65 of 67 people found the following review helpful
Throughout the 1970s Stevie Nicks was among the "golden line up" of the legendary Fleetwood Mac, and her lyrics and vocals did much to fuel the band's remarkable success on such releases as RUMORS. Still, when Nicks announced that she was going solo, there were naysayers aplenty. Many felt that Nicks' success with Fleetwood Mac rested in part on the musical settings created for her by various band members; others felt that she lacked the business know-how to put a solo deal together.
But Nicks proved much more artistically resourceful and a much tougher deal-maker than her critics expected. Released in 1981, BELLA DONNA exploded to the top of the charts. Throughout the 1980s Nicks would score further solo successes with THE WILD HEART and ROCK A LITTLE; at the same time she remained a mainstay of the on-again-off-again Fleetwood Mac. And she would become one of the most admired performers of the decade.
Whatever the merits of her other work, BELLA DONNA remains Nicks' single best selling solo effort, a release beloved by fans and admired by critics alike. And it isn't hard to see why. Although Nicks had done some very tough rock and roll with Fleetwood Mac, and had often performed folk and country-flavored songs with the band, BELLA DONNA extended her range in both directions. At the same, however, she did not make the mistake of doing material so completely different as to alienate her core fans, preferring instead to elaborate her previous work than to dismiss it completely.
The result is a series of songs that are very clearly by the same Stevie Nicks who performed with Fleetwood Mac--but which don't simply repeat the sound she acheived with that band. Perhaps the most obvious example is the opening title cut, which sounds very much like something Fleetwood Mac might have done, but which gradually turns in a number of directions that one would never expect from that band--a sort of fusion of Nicks' previous work and the new music she is about to present.
Nicks had done some fairly hard rockers with Fleetwood Mac, but with "Edge Of Seventeen" she takes her skills in that direction to the max, creating a hard, hard, hard rock vocal to a driving beat against a background of some the tightest back-up vocals you've ever heard any where. Her duet with Tom Petty, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," is done at a slower tempo but still creates a hard rock sound, and Nicks and Petty's voices are remarkably well blended. Nicks also veers more significantly toward a country music tone than she had in the past with "After the Glitter Fades," which proved a cross-over hit on the country charts, and her duet with Don Henley, "Leather and Lace," mixes pop and country idioms to tremendous effect.
If these cuts at least reference her original sound with Fleetwood Mac, the remaining cuts might have been written with Fleetwood Mac specifically in mind--and very likely were, songs that were probably never recorded for lack of space. "Kind of Woman," "Think About It," "How Still My Love," and most particularly "Outside the Rain" are very much in the Fleetwood Mac style, all of them expertly done, and all of them memorable.
In spite of her success as a solo artist, Nicks would continue to work with Fleetwood Mac--and fortunately so, for whereas her work with Fleetwood Mac would still find her in top form, her post-ROCK A LITTLE solo releases became increasingly problematic until her stunning TROUBLE IN SHANGRI-LA. But whatever her ups and downs, Nicks has remained one of the most interesting performers of her generation, a woman with a unique voice, a talent for creating unusual lyrics, and a powerhouse presence. It's hard to imagine any other performer quite like her. And BELLA DONNA remains one of her best. Recommended.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 1999
Bella Donna was the first solo album by Fleetwood Mac's rock and roll gypsy, Stevie Nicks, and it is a must-have for anyone who loves rock music. This album was Nicks' greatest solo acomplishment. Bella Donna not only sold millions of copies, it also was the album that made Rolling Stone magazine crown Nicks as the queen or rock and roll. The songs on the album have a hauntingly beautiful sound, with poetic and mysterious lyrics. Nicks' enchanting voice has the capabilies to capture one's soul. The hits on the album include Stop Draggin' My Heart Around (a duet with Tom Petty), Leather and Lace (a duet with Don Henely that has a hint of country music), and Edge of Seventeen (a song with a haunting feeling and some of her best lyrics); but the album is not limited to these songs. Other favorites include After the Glitter Fades, Outside the Rain, and Bella Donna. The songs on this album are inspiring and truly amazing.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2002
"I never thought I'd make it here in Hollywood," Stevie Nicks sings in "After the Glitter Fades," the fifth of the ten tracks on her first solo album "Bella Donna." And when that record was released, its success seemed, indeed, anything but guaranteed.
Sure, this was the magical frontwoman of one of rock history's most successful bands, Fleetwood Mac, a compulsive songwriter who had never found a sufficient outlet for her creativity in the context of her band; and the personification of the ethereal witch character she had created in her trademark song "Rhiannon." But Stevie as a solo artist? The doubters were many. Doom was prophesized for Fleetwood Mac which, as conventional wisdom had it, was sure to break up regardless of the success of Nicks's solo career, by virtue of the mere fact that she was going solo. Besides, would her dreamy persona work as well as a solo artist as it did in the context of her band? Last but not least, did Nicks, who had lived the high life ever since her career took off with Fleetwood Mac, be disciplined enough to make it through the production of a solo album?
The answer to the last question was a resounding "yes," thanks in no small part to producer Jimmy Iovine, brought in by record executive Paul Fishkin who had created his Modern Records label specifically for the production of Nicks's album. (Soon Iovine was so enthralled with Nicks, who returned the feelings, that they embarked on a several year-long relationship.) Iovine and Fishkin decided to present Nicks as a rock singer first and foremost; and indeed, the production credits of "Bella Donna" list many members of rock music's elite - more than one of whom later repeatedly returned to perform with Stevie Nicks; most notably Waddy Wachtel, long since the steady force at the heart of her live appearances, Tom Petty and almost all of his Heartbreakers, Don Henley and fellow ex-Eagle Don Felder, and of course Nicks's faithful background singers, Lori Perry and Sharon Celani.
But while the album does feature several straightforward rock songs - the best-known of them "Edge of Seventeen," one of her all-time greatest hits; and her duet with Tom Petty, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," the only song on the album not at least co-written by Nicks but by Petty and the Heartbreakers' guitarist Mike Campbell (the demo version was eventually released on Petty's 1995 "Playback" compilation) - there is still plenty of magic in true "Stevie style." The album's title track recalls Rhiannon's high flight when Nicks sings about her Bella Donna: "You can fly swinging from your trapeze, scaring all the people ... but you'll never scare me." "The Highwayman" describes a similarly enchanting woman's eternal chase of her man, "the one that comes and goes:" "And she in all her magic, with hands as quick as light, took him to be a challenge - her horse is like a dragonfly - and then he sees her coming - considers slowing down; but then ... he could never win; and she ... out in the distance sees him against the sky: A pale and violent rider, a dream begun in wine. - Today and still today they ride; will they ever win? He the glory, she the love ... Still they try again." The straightforwardly autobiographical "After the Glitter Fades" describes Nicks's incredible success ("what I seem to touch these days has turned to gold") and muses that despite all let-downs, "even though the living is sometimes laced with lies - it's the only life I've ever known - it's alright ... the feeling remains ... even after the glitter fades." And for "Leather and Lace," like her duet with Tom Petty long since one of the most famous duets of rock history and originally written for Waylon Jennings and his then-girlfriend Jessi Colter, Nicks asked longtime friend Don Henley to join her for the production of what was planned as a mere demo version of the song. Then Jennings and Colter unexpectedly broke up before they had recorded it, and the version generations of fans have come to know and love ended up on "Bella Donna." (Since Waylon Jennings's untimely passing, Nicks has taken to dedicating the song to him when performing it live.)
Stevie Nicks's first solo album, dedicated to her very first duet partner and musical influence, her grandfather AJ, and to Jimmy Iovine, "for giving me back my music," sold nearly 2,000,000 copies and hit No.1 in the album charts within the first two months after its July 1981 release. Both Nicks's duets with Tom Petty and Don Henley were Top 20 hits; so was "Edge of Seventeen." On September 3, 1981, Rolling Stone Magazine crowned her "the Queen of Rock'n Roll." While Fleetwood Mac did eventually break up (and subsequently reunited), that breakup, according to band members, had less to do with Nicks's solo career (actually, she did all she could to keep her solo flight from impacting the band) and more with the frictions and shifting dynamics within the entire band. Stevie Nicks's solo career, started with the premise set by Jimmy Iovine (as recounted by Nicks and Iovine for VH1's "Behind the Music") that it was to be approached "like you've never made an album before," as more than a hobby but "not big rock'n roll; [rather] something you have never done before," because Nicks was "not a proven solo artist in any way, shape, or form," soon became one of the most successful careers in rock history; equaling - no, surpassing her success with Fleetwood Mac. It provided a long-overdue outlet for her musical creativity and allowed her to expand her range into straightforward rock music territory. Despite later setbacks, Stevie Nicks is still around; and her most recent release, "Trouble in Shangri-La," is her strongest since her 1981 solo debut. "Bella Donna" was the foundation of all that, and more. It is not to be missed.
Enchanted: The Works of Stevie Nicks
Trouble in Shangri-La
Fleetwood Mac - The Dance
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2002
"Bella Donna," Stevie Nicks' first departure from Fleetwood Mac, was released in 1981. It's a true essential classic. Stevie's poetic lyrics and strong rock chords are in songs like "Edge of Seventeen," a song she wrote about her uncle whom she watched die...
Stevie became a superstar with Fleetwood Mac in the 70's but this album put her over the top...
With rock songs about men who didn't do Stevie right like "Kind of Woman," and "How Still My Love," Stevie's voice "rings like a bell through the night" with agony and also peace.
Stevie duets with Don Henley (of the Eagles) on "Leather and Lace," which became a Top 5 hit, and is a classic soft rock love song. "Lovers forever, face to face, my city your mountain, stay with me stay, I need you to love me, I need you today..."
Stevie's haunting voice and lyrics lead her through the title track, "Bella Donna." Another duet on "Stop Draggin My Heart Around," with rocker Tom Petty, put Stevie back into the Top 5!
"After the Glitter Fades," puts Stevie in perfect form. It's a country-ish song, and it even did ok on the country charts and pop, a one time only thing for a Stevie Nicks song. She tells women in this song how being a sex symbol and celebrity isnt all it's cracked up to be.
This is a masterpiece collection from Rock's best and most intimate lady, Stevie Nicks, the Queen of Rock N Roll = says Rolling Stone magazine, and I agree!!!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2003
Bella Donna was a triumph for Ms. Stevie Nicks. Proving that she could make it without Fleetwood Mac, this debut album became a multi-platinum success. And for good reason. Bella Donna is one of the most haunting and beautiful albums I have ever heard. It delivered 4 top 40 singles and earned Stevie her title, "the Queen of Rock N' Roll."
1. Bella Donna: Stevie's epic title track, this song is beloved by fans, and is one of Stevie's favorites. The arrangements and instrumentations are superb, as is Stevie's voice. 5/5
2. Kind of Woman: One of the slower songs on the album, it is very moody and dramatic. And gorgeous! The lyrics, music, everything is excellent. 5/5
3. Stop Draggin' My Heart Around: This was the big hit of the album, reaching the #2 slot on the charts. It is of course, Stevie's first duet with Tom Petty, and the song is truly a rocker. 5/5
4. Think About It: I really enjoy this song. It was actually written for Christine McVie who was debating on leaving Fleetwood Mac or not. The lyrics of this song have actually helped me out of some hard times. "Any time you think about leaving, think about what you know...." Definitely one of my favorite Stevie songs. 5/5
5. After the Glitter Fades: The most country sounding song on the album. I think Stevie could have definitely made it as a country artist if she wanted to. Again, a superb effort. 5/5
6. Edge of Seventeen: Ahhh, the true rocker of Stevie's career. Stevie gives a powerful performance which is amplified by the amazing guitar riff and sparse piano arrangement. I'm tempted to say this is the best song on the album. 5/5
7. How Still My Love: Like "Kind of Woman" this is one of the more dramatic songs on the album. "Still the same old story, what price glory." This is one of the album's many highlights. Great guitar work. 5/5
8. Leather and Lace: This is the one song on the album that I do not really like. It's a duet with Don Henley, and while it did well on the charts, I just can't get into this song. Although Stevie does give a very good vocal performance. 3/5
9. Outside the Rain: Possibly the best song on the album and definitely one of my favorites. The melody is just perfect and Stevie gives a rockin performance. "Look at my eyes, touch my face..." 5/5
10. The Highwayman: A nice, slow country-ish song. It has a more sparse musical arrangment, and is a very pretty song. 4/5
Bella Donna is most likely Ms. Nicks' best work. If you don't have it and love Stevie, you are crazy. This is a must have.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2003
"Bella Donna" is my favorite album of all time by any artist.
I have been a huge Stevie Nicks fan since age 11, and this was the album that began my love affair with her music and enchanting, mystical image. The song that struck a chord most
strongly with me was "Edge of Seventeen", Stevie's best and most
driving rocker in her career. Although I detest country music,
I loved (and still do) the three country-tinged songs on the album, the first being "After the Glitter Fades", Stevie's
disillusioned ode to the downfalls of mixing love (more like
one-night stands) with stardom. "Leather & Lace", the duet with
Eagle (and ex-boyfriend) Don Henley, is beautifully arranged and
is sung with an aching poignancy. "The Highwayman" is a poem set to music, it seems to me. The first time I heard it, I got
tears in my eyes...there is such a note of regret and longing throughout. "Outside the Rain" is another incredible Stevie rocker, one that she has opened her concerts with for the last
twenty years. I love the line "Love is a word that some entertain...and if you find it, you have won the game." The
front and back covers to this album always enchanted me...Stevie's trademark chiffon-gypsy garb, the cockatoo, the
tambourine...it appealed to me as a little girl...and it still does. This is the one album I could NEVER live without.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
While recording with Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks was limited to two or three of her compositions being recorded and released by the band. During her first six years with the band, she had amassed a large back catalog of songs. In 1981, she felt it was time to record some of them and the result was the superb Bella Donna. There were questions whether she could succeed without the assistance of one-time lover and long time collaborator Lindsey Buckingham. Not only did she succeed, she thrived. Employing a crack backup band that included members of the Heartbreakers and Roy Bittan from the E Street Band and under the steady hand of producer Jimmy Iovine, the album combines rockers like "Edge Of Seventeen", "Kind Of Woman" & the Tom Petty duet "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" to the midtempo of "Bella Donna" and "Outside The Rain" along with ballads like her gorgeous duet with Don Henley, "Leather & Lace". Their is also a country flavor with the aforemention "Leather", "The Highwayman" and the song that I feel is the best on the album, "After The Glitter Fades". The album hit the top of the charts and proved that Stevie Nicks had the goods to made it on her own.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2006
I became a Stevie Nicks fan a year or two ago. My mom was listening to some Fleetwood Mac songs and I was captivated by them. Especially Stevie Nicks' voice. My mom told me that Stevie also had some solo music. I researched a bit and heard "Edge of Seventeen". I had always loved that song but never knew it was a Stevie Nicks song. I became a fan instantly. So I downloaded some songs and sang along. I eventually got my first Stevie album a almost a year ago. I got "The Wild Heart" Stevie's second solo effort. Just this past christmas I got "Bella Donna".
This album is truly amazing. If you like Fleetwood Mac songs like "Gypsy" and "Beautiful Child" you will love this album. Its basically just that, all the mystical, sweet, strong tones of Fleetwood Mac(which Ms. Nicks has always influenced) in one album. Her lyrics are stunning although at times a bit hard to follow but that's just one of the things a person comes to expect from Stevie. In some senses its really fun and interesting not having a good idea what she's singing about yet you can tell by her voice that its very deep and heartfelt. I'm not going to give a breakdown of all the songs but I'll list some songs to sample that really shine on the album(if you're so inclined as I am to sample before you buy); "Edge of Seventeen", "After the Glitter Fades", "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" Feat. Tom Petty, "Leather and Lace" Feat. Don Henley, and "Kind of Woman". All the songs are truly a gem but those are the ones I find that most catch onto quickly and those are my favourites.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Despite hearing her vital early singles on her greatest hits, I never bothered to go back and get Stevie Nicks' first two albums, having begun with Rock A Little. Until now, that is. Many of the songs have the trademark of loneliness, a yearning for permanence, haunted by men who come and go, probably never to see them again, or haunting women.
The title track sets the pace of the sound, Waddy Wachtel's distinctive lead guitar that later proves key to making "Edge Of Seventeen" its flavour. It's a mixture of lively Tom Petty with a twist of country, with a very faint drop of Fleetwood Mac. It proves that Stevie Nicks has a sound of own independent of FM.
"Kind Of Woman" is a slower number that tells a woman's POV of her man being attracted to another woman, who is "the kind of woman that'll haunt you".
"Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" is the first of two duets she does. Might as well call this Stevie Nicks and the Heartbreakers. It's almost like Nicks's "Refugee." Seriously though, the signature Heartbreakers sound makes this radio staple, however overplayed, a classic. So the next time you hear it and roll your eyes, hey, stop draggin' Stevie down!
"Think About It" could make a good country remake. "After The Glitter Fades" is a country-tinged portrait of a star Hollywood actress who despite the stigma of being lonely at the top, decides that it's all worth it because it's all she knows: "Evern though the living is sometimes laced with lies/It's alright/The feeling remains even after the glitter fades."
Then comes that well-known chugging rhythm guitar that forms the backbeat of the single. Yes, it's "Edge Of Seventeen." With five verses intercut with the chorus, it's quite a long song, but there's a haunting quality to the imagery she presents. However, I have vivid memories of this song because Bill, my roommate in college used to put his LP on this song, put the headphones on, and sing to this out loud. I kid you not! And this isn't the only Nicks song he did this too. More on that on future reviews.
"How Still My Love" has a mellowed melody reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams". However, things go up a crescendo with the intense guitars that come on from the time she sings "Standing...in the doorway."
Then comes the other hit duet, "Leather And Lace" which she does with Don Henley. Roy Bittan's piano really gives this a sweet melody. This song seems to have the most hope of all here. It's a conversation between a strong independent woman who through her intuition knows that the man is going to stay. The chorus, where she sings "Give to me your leather/Take from me ...my lace" is a reference that he thinks she's fragile and she says to give her some of his strength and remove her weakness.
"Outside The Rain" is a song I can picture Petty and his Heartbreakers doing during their Damn The Torpedoes era. Small wonder, as Petty, Michael Campbell, and Benmont Tench are the players here.
The slow country-ish "The Highwayman" is another song of a man fighting hard for a life of adventure, not willing to be tied down.
The plethora of guest stars here guaranteed this to be a hit album, ranging from "Professor" Roy Bittan of the E Street Band, the Heartbreakers, and Don Henley and Don Felder of the Eagles. Also, the dates of the songs range from 1974 to 1981, demonstrating that Nicks was lucky enough to have some songs to spare for her talent instead of for Mac. And this of course introduces her regular backup singers that made her sound unique, Lori Perry and Sharon Celani--take a bow, ladies. The sign of even better things to come from this bella donna.
Speaking of which, the title of the album, meaning beautiful lady, but also the deadly plant of the nightshade family, which is used to make a woman's eyes larger, like a creature of the night, and the haunting, ghostly women of the eve.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2012
Stevie Nicks is the 5'1" vocal powerhouse who defined Fleetwood Mac during their years of greatest success. A late arrival (in tandem with Lindsey Buckingham) to what had been a moderately popular 1960s English rock-blues band, Stevie's voice and style recast Fleetwood Mac as the most successful of the preeminent pop-rock acts of the 1980s. The band's 1977 release Rumours became the best-selling album in music history for a time, bypassing Carole King's 1971 classic Tapestry.
By 1981, strains within the band (and Fleetwood Mac lived with strain through all its various incarnations) led Stevie (and others) to go solo. BELLA DONNA is Stevie's first solo album, and it established her as a dominant performer at the outset of the 1980s, a time when rock 'n' roll was not always kind to women. It also cemented Stevie's stage image (first established by the song Rhiannon) as a gothic gypsy tinged with magic. Belladonna is a medicinal plant, which, taken in large doses is fatal, and Stevie's cover photo, dressed in a shroudlike dress holding a white bird on a dark background, speaks to the gothic, as does her admonition on the album jacket to "Come in---out of the darkness."
Save the haunting "Kind of Woman" there is little of the gothic about BELLA DONNA's tracks, however. The album spawned three classic rock anthems, the hard-driving "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," the romantic yet challenging "Leather And Lace," and the iconic "Edge of Seventeen" which can still blast a listener off his or her feet, such is the sheer power of Stevie's husky, warm voice and sheer presence.
The balance of the album is filled with a mixture of sensitive ballads and country-inspired tunes, reflecting Stevie's Arizonan Country-Western roots, including the title track "Bella Donna" (which means "Beautiful Lady"), "After The Glitter Fades," and "The Highwayman." She was taught to sing and play by her grandfather, a locally popular country singer, and BELLA DONNA is dedicated to him and to his progeny.
BELLA DONNA is considered a classic album, and there's a very good reason. There's not a wasted or missed note. Thirty years later, it is still a masterwork of the Enchantress.