here and in her own words, its a hard one to tell. Clearly despite the use of a third person, it is clear that she has written a song about her love affair with Mick Fleetwood.
Like some missionary dancing to the beat of some mans ancient drum
which pinpoints to her love affair on and off the stage. Also in the story she sings a lot about being on the road, being a rock musician and generally getting the feeling that though things around her change, she hasnt really changed and as a result she hasnt been able to let go of the recriminations in her life.
I love Bruce Hornsbys piano solo in this song. It reminds me of that famous song Thats Just The Way It Is, as you can hear the similarities between both. He even sings some lines of the chorus alongside with her.
11) Doing The Best I Can (Escape from Berlin)
In Interviews, Stevie has remarked that she often refers to this song as Escape from Berlin though she never seems to give a reason to why she feels this. I guess its easy to tell that from any political situation which could be gleamed from this song, she could well have meant escape from Russia with love. From the beginning at the song there is a feeling of uncertainty and the image it causes me to dream about, is dry ice in an alley way with a killer lurking about waiting to make his mark. This song could thus be ideal for a song on any James Bond soundtrack. The reasons not just the echoes and the crystal like echoes of piano chords in the higher octaves causing shivers down my back at the very start, the song actually talks about winning something. And this is where the greatness finishes.
It was one for me it was two for you... it was very nice... it was everything but here it is in little pieces... I didnt win or lose, I just threw the cards but I paid a price for it
Arpeggios rising in sequence in the same notes play throughout the song giving the listener a feel that something is about to happen. It doesnt play out with a big build up into a crescendo with a blast of something terrific. Instead it continues to play out this story of something sinister but eventually the absent drums and percussion finally introduce themselves to the listener but by then, I couldnt wait for the song to finish! This is just one of those songs, brimming with keyboards and effects and good arranging with painless lyrics that simply dont go very far.
12) I Still Miss Someone (Blue Eyes)
This is another song thats not written by Stevie Nicks. This song has been covered additionally by Dolly Parton and Emmy Lou Harris. Not such a great admission to make but at least in the world of country it may be a good song to cover. Reggae like patterns fill out an otherwise usual country ballad talking about a lover that has been lost. It would be a great song if it wasnt for the annoying whistle which comes in and out of the song, which conveys that the person Stevie is singing about is really there and not gone at all, or that the whistle conveys the memory of him fading in and out. This was another b-side song to a U.S released single.
** Additional Info **
Price wise youre looking at a range of prices for this album, from £5-99 right up to £11-99 and beyond. Look for the £5-99 price if you want an album which to my mind appears to have some very well thought out songs, but avoid the higher prices as an album from 1989 isnt worth the top price.
The CD Inlay cover has some wonderful pictures of Stevie on what appears to be a chess board floor and some wispy flowing dresses. However the lyrics have been additionally given on each song although every album I have seen The Other Side of the Mirror, on it has white writing on a black background which makes some of the words and general linear notes hard to decipher.
** Conclusion **
Out of all the solo albums so far The Other Side Of The Mirror brought new dynamics and electroacoustic effects to the country and west coast band sound influence to Stevie Nicks. It works extremely well and it is surprising just how much can be accomplished when the album is put into someone elses hands for the purpose of producing a credible album.
If you still dont know who Stevie Nicks is, check www.nicksfix.com This is a great website about the artist and her music as well as her contributions with Fleetwood Mac.
But as for this album, for me it sits above the rest of the albums in Stevies discography history before 1994. It always appears to have a much greater mystical quality to it no doubt thanks to the spooky echoes of keyboards, drum machines and then some songs which have areas of fine acoustic instruments such as guitar, piano and a proper drum kit with Stevies voice sliding in and out. To me the Other Side of the Mirror offers a timeless quality and against other albums by Stevie Nicks, this album is quite a hidden gem. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2007.
Tracks from the album can be downloaded from Amazon but you must have Real Player added.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Rooms On Fire
2 Long Way To Go
3 Two Kinds Of Love
4 Oh My Love
6 Whole Lotta Trouble
7 Fire Burning
8 Cry Wolf
11 Doing The Best I Can (Escape From Berlin)
12 I Still Miss Someone