The trouble with once having been a rock star singer and songwriter ranking in the classic rock stratosphere is that the longer you write and perform, the harder it is to live up to the standard of your own best work. Few artists have singing-songwriting credentials that even approach those Stevie Nicks has, but that sets an almost impossibly high standard for her work today.
Nicks in the 21st century
I really wanted to like this album a lot. I mean, this is Stevie Nicks, for crying out loud. Lead vocalist for Fleetwood Mac during their multi-platinum-selling glory days. Writer of songs like "Dreams" and "Gold Dust Woman" and "Rhiannon". Chick who dated so many rock stars, she can't remember which one she wrote the opening track on her new album about.
Nicks wrote the first song on the In Your Dreams CD, "Secret Love" in 1976, during the Rumours recording sessions, but it never appeared on that or any other Fleetwood Mac album. Should that be considered a clue?
Dave Stewart (professional and personal partner of Annie Lennox when they were Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard produced the album. Stewart has been teasing it via Twitter tweets for more than a year. Did that help set expectations too high?
And then there's the ever present Fleetwood Mac connection. Nicks duets on the album with Lindsey Buckingham on "Soldiers Angel" and Mick Fleetwood appears in the video for "Secret Love" (lead track and first single from the album.) Does this enhance the album, or just serve as a reminder that the glory days are gone?
What's so bad?
It isn't that this is a bad album. Far from it. After all (I remind myself, and you, once again) this is Stevie Nicks we're talking about. No, this is more a matter of missed opportunities.
One of Stewart's tweases (teases via tweets) promised that the album would be produced "in a very new way." That, in fact, has long been Stewart's trademark -- stepping outside the box, innovating, experimenting. But to these ears, the production lacks any of those characteristics. Mind you, it is well produced, but more in the way that a Fleetwood Mac album would have been produced in the '70s than in "a very new way."
Opportunities were also missed in song selection, starting with that opening track. If "Secret Love" is such a strong song that it's chosen as the lead track and first single, why did it never make it onto a Fleetwood Mac album, or, for that matter, any of Nicks' previous six solo studio albums? It's telling that the best song on the album is "Annabel Lee" -- a poem written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1849 and adapted by Nicks when she was a teenager.
And then there's the matter of Nick's vocal delivery. She has retained the youthful sound that has helped make her voice unique, but she tries on several of these tracks for an effect that puts her at least a key above where she should be singing, making her voice sound thin and unnatural.
And what's good?
The aforementioned "Annabel Lee" is a winner. She gets her soul into it, and it's in a comfortable range for her voice. I'm surprised that it hasn't been on a Nicks album before now.
Although "Soldiers Angel" isn't particularly strong lyrically, it's fun to hear the Buckingham Nicks team together again.
Nearly half of the songs (six of 13) were co-written by Nicks and Stewart. Nicks gets sole writing credit on three, and three are collaborations, including one with Mike Campbell (Tom Petty's longtime guitarist) with wheom she has co-written before. Several of the songs are right interesting yarns, notably "Wide Sargasso Sea" and "Moonlight (A Vampire's Dream)" which are compelling to listen to in spite of shortcomings in production and/or being in a slightly too-high key.
If you're a longtime fan, you're going to want to have In Your Dreams in your collection, since it is a major waypoint in her solo career. If your interest is more casual, there are enough highlights to make the album worth a listen.
It's not a bad album at all, it just missed some opportunities to be better. After all, this is Stevie Nicks we're talking about.
Release date: May 3, 2011
Date of review: May 6, 2011