Stevie Nicks has had the best solo career of any member of Fleetwood Mac from their classic pop years. That career got off to a good start, July 27, 1981, when she released Bella Donna. It would top The United States album charts, produce four top forty single hits, and sell in the neighborhood of five million copies.
She used her Fleetwood Mac sound as a jumping off place. During her time with the group, they were a band that treaded the line between rock and pop. Nicks contributions may have had lyrics that were at times personal and even mythical upon occasion; her music would be in the Fleetwood Mac mainstream. She moved her solo sound in a rock direction, and this was particularly true with the hit singles. It all added up to a rock album that maintained the polish of her former work. It remains her best and most consistent solo album.
She called upon an array of friends and musicians to assist her. Tom Petty, who also co-produced the album, Don Henley of The Eagles, Roy Bittan of The E Street Band, guitarist Waddy Wachtel, bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn, drummer Stan Lynch, and a dozen more were all on hand.
She recorded a volume of material for the album which was reduced to the ten tracks that comprise the original release. A number of those tracks have appeared in an extended form down through the years. There were also a number of songs recorded in very stripped down versions including solo piano versions of then unreleased demos of “China Doll,” “Christian (Spinning Wheel),” and “Stay Away.” Legend has it there is still a treasure trove of unreleased material that was recorded at the time.
The album is centered on the songs that were issued as singles. “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with Tom Petty, “Leather and Lace” with Don Henley, “Edge Of Seventeen,” and “After The Glitter Fades” are all considered milestones in her career and form one of the better group of songs issued by a female artist on one album.
There were a number of other excellent tracks in addition to her well known hits. “Kind Of Woman” is a moody track with a haunting beauty. “Outside The Rain” is melodic and rocks. The title track is a Stevie Nicks epic. “Think About It” was written for Christine McVie who was considering leaving the group at the time.
Bella Donna remains the masterpiece of her career. While she would continue to produce solo material in the future, it would never be as consistent as here. It presents the rock side of Stevie Nicks at her best.