Home Read Classic Album Review: Stevie Nicks | Trouble in Shangri-La

Classic Album Review: Stevie Nicks | Trouble in Shangri-La

Nicks hasn't changed a bit on her first solo set in eight years – for better or worse.

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This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


“I am something of a dreamer,” Stevie Nicks informs us on Candlebright, the second track on her comeback solo CD Trouble in Shangri-La. So much for understatement. And so much for any possibility of Nicks reinventing herself for the new millennium.

No, even though governments have fallen, technology has advanced and humanity has changed immeasurably since Nicks issued her last CD — that would be 1993’s incredibly forgettable Street Angel, not that you’d remember — Stevie is still Stevie. Still with the flowing hair. Still with the billowy dresses. And still warbling in that nanny-goat bleat about candlelight and sorcerers and crystals and plants and sapphires and singing frogs with magic hats (OK, I made that last one up, but we bet I had you going for a second there).

In Stevie’s defence, all of it — the mystical mumbo-jumbo, the fairy princess look, even the bleat — served her very well for a good long time. Stevie’s reign began in about 1975, when she wrote Rhiannon, turned Fleetwood Mac from an underappreciated British blues band into a ’70s pop music juggernaut and pretty much blazed a trail for every contemporary female rocker from Sheryl Crow to Courtney Love. Her dynasty lasted until the mid-’80s, thanks to albums like Belladonna, which featured Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around, her smash-hit duet with Tom Petty. But as Trouble in Shangri-La makes clear, those days are gone. According to the press bumpf for this CD, Stevie asked Tom to help her write songs for the album (hey, maybe she’s not as spinny as we think), but he said she didn’t need anybody’s help. He was wrong.

Trouble in Shangri-La does not have a Rhiannon (although Planets Of The Universe’s guitar line sort of references it). Nor does it have a Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around. Heck, it doesn’t even have a Gold Dust Woman. What it does have are 13 self-indulgent slices of monotonously jangly California folk-rock circa 1978 — acoustic guitars, mandolins, tambourines, sunshiney harmonies, you know the drill. The only sign that Nicks has bought an album in the last decade are a few trip-hoppy beatboxes scattered here and there on songs like That Made Me Stronger. For the most part, though, it’s not enough to make these songs stronger — it’s honestly hard to tell one track from another on this 56-minute album. (Nicks herself says in that press bumpf that her songs are “sometimes a continuation of one another.” This seems like an artsy way of saying that they all sorta sound the same to her, too.)

Even an extensive guest roster of rock divas — Sarah McLachlan, Macy Gray and  Dixie Chicks Natalie Maines from all pop up now and then, while Sheryl Crow worked on five songs — fail to add many distinguishing features to these tracks. Ultimately, only a couple of songs are unique enough to stand out from the pack: the Petty-ish country-rock twanger Too Far From Texas and the John Mellencampy Fall From Grace, a barn-burning, mandolin-driven roots-rocker that shoots sparks and proves Stevie hasn’t completely lost her touch. If only all of Trouble in Shangri-La were as invigorated and invigorating as these. But then, we all have our dreams.