Album review: 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault by Stevie Nicks

24 Karat Gold by Stevie Nicks
24 Karat Gold by Stevie Nicks
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Fleetwood Mac may have just started a mammoth tour of the United States, their first with songbird Christine McVie in 17 years, but Stevie Nicks has still managed to release a new solo album, this month.

24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault, is a collection of 14 songs from Nicks’ enormous back catalogue of demos that never made it onto her records- songs which were written between 1969 and 1995.

Recorded over a three-month period, Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart was once again on production duties. After producing her last album, In Your Dreams, which was something of a let-down both musically and lyrically compared to 2001’s Trouble in Shangri-La, 24 Karat Gold makes much more of a statement than both of the aforementioned releases.

This may be, in part, due to Nicks herself also producing the record, with the help of long-time collaborator Waddy Watchel, who featured heavily on her early solo albums.

The reason this record has much more of an impact than her more recent albums, is possibly because each of the 14 tracks follow the same theme. In the liner notes, Nicks states: “ Each song is a lifetime. Each song has a soul. Each song has a purpose. Each song is a love story… They represent my life behind the scenes, the secrets, the broken hearts, the broken hearted and the survivors.”

Kicking off with the Rolling Stones-esque Starshine, Nicks’ unmistakeable nasal voice remains as constant as her chiffon scarves and platform boots.

Next up is The Dealer, which was demoed for both her first solo album, Bella Donna, and her third, Rock A Little. Finally making it onto 24 Karat Gold, it is very similar to the superior first version, demoed for Bella Donna.

Other fine up-tempo tracks include I Don’t Care, the token snarling ‘rock-out’ moment, which features at least once on most of Nicks’ solo records; and Cathouse Blues, more honky tonk in flavour.

That being said, this album’s finest moments take shape in the form of its darkest tracks. The title track begins with a pounding bassline, and goes into a haunting piano rhythm and jarring guitar part from Mr Watchell, as Ms Nicks sings about the chains of love.

Mabel Normand is another highlight on the record. Originally demoed for the Rock A Little album in 1985 – a time when Nicks was paying the price for her years of cocaine abuse – it documents the life of the silent film actress it is named after, who had the same substance battle several decades before. It becomes clear that Nicks is writing about Normand and herself in the song, as she sings: “She did her work, but her heart was quietly crying. I guess she even felt guilty about even dying.”

Gorgeously simple ballads, such as If You Were My Love and Hard Advice, nicely juxtapose the rockier material on the album.

24 Karat Gold is probably the most consistently fine selection of Nicks’ self-penned material since her 1983 album, The Wild Heart. A fine selection of similar yet different songs, each holding their own within this album, which is not something that could be said for Nicks’ last solo effort.

This is a real insight into the last 45 years of the life of one of the most unique and mystical talents there has ever been. Nicks has held nothing back, this time.

Sparks last performed in Leeds in 1975. Picture: Philippe Mazzoni

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