Stevie Nicks: Bella Donna / The Wild Heart

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Stevie Nicks is the bonkers but brilliant singer with Fleetwood Mac, whose ethereal, scratchy voice is famous. You know the sound, so you know what these two remastered CDs contain.

Bella Donna was her first solo release and is the better of these two, presumably because she had a batch of songs written over the years to draw on. The album contains 10 songs composed by Nicks while on tour with Mac, and Tom Petty’s Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around, one of the stand-outs and the first single.

She teamed up with producer Jimmy Iovine (in more ways than one, as they started an affair on day one, according to the sleeve notes) and Iovine called in his contacts to create the sound. In the excellent sleeve notes he says that he didn’t want session players, because, while talented musicians, they brought no personality to recordings. He drafted in people like Don Henley, Tom Petty’s guitarist Mike Campbell, the E Street Band’s Roy Bittan, and Benmont Tench, a founder of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, whose piano playing was brought in to early rehearsals — all players with character.

We read one review that said Nicks “called in her old friends” but, in the sleeve notes, she says she didn’t know how to contact any of them and it was Iovine who brought them together. “When you’re touring with a band you hardly meet anyone,” Nicks says.

The songs are the mix of rock, pop and country you’re familiar with and it’s a good album, the songs staying the right side of chilled Californian vibe / bland radio-friendly porridge divide.

This re-release comes with remastered tracks, a CD of outtakes and demos and a live 1981 Los Angeles gig, which is good.

The Wild Heart was her second solo album and it’s not quite as interesting, though clearly the musicianship is excellent. The tunes veer towards bland in places.

Lyrically, it’s a mixed bag with some songs that mean something, others sounding like Nicks had sniffed fairy dust off a unicorn’s head (which knowing what the Mac got up to, she may have done). “There is a gate / It can be guarded / Well it is not heaven/ And it has a garden / So to the red rose / Goes the passion”. Y-e-e-e-e-s.

Overall: it’s noticeable that a song written by someone else —Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around — is the standout, but Bella Donna is worth buying, given the bonus CDs.

Buy either of these:

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