Bella Donna

Stevie Nicks

Modern Records, 1981

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


“You can ride high atop your pony, I know you won’t fall...” Those resounding words kick off Stevie Nicks’ debut album, Bella Donna, in bold fashion. And is she ever riding high. After four brilliant albums with Fleetwood Mac, Nicks was wisely advised to see what she could do as a solo artist. The mysterious Stevie Nicks. The first thing you notice right off the bat is what a poetess she is. Those mystical rhymes and lush, sweetly flowing melodies – if they don’t entrance you, nothing will. This is music of substance, folks.

Stevie Nicks was the only member of Fleetwood Mac to make the successful transition from the band to a solo career. Lindsey Buckingham has his followers, but his albums have always struggled to stick in the public’s consciousness in the way that Nicks’ have. For her part, Christine McVie has only dabbled in solo work by comparison, though her self-titled debut album is also a must own. Granted, whenever these three come back together for a Fleetwood Mac release, the magic cannot be duplicated. As the group founders Mick Fleetwood and John McVie will tell you, bringing them together was like catching white lightning in an amber bottle.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Produced by legendary producer Jimmy Iovine, Bella Donna is as close to a perfect debut album that could ever be conceived. Stevie needn’t have worried about finding a band to back her, cherry-picking members of the Eagles, the Heartbreakers, Elton John’s band and even Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band to join her. Such talent cannot be denied. They help Stevie to demonstrate her range, from fragile ballads like “Kind Of Woman” to the Tom Petty assist of the defiant “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” Later, Don Henley turns in my favorite duet with Stevie on the sublime “Leather And Lace.” With all the compilations and boxed sets Nicks has put out over the years, Bella Donna now plays like a Greatest Hits in its own right.

The best and most unexpected surprise for the uninitiated comes in the big standout number, “Edge Of Seventeen.” Didn’t think she had it in her to pull of something like that, did ya? As a precursor to her other dance hit “Stand Back,” it fires on all cylinders. You probably won’t find her recording upbeat pop-oriented material like this anymore, but whenever these songs are played live, they always bring down the house. For those who like their Stevie a little bit country, “After The Glitter Fades” is sure to satisfy, steel guitar included. Somehow, despite all these genre shifts, it all seems to hang together in one seamless package. Stevie Nicks truly is a miracle worker, though you’ll still be left wondering how she manages to do it all. If only she took more risks nowadays.

Like many, I’ve always found the solo records such as this to be stop-gaps between those perfect Fleetwood Mac albums. They satisfy, but only for brief periods. A Stevie Nicks song like “How Still My Love” even has that “suspended suspense” feel to it. You’re always left feeling like Lindsey and Christine will appear any second, so it’s always a bit of a letdown when they don’t.

Comparisons to the Fleetwood Mac fold will always be Stevie Nicks’ bugaboo, so it’s hardly a surprise to see the band hitting the road as much as they have in recent years. The line in “Outside The Rain” seems to sum up Bella Donna best: “It’s one more link in the chain.”

Rating: A-

User Rating: A



© 2014 Michael R. Smith 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.