Album review | Stevie Nicks - 'Bella Donna' and 'The Wild Heart' (Deluxe Editions)

2016-11-08

Fleetwood Mac's self-styled Gold Dust Woman reissues her first two, sublime as the lady herself, solo albums in beautifully-packaged deluxe editions brimming over with bonus tracks and colour booklets boasting insightful input from the formidable chanteuse.

Stevie's 1981 debut as a solo singer rather than Fleetwood frontwoman comes with a second CD of demos and alternate versions and a third CD recorded live in concert later that year. Mixing Mac tracks with Bella Donna cuts, it finds her on very fine vocal form but it's the original album that really dazzles.

Just as rifts within the band inspired the almighty Rumours album, so much of Bella Donna was conceived during a tour made tense by strained relations between Stevie's ex Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood, with whom she'd had an affair. Out of great conflict come great songs, and the songs on Nicks' first record without the band are truly awesome.

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From the title track to album closer 'The Highwayman' via the Tom Petty duet 'Stop Dragging My Heart Around' and the Don Henley duet 'Leather And Lace' (the perfect lyrical approximation of Stevie's tough exterior and softer Earth Mother sensibilities) every track is a mini masterpiece. And never more so, of course, than 'Edge Of Seventeen' with its propulsive guitar riff later borrowed (with Nicks' blessing) by Destiny's Child for their own staple hit, 'Bootylicious'.

There's nothing quite so memorable as that riff on her second solo record, 1983's The Wild Heart. But coming a year after her return to Fleetwood Mac for 'Mirage', it's edgier and more ambitious than that album's soft-rock stylings, book-ended as it is by the beautiful title track and the aching ballad 'Beauty And The Beast'.

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Tom Petty returns for the rocky 'I Will Run To You'. Prince is an uncredited musician on the dancey 'Stand Back', and if tracks like 'Enchanted' and 'Nightbird' straddle the musical middle of the road they do it with a wonderful melodic skill to match anything on 'Rumours'.

The remastering makes The Wild Heart sound fresh and exciting and it comes with a second disc of alternate and unreleased tracks, the lovely B-side 'Garbo' and Stevie's 'Violet And Blue' song from the Against All Odds soundtrack.

Bella Donna and The Wild Heart Deluxe Editions are out now on Rhino, stevienicksofficial.com.

Words: Simon Button

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