It might surprise some of you who saw all of the trouble I got myself into by leaving Christine McVie out of my recent Rockologist column on Fleetwood Mac, that I would venture back into that possibly hostile territory this soon. Hell, to be honest I'm a little surprised myself.
But this isn't a review about Fleetwood Mac at all. Rather, it is about the work of one of it's most visible members as a solo artist. The truth is, like her band and one-time life mate Lindsey Buckingham, I've always preferred Stevie Nicks solo work over her stuff with Fleetwood Mac anyway.
Within the confines of Fleetwood Mac, Nicks just always struck me as but one element (albeit perhaps the most visible one) within that particularly well oiled, hit making machine. Besides, as a solo artist, Stevie just always seemed to rock a bit more. As much as I can appreciate the pop craftsmanship and witchy spell cast by a song like "Rhiannon" for example, I'll take her duet with Tom Petty on "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" first every single time.
In it's deluxe CD/DVD version, Crystal Visions: The Very Best Of Stevie Nicks summarizes Nick's solo work in a marvelously put together package. Included here are all of her greatest hits, all of her videos, and loads of great extras. For starters, there is 30 minutes of never before seen video footage of the recording sessions for the Bella Donna album. There is also a booklet that includes tons of great photos, as well as liner notes by Stevie herself on each of the CD's sixteen tracks. On the DVD, Stevie also provides commentary on each of the videos included.
Speaking of those videos, watching old MTV mainstays such as "Stand Back" quickly reminds just why Stevie Nicks was once regarded as the "first lady of rock and roll."
The rarely seen "Scarlett Version" of that song is also included here in addition to the more familiar "Stevie sings with windblown hair" version seen on MTV in the eighties. The key difference here, aside from the "Gone With The Wind" storyline, is that the track features a completely different vocal take. If you listen closely, you can hear different vocal inflections, and Prince's famous backing keyboard track (the song was modeled after "Little Red Corvette") also seems just a pace faster. That along with the more commonly seen videos for songs like "If Anyone Falls In Love" show exactly why Stevie Nicks was such an MTV staple back in the eighties.
The other thing you notice watching these videos is just how much Stevie Nicks and her band really do rock, particularly in a live setting. On live versions of "Whole Lotta Trouble" and especially "Edge Of Seventeen," Stevie Nick's touring band, led by guitarist Waddy Wachtel, display an edge that is not always as apparent on the studio records. Wachtel's solo and intro on "Edge Of Seventeen" in particular are both ferociously delivered.
Like the DVD, the CD likewise features all of Stevie Nicks hits — from "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" to more recent work like her duet with Sheryl Crow on 2001's "Sorcerer". Best of all, there is also more previously unheard rare and live stuff. The "Deep Dish" mix of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" gives the well known hit something of a facelift for the dancefloor. "Silver Springs," the original B-side of Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" shows up here as well.
On the live side, "Rhiannon" is given a more dramatic reading here, begining with a moody sounding intro that eventually segues into what is again a version that rocks quite a bit more than the original. On a live cover of Led Zeppelin's "Rock And Roll," Stevie summons the spirit of Robert Plant himself, as Wachtel and the band shred away with Zep like intensity. On live versions of both "Landslide" and "Edge Of Seventeen" recorded just last year in Austrailia, Nicks is backed by no less than the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
Whether you are a new fan looking for a great package of all her best stuff, or a hardcore Nicksaholic salivating for all those juicy extras, Crystal Visions sums up the very best of Stevie Nicks as a solo artist. It also shows her to be an artist who is just as vital now as she was then.