Bella Donna

Stevie Nicks

Modern Records, 1981

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan


By the year 1979, Stevie Nicks had realized her biggest dream: she was a rock singer in a great band that just happen to be one of the biggest bands in the world. It was all thanks to a phenomenal record called Rumours, which two years after its release was still moving copies faster than the record company could have them printed. Nicks was, however, still frustrated at the constraints of being part of a group along with two other prolific and very different songwriters, which resulted in her struggling to get more than three songs on each album.

Because the group had been hard at work on the followup to Rumours (my personal Mac favorite, Tusk), Stevie was in full writing mode and coming up with more than enough songs to feature on the record.  Fast-forward to late 1980 and the Mac had finished their Tusk tour and decided to take a short break to refuel and think about where they were going next. But Nicks had other plans, and she began working on her first solo LP that would shoot her star even higher.

Stevie brought together an impressive group of musicians to bring her songs to life under the watchful eye of producer Jimmy Iovine (Nicks’ boyfriend at the time). Members of The Heartbreakers, The E Street Band, and Elton John’s band all joined forces to help create one hell of a record. Before long, Tom Petty and Don Henley had also stopped by to record a couple of dream duets with Stevie and cut some backing vocals as well.

The disc opens with the title track, which is almost country in feel until the chorus kicks in and Waddy Wachtel’s signature guitar is used to beef things up; it’s an engrossing song about unrequited love. “Kind Of Woman,” however, is a direct warning to a man cheating on his wife, and it’s one of Nicks’ finest moments. This is followed by the classic slow-burning rocker “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” that Stevie recorded as a duet with Tom Petty (who wrote the song with Mike Campbell).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Think About It” was written for Christine McVie who was already thinking of leaving Fleetwood Mac back then, and Nicks’ lyrics offer an insight into their relationship: “I know you’d like to come away / But baby you can’t come / Your fortune is your life’s love / Anytime you think about leaving / Think about what you know / Think about it before you go.”

Nicks again offers another personal insight with her most country moment on the record, “After The Glitter Fades,” which is about living in Hollywood as a rock star: “Well I never thought I’d make it here in Hollywood / I never thought I’d ever want to stay / What I seem to touch these days has turned to gold / And what I seem to want, well, you know I’ll find a way.”

The album’s centerpiece, “Edge Of Seventeen,” has become Nicks’ trademark song. It’s a hypnotic rocker that Stevie wrote about John Lennon’s murder and the death of her uncle, also named John. It’s all here: the anger, the sadness and the hope for the future (“And the days go by, like a strand in the wind / In the web that is my own / I begin again / Said to my friend, baby / Nothing else mattered”). It is probably the song that most accurately typifies who Nicks is and what she does  as an artist.

Next up is the beautiful “How Still My Love,” which is a unique love song that only Stevie can write. It’s given a wonderful arrangement by Roy Bitta) that serves as the perfect foil for Nicks’ simple but touching lyrics. More love is shared with the other duet on the album, “Leather And Lace,” which Stevie recorded with onetime flame Don Henley. She wrote the song for Waylon Jennings and his wife to record, but when the couple separated Stevie refused to give him the song, and the rest is history.

“Outside The Rain” is one of my very favorite songs penned by Nicks. I love the slightly haunting arrangement and the way her words just flow and tell the story. The album closes with Stevie’s lament of a love affair with “The Highwayman,” which is again pretty much a country song with Henley offering some beautiful harmonies.

Bella Donna is one of the great rock albums of all time, and to this day it is probably Stevie’s most pleasing work away from Fleetwood Mac. Its success paved the way for Nicks to become one of very few artists who enjoys a solo career alongside being part of a band.

Rating: A

User Rating: A


© 2010 Mark Millan and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Modern Records, and is used for informational purposes only.