on May 11, 2001
Like most everyone else, I think "TROUBLE IN SHANGRI-LA" is the best, and most complete, album Stevie Nicks has recorded since 1981's "BELLA DONNA." Unlike most people, though, I think it's even better than her solo debut. While "BELLA DONNA" was the ultimate in studio sheen perfection, it lacked the depth and warmth and humanity that just exudes from "TROUBLE IN SHANGRI-LA." Mind you, as a life-long Nicks fan, I had just about given up on her after 1994's lackluster "STREET ANGEL" and the disasterous tour that accompanied it. That's why I'm so happy to see her come roaring back in such fine form. So, sit back and enjoy this review.....like Julia Roberts at the Oscars, I'm taking my time with this one; "TROUBLE..." is such a strong release that the only way to approach it is as a complete package, song by song! Opening the CD is the smooth, silky title track, with it's slightly haunting chorus of "I run through the grass/I run over the stones (in those boots?!?)/Down to the sea" and it's chilling lyrics ("You can consume all the beauty in the room, baby/I know you can, I've seen you do it"). Up next is "Candlebright", a classic acoustic strummer that would fit on any one of Nicks' solo albums. It's amazing to think a song written over 30 years ago could stand the test of time and sound this fresh, but I guess that's the sign of a true artist. One of the highpoints of "TISL", "Sorcerer" is amazing on so many levels. While it's easy to dismiss the song as typical Nicks airy-fairyness, take the time to go a little deeper...With it's strumming acoustic guitars and rhythmic backbone, "Sorcerer" finds Nicks hitting high notes she hasn't hit in years, if ever. It's just another example of the fact that Stevie Nicks is "back!" "Planets Of The Universe" is also classic Nicks. With elements of both "Rhiannon" and "Nightbird" in it, the song creeps along, building, then exploding. Mark my word.....this track will give "Stand Back" and "Edge Of Seventeen" a run for their money in concert! I was a little wary about "Every Day" as "TROUBLE..."'s first single but, after a few listens, the track's simplicity has won me over. There's a swaying magic to it.....hearing Nicks sing "Imagine all the ways to cope/I close my eyes, that gives me hope" in an almost a cappella whisper is, quite honestly, both breath-taking and heart-breaking. Another major success is "Too Far From Texas." Cowritten by Sandy Stewart (when is she going to do another record?!?), this track will be an across-the-board smash on both the AC and pop charts, and may very well cross over to the country charts. Nicks and Dixie Chicker Natalie Maines blend perfectly together, and with a band that includes Mike Campbell, Sheryl Crow and Benmont Tench backing them, well, you can't get much better than this! What is known as "Side Two" on the tape opens with the hip-swaying, slightly psychedelic "That Made Me Stronger", an autobiographical song inspired by Tom Petty. Probably the most representative of where Nicks is now in her life, it ends with the words "Everything has changed now/And I don't want to go back/And nothing you can say can change my mind." Then there's the Sheryl Crow-penned "It's Only Love." With it's stripped-down instrumentation, simple arrangement and hushed vocal, this is one of the most nakedly honest and touching songs Nicks has ever recorded. It's simply lovely. Next up is "Love Changes", with it's boarderline dance/rap sensibility, and "I Miss You", another sweetly acoustic track that just seems to float out of the speakers. "Bombay Sapphires" is probably "TISL"'s weakest track, but it still has a nice third world/rock vibe to it (even if Macy Gray's backing vocals are all but nonexistant). Wrapping up the CD are two more of it's strongest tracks. "Fall From Grace" is another autobiographical rocker that, reminiscent of Tom Petty's "I Need To Know", is sure to win Nicks her first (and long overdue!) Female Rock Vocal Grammy. Closing out the CD is the gorgeous "Love Is." Buoyed by Sarah McLachlan's piano and haunting backing vocals, Nicks just shines here. Always known for closing her albums on a strong note - O.K., we won't mention "STREET ANGEL" and "Jane!" - Nicks keeps the tradition alive with this tender track. In closing, a lot of people will want to compare "TISL" with Santana's "SUPERNATURAL." Fine.....it is a similar formula; Nicks has created an album with some of today's hottest young talent, yet retained her own identity. And, yes, she may be similarly lucky come Grammy time. But "TISL" is so much more. It's the work of an artist many people had written off as recently as five years ago. It's the work of an artist who managed to come back fresher and more vibrant than ever. It's the work of an artist who's sure to be in the running for my Album of the Year. In short, it's the work of an artist......and, quite simply, a masterpiece.