The Eagles

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The Eagles debut albumThe Eagles produced an impressive, diverse, and sonically superior debut album in 1972, launching a successful elevation throughout the rest of the decade. The album was produced in London by Glyn Johns and was an immediate commercial and critical success. The album is extraordinarily balanced with all four band members writing and singing lead vocals on several tracks, with a mixture of rock, folk, and country, throughout musically. The sound was forged from the budding country-rock scene in Los Angeles, led by groups such as Poco, adding instruments like banjo and pedal steel guitar to the basic rock arrangement. Leading the way in forging this sound was guitarist Bernie Leadon.

Prior to forming the group, the band members all acted as backup players for singer Linda Ronstadt and all four played on her eponymous album, released in 1972. Leadon, along with bassist Randy Meisner, guitarist Glen Frey, and drummer Don Henley, decided to break off and start their band and were soon signed to the new label Asylum Records. The band’s name was allegedly suggested by Leadon during a peyote trip in the Mohave desert.

Despite their rapid formation and quick recording of this debut, it is amazingly polished and has a remarkable level of pop sensibility. The Eagles spawned three top 40 hit singles, all which remain very popular to this day, while much of the rest of the album contains well-constructed songs with incredible vocal harmonies by all four band members.


The Eagles by The Eagles
Released: June 17, 1972 (Asylum)
Produced by: Glyn Johns
Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, February 1972
Side One Side Two
Take It Easy
Witchy Woman
Chug All Night
Most Of Us Are sad
Nightingale
Train Leaves Here This Morning
Take the Devil
Early Bird
Peaceful Easy Feeling
Tryin’
Band Musicians
Glen Frey – Guitars, Keys, Vocals
Bernie Leadon – Guitars, Banjo, Vocals
Randy Meisner – Bass, Guitar, Vocals
Don Henley – Drums, Vocals

The album begins with the popular “Take It Easy”, a song written by Frey and fellow L.A. songwriter Jackson Browne. A relatively simple anthem with memorable and clever lyrics, the song possesses a definitive country/rock arrangement accented by Leadon’s frantic banjo in the second half of the tune. There are rich harmonies throughout, establishing another later trademark of the band’s on this first single which peaked at #12 on the charts.

The moody and mysterious “Witchy Woman” follows in great contrast to the opening song. Henley took over vocals on this tune he co-wrote with Leadon, and showcases his fantastic vocal talents for the only time on this album. Leadon adds to the mood with his great guitar on this tune that he began while a member of the band Flying Burrito Brothers at the beginning of the 1970s. The song’s protagonist was inspired by Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald, and inspiration for many of his female literary characters.

The remainder of the first side contains the only real weak spots on the album. Frey’s “Chug All Night” is pretty much a throwaway song, the worst on the album. The country-waltz “Most of Us Are Sad” was also written by Frey, but sang by Meisner, while “Nightingale” is more upbeat country / folk. This last song on side one is the second contribution by Jackson Browne and has the quintessential early 1970s California sound with more great harmonies during choruses.

Side two is much more interesting. It starts with “Train Leaves Here This Morning”, co-written by Leaden and former Byrd Gene Clark. This is a great, laid back tune, much like Neil Young’s title song to Harvest, but with the added bonus of very rich vocals. The subtle acoustic is accented by calm electric slow riffs, which shows the definite Byrds influence. “Take the Devil” was composed and sang by Meisner and is almost like a dark twin to “Witchy Woman”, although it is clear that Meisner does not have the vocal range of Henley. “Earlybird” gets off to a very unique start with odd percussion and bird whistles. This Leadon tune has a heavy banjo presence throughout (almost as an arpeggio replacement for the bass) along with the inclusion of some wild guitars over top.

“Peaceful Easy Feeling” is a calm acoustic love song composed by L.A, singer/songwriter Jack Tempchin and delivered masterfully by Frey. The country-flavored ballad set in the desert (an image the Eagles ran with on their earliest material) became the third top 40 hit off the album, peaking at #22. The album concludes with Meisner’s upbeat “Tryin” which returns to the genre established on the first side that would one day be deemed “outlaw country”.

The three “hits” from The Eagles album comprised about a third of the 1976 compilation Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975, which became the top-selling album of the 20th century. Although this is a fantastic feat, it conversely dampened sales of the Eagles first four studio albums, the best of which was this 1972 debut.

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1972 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1972 albums.

 

Tango In the Night by Fleetwood Mac

Tango In the Night by Fleetwood MacTango In the Night is the fifth and final studio album by successful quintet that brought sustained stardom for Fleetwood Mac. Like their previous four albums, it found popular success driven by the angst and inner turmoil of the band and resulted in the parting of guitarist Lindsey Buckingham soon after its release. The album went on to become the band’s best selling since Rumours a decade earlier, which was one of the top selling albums of all time. Somewhat ironically, the album sprang from a Buckingham solo project, meant to be his third solo album, and the soon-to-depart Buckingham ended up with the bulk of the songwriting credits on the album.

Following the band’s previous album Mirage in 1982, most members dedicated some time to respective solo careers. Vocalist Stevie Nicks released two albums, while Buckingham and Keyboardist Christine McVie each released one during this era. All met a measure of commercial success, which prompted rumours of a band breakup.

However, by 1985 the band had reconvened for this new album, with Buckingham and Richard Dashut co-producing. Together, they forged a unique sound that used just the right amount of 1980s-style synthesizers along with vast use of diverse rhythms, driven by drummer Mick Fleetwood. The result was a commercially successful album that was also distinct from anything the band had produced previously.
 


Tango In the Night by Fleetwood Mac
Released: April 13, 1987 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Lindsey Buckingham & Richard Dashut
Recorded: November 1985 – March 1987
Side One Side Two
Big Love
Seven Wonders
Everywhere
Caroline
Tango In the Night
Mystified
Little Lies
Family Man
Welcome to the Room…Sara
Isn’t It Midnight
When I See You Again
You and I (Part 2)
Band Musicians
Lindsey Buckingham – Guitars, Percussion, Vocals
Christine McVie – Keyboards, Vocals  |  Stevie Nicks – Vocals
John McVie – Bass | Mick Fleetwood – Drums, Percussion

 
The album kicks off with Buckingham’s “Big Love” with its unique driving rhythms and decorated cool soundscapes. The intense, shouting lead vocals are flanked by overdubbed guitars and vocals harmonies and chants throughout. Nicks’ “Seven Wonders” provides an immediate contrast to follow. Co-written by Sandy Stewart, the song was an immediate pop radio hit. Christine McVie’s “Everywhere” completes the initial circuit of pop songs in the style that McVie had composed so often through the 1970s and 1980s. It is decorated with great vocals and harmonies, nice keyboard riffs, and just a touch of mystical sound sequences.

A trifecta of Buckingham penned songs rounds off the first side. “Caroline” is percussion driven with African beats at the start before morphing into a more Caribbean rhythm for the verses and choruses. The title song, “Tango In the Night” is a moody, methodical rocker with distinctive sections. “Mystified” was co-written by Christine McVie and contains Baroque style keys over yet another drum beat.
 

 
“Little Lies” was written by Christine McVie and her current husband Eddy Quintela. Ironically, she kept the surname of her previous husband, bass player John McVie, who has a strong presence in the song. The song contains great vocal parts for each of the band’s singers along with bent-note keyboard effects for its signature riff. The song reached #4 on the Billboard charts in the US and #5 on the UK charts.
The ill-advised “Family Man” follows as a cartoonish 1980s pop caricature.

Stevie Nicks’ “Welcome to the Room…Sara” is a pleasant and moderate ballad with a strong beat but melancholy sentiments about her time in rehab. Her acoustic ballad “When I See You Again” contains a spare arrangement and some duet Buckingham vocals towards the end. “You and I, Part II” concludes the album as a sequel to a non-album B-side to the single “Big Love”.

Shortly after the release of Tango In the Night, tensions came to a head and Buckingham departed the band prior to their scheduled tour in support of the album. Although this classic lineup of Buckingham/Nicks/Fleetwood/McVie/McVie would reunite a decade later for the live album The Dance in 1997, they would not again record a studio album.

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R.A.

 

New Miserable Experience by Gin Blossoms

New Miserable Experience by Gin BlossomsReleased during the heyday of the grunge music movement, New Miserable Experience was the peak of Gin Blossoms‘s short-lived fame in the early 1990s. It consists of lean and jangly pop music that hearkened back to some of the college radio alternative pop of the 1980s such as The Replacements or R.E.M. The album was the band’s major-label debut after they had spent years building their popularity at the local level around Phoenix. However, the making of this album came with inner turmoil as chief songwriter and lead guitarist Doug Hopkins became an impediment by drinking heavily and growing stubborn and disillusioned with the recording process, which ultimately led to his termination from the band at the label’s insistence.

Hopkins’ writing credits included all four of the popular “hits” from the album, with his penchant for somber lyrics and notable melodies. He founded the Gin Blossoms in the mid 1980s and helped them develop into one of the most popular local bands in Tempe, AZ and facilitated independent record releases. Hopkins, who suffered from mental illness and alcoholism, was staunchly against the band signing with a major label, and this led to his downward spiral in the studio and eventual firing. Hopkins became increasingly despondent as the band rose to fame performing the songs he had written. Shortly after receiving a gold record for the song “Hey Jealousy”, he tore it off the wall and destroyed it. Ten days later, Hopkins committed suicide. As lead singer Robin Wilson later acknowledged; “Without Doug and his songwriting, we never could have signed a record deal.” Quite ironic.

 


New Miserable Experience by Gin Blossoms
Released: August 4, 1992 (A&M)
Produced by: John Hampton & Gin Blossoms
Recorded: Ardent Studios, Memphis, TN, 1992
Track Listing Band Musicians
Lost Horizons
Hey Jealousy
Mrs. Rita
Until I Fall Away
Hold Me Down
Cajun Song
Hands Are Tied
Found Out About You
Allison Road
29
Pieces Of the Night
Cheatin’
Robin Wilson – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Doug Hopkins – Guitars
Jesse Valenzuela – Guitars, Mandolin, Vocals
Bill Leen – Bass
Phillip Rhodes– Drums, Percussion
 
New Miserable Experience by Gin Blossoms

The bulk of the hit songs on New Miserable Experience, were actually recorded three years earlier, in 1989, for the Gin Blossoms independent album Dusted. These included “Lost Horizons”, “Hey Jealousy”, “Cajun Song”, and “Found Out About You”. The opener “Lost Horizons” establishes the basic vibe of the album (which does not vary much throughout) with driving, bright guitars, subdued vocals and a steady, methodical rhythm. Lyrically, Hopkins addresses his own alcoholism and personal demons;

“I’ll drink enough of anything to make this world look new again, drunk, drunk, drunk in the gardens and graves…”

“Hey Jealousy” has a jangly power pop motif with more darkly confessional lyrics by Hopkins with a bit of emotional complexity. On Jesse Valenzuela‘s “Cajun Song”, the band displays more versatility with strong harmonies and country elements, something that is more fully explored later on the album’s closer “Cheatin'”. “Found Out About You” became the band’s only #1 hit, topping the Modern Rock Tracks, and the best pure pop song on the album, with a catchy hook and a melodic mix of guitar parts.

 

A few more of the more popular radio tracks include the melodic and restrained “Until I Fall Away” and “Allison Road”, which Has a Buddy Holly influenced beginning, and more pleasant and melodies and harmonies. Throughout the album, the rhythm section of bassist Bill Leen and drummer Phillip Rhodes, provide the steady and driving tempo which allows for movement on top end. This especially true on the album’s heavier tracks, “Mrs. Rita”, “Hold Me Down” and “Hands Are Tied”.

Many wondered if Gin Blossoms could replicate the success of New Miserable Experience without Hopkins songwriting. They did reach a level of success with their 1996 follow-up album and a few more hit singles, but by 1997 the band was finished and this album proved to be their apex.

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R.A.
 


1992 Images

 

Rumours by Fleetwood Mac

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Rumours by Fleetwood Mac It took the band Fleetwood Mac ten albums and many lineup shifts to achieve mainstream commercial success, but the group got there with their 1975 eponymous release. This was the first album to feature songwriters and vocalists Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, who joined the band following the departure of Bob Welch. Cashing in on that success, the band expanded the formula with their eleventh album, 1977’s Rumours. Produced by the band along with Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut, this album would become not just the band’s top seller, but one of the highest selling albums ever up to that point in time.

Much of the album was recorded in a small cabin north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate in Sausalito, CA. Although Rumours is filled with pleasant, easy-going, and melodic pop/rock throughout, the album’s creation and production was anything but cool and steady. All five members of the band, which included two married couples, struggled with relationship breakups around the time. Buckingham and Nicks were having an on and off relationship with constant fighting. The band’s other primary writer and keyboardist Christine McVie and bassist John McVie had recently divorced after eight years of marriage and refused to speak to each other except when working on songs. Drummer Mick Fleetwood faced his own domestic problems after discovering his wife had an affair with his best friend. It was later revealed that Fleetwood and Nicks started a relationship around this time. Further, there was much press intrusion into the member’s lives as well as unsubstantiated rumours (giving the album its name). This stressful situation and internal strife influenced many of the album’s lyrics but, to the band’s credit, this strife did not adversely effect the quality of the album or its production.

The album has high quality harmonies among three vocalists and was inspired by many different genres. Buckingham took charge of the musical directions of the sessions as the record had an original working title of “Yesterday’s Gone”. During the formative stages of compositions, Buckingham and the classically trained Christine McVie played guitar and piano together to create the basic song structures. They were latter joined by the rhythm section of Fleetwood and John McVie, who were the last remaining members of the original blues band which was formed in the late 1960s. Nicks believed that Fleetwood Mac created the best music when in the worst shape and her lyrical focus allowed the instrumentals in the songs that she wrote to be looser and more abstract. The goal of the band and their producers was to have a completely “no-filler” final product, with every song having the potential of being a single or radio hit. They would come remarkably close to reaching this goal.
 


Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
Released: February 4, 1977 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Fleetwood Mac, Ken Caillat, & Richard Dashut
Recorded: Record Plant Studios, Sausalito and Los Angeles, CA, 1976
Side One Side Two
Second Hand News
Dreams
Never Going Back Again
Don’t Stop
Go Your Own Way
Songbird
The Chain
You Make Lovin’ Fun
I Don’t Want to Know
Oh Daddy
Gold Dust Woman
Band Musicians
Lindsey Buckingham – Guitars, Vocals
Christine McVie – Keyboards, Vocals
Stevie Nicks – Vocals
John McVie – Bass
Mick Fleetwood– Drums

 
The moody and complex song “The Chain” originated from a pair of demos by Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks which were fused together. The tempo is increased starting with a bass solo by John McVie through the song’s coda. “The Chain” is the only collaborative song on the album, composed by every member of the band, as the rest of the compositions were made solely by one of the band’s three primary writers.

Buckingham’s songs include the album’s opener “Second Hand News”, a Celtic influenced rock song with “chair” percussion for effect. It is not the strongest opening number, but it does set up the later pop tracks nicely. “Never Going Back Again” is much better, a largely overlooked classic on Rumours. It is a pleasant and melodic guitar diddy done nearly entirely by Buckingham, with just the slightest backing vocals during the shortest durations, This really should be out of place on this album of pop songs, but it works nevertheless.

Fleetwood Mac in 1977

“Go Your Own Way” is the most popular song on the album written by Lindsey Buckingham. It was released as the album’s first single and became the group’s first top ten hit in the U.S. The song’s lyric offers a pessimistic view of his complicated relationship with Stevie Nicks. Nicks offered her own view of that relationship in “Dreams”, which would go on to become the band’s only number one Billboard song.

From first listen, “Dreams” is an instant classic. The minimal backing rhythm provides a perfect canvas for Nicks to paint her vocal masterpiece masterpiece. Nicks claims she wrote the song in Sausalito in “about ten minutes” and the band started recording it the very next day. Some of the more complex guitar and bass patterns were later added in Los Angeles. Although incredibly simple, the song’s arrangement gives it an air of complexity which makes it sound fresh decades later.

Nicks’ other two compositions appear late on the second side. “I Don’t Want to Know” is leftover from the pre-Fleetwood Mac, “Buckingham and Nicks” days and contains harmonized vocals throughout. The album’s closer, “Gold Dust Woman” features some cool sounds from a dobro, percussive instruments, and several acoustic guitars. This song about cocaine addiction is haunting but never tragic as the soundscape sets a dreamy scene with a tinge of hope.

You Make Loving Fun by Fleetwood MacChristine McVie composed four songs on Rumours, starting with the smash hit “Don’t Stop”, which has become one of the Fleetwood Mac’s signature songs. Trading lead vocals with Buckingham, Christine’s lyrics offer an optimistic view following her divorce from band mate John. “It seemed to be a pleasant revelation to have that ‘yesterday’s gone’,” she remembers. “You Make Loving Fun” is a much better song, perhaps the best pure pop song that the band has ever delivered. The verse is driven’ by a Soul-inspired clarinet, which backs McVie’s calm crooning. During the chorus, Christine is joined by some complex harmonies by Buckingham and Nicks during a beautiful arrangement which puts the song over the top.

Christine McVie’s other two contributions are calm piano tunes. “Songbird” was performed and recorded in a concert hall to capture the ambiance perfectly. With introspective, almost prayer-like lyrics, the song has been covered several times, primarily by folk singers. “Oh Daddy” is a more complex theme which directly references Mick Fleetwood, who the band nicknamed “The Big Daddy”. A founding member, Fleetwood had much influence in the band’s direction and seemed to always turn out to be right, especially during this time of great success.

Fleetwood called Rumours “the most important album we ever made” (and he was there for there for each and every album). With its success, the group would continue recording for years to come through many changes in the pop and rock world. By the album’s tenth anniversary in 1987, it had sold nearly 20 million copies worldwide.

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1977 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1977 albums.

 

Hotel California by The Eagles

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Hotel California by the EaglesWhether it was done intentionally or not, Hotel California came pretty close to being a true concept album by The Eagles. The songs each loosely share the themes of paradise lost or squandered and the album is bookmarked by geographical locations of such. As the band’s fifth album, it was transitional in several ways including music and personnel wise. Guitarist Bernie Leadon, a strong influence on the band’s country sound of the early years was replaced by funk-rock guitarist Joe Walsh, who had previously fronted the groups James Gang and Barnstorm. As a result, the band’s sound got a bit heavier while never abandoning its mainstream pop sensibilities.

The album was produced by Bill Szymczyk, who had produced the Eagles previous two albums as well as several albums by Joe Walsh and the James Gang. Szymczyk was noted for laboriously experimenting until he found the right “sound” in each artist, as the producer possessed no musical talent or training, just extraordinary listening skills. The band took 18 months between releases of their previous album One of These Night and Hotel California, with eight of those months in the studio recording.

Thematically, members of the Eagles have described the album as a metaphor for the perceived decline of America. The band’s lead singer, songwriter, and drummer Don Henley said that because it was the bicentennial year and the “Eagle” is the symbol of our country, they felt obliged to make some kind of artistic statement. He explained how they used California as a microcosm of the whole United States, with comments on the nature of success and the attraction of excess, and an extremely pessimistic history of America.

 

Don Henley – Drums, Vocals


Hotel California by The Eagles
Released: December 8, 1976 (Asylum)
Produced by: Bill Szymczyk
Recorded: Criteria Studios, Miami & Record Plant, L.A., March-October 1976
Side One Side Two
Hotel California
New Kid In Town
Life In the Fast Lane
Wasted Time
Wasted Time (Reprise)
Victim of Love
Pretty Maids All In the Row
Try and Love Again
The Last Resort
Band Musicians
Glenn Frey – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Joe Walsh – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Don Felder – Guitars, Vocals
Randy Meisner – Bass, Guitarron, Vocals

 

While the lyrical content of the album is up for debate, the true beauty of Hotel California is the sound, much of which was unlike anything the Eagles had done before. The opening theme song starts with long acoustic/electric intro, which was originally introduced to the band by lead guitarist Don Felder as an instrumental piece. This acts as a dramatic overture before the song kicks in with a quasi-Caribbean rhythm and beat with the first verse and the cryptic, yet intriguing, storytelling lyrics. However, the real treat that makes this song a bonafide classic are the dual electric guitars by Walsh and Felder, which float above the lyric stinging electric melodies throughout the verse and chorus, and take center stage with the long, dual guitar lead to close the song.

To this day, many of the unique terms and phases used in the song’s lyric are debated as to their exact meaning or intent. These include “colitas”, “this could be Heaven or this could be Hell”, “wine” referred to as a “spirit” (which it is not), “steely knives”, and the key phase of the song – “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”.

After this unique artistic masterpiece, the band serves up a couple of songs which both went on to be big hits, one in the country-rock style of the past, and one in the heavier rock style of the future. “New Kid In Town” is probably the greatest country rock song ever (if there ever really was such a genre) It has some great chord structure, a beautiful mix of instrumentation, and more great guitar by Don Felder, although much less subtle than on the title song. Co-written by J.D. Souther and sung by Glenn Frey, the song ascends keys in the third verse and then finds a smooth passage back before the outtro, in a piece of musical mastery. “Life In the Fast Lane” features a heavy guitar riff and lead by Joe Walsh, with lyrics that are a bit edgy. It uses the driving analogy for a drug and danger fueled lifestyle and contains a great hook with an almost-disco beat. The nice flanged section after last chorus gives the song an edgy, new-wave feel that makes the sound quite advanced for 1976.

Eagles in 1976

The first side ends with “Wasted Time”, a song that may be the perfect barroom ballad speaking of broken relationships. The song is very slow and measured, with great vocals by Henley. However, the orchestral reprise of the song which opens up the second side of the album is, in fact, “wasted time” as it adds absolutely nothing to the album. This short foray is mercifully disrupted by the hard rocker “Victim of Love”, a song which proves that the Eagles can do more with two chords than any other band ever. This song was recorded live in the studio and contains a great descend into a slide solo by Joe Walsh.

Walsh’s only songwriting and lead vocal effort is “Pretty Maids All In a Row”, which is not a very strong representation of his talents. It is a piano ballad, surprising by Walsh with Felder playing the lead guitar role. “Try and Love Again” was written and sung by bassist Randy Meisner, who has that strange kind of voice which gives songs a cool edge, such on his “Take It To the Limit” on the previous album. Hotel California would be Meisner’s last album with the band, as he decided to return to his native Nebraska in order to be with his family.

The album concludes with Henley’s “The Last Resort”, which bookends the “Hotel California” theme nicely on one hand, but is kind of the anti-Hotel California on another hand. Where that classic song is poetic and leaves much room for interpretation, this one is preachy with lyrics that are a bit bigoted, racist, elitist, and yet self-loathing, taking away from the otherwise beautiful melody and score. All that being said, the song does include some profound lyrics;

There is no more new frontier, we have got to make it here
You call something paradise, kiss it goodbye…”

 
Hotel California would be the absolute pinnacle of the The Eagles’ career, selling more than any other of their multiple successes and being considered high up on several “all time” lists. The band went on to record one more studio album, The Long Run, which took even longer to create. Although that album was also a smash hit, it contributed greatly to the tensions that ultimately broke up the band in 1980.

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1976 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1976 albums.

 

Bella Donna by Stevie Nicks

Bella Donna by Stevie NicksAfter three albums with Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks was doubtlessly the most recognizable figure in that popular and talented band. However, her actual participation as far as songwriting and lead vocals had never eclipsed 50% on any of those albums. So prior to her debut solo effort in 1981, there was uncertainty about how a full album of her music would pan out. One serious listen to Bella Donna would set all doubt aside. This debut solo album went on to achieve critical and commercial success, topping the U.S. album charts and spawning four Top 40 hit singles, while reaching the Top 20 in six other nations.

The album contains ten songs composed by Nicks on piano over several years while on tour with Fleetwood Mac in the late seventies. These songs were then enhanced by producer Jimmy Iovine and a posse of talent, ranging from headline acts like Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Don Henley, formerly of The Eagles, to top-notch session musicians such as Donald “Duck” Dunn from the famed Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama. The result is an interesting and pleasant listen which contains some timeless works that flirt with pop, country, and folk while remaining distinctive and original.
 


Bella Donna by Stevie Nicks
Released: July 27, 1981 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Jimmy Iovine and Tom Petty
Recorded: Studio 55, Los Angeles, Autumn 1980 – Spring 1981
Side One Side Two
 Bella Donna
 Kind of Woman
 Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around
 Think About It
 After the Glitter Fades
Edge of Seventeen
How Still My Love
Leather and Lace
Outside the Rain
The Highwayman
Primary Musicians
Stevie Nicks – Lead Vocals, Piano
Tom Petty – Guitars, Vocals
Don Henley – Drums, Vocals
Lori Perry & Sharon Celani – Backing Vocals
Waddy Wachtel – Guitars
Roy Bittan – Piano
Dan Dugmore – Pedal Steel
Bob Glaub – Bass
Russ Kunkel – Drums

 

…and we fight for the northern star”

While Bella Donna‘s opening title song is definitely Fleetwood Mac-esque in it’s calm approach and long sustained guitar drones, it also contains a more ceremonious or ritualistic feel, like some kind of mass, as it vacillates between beatless sound scape and rhythmic drive. It is followed by “Kind of Woman”, another very calm, almost melancholy song, with a waltz-like beat an excellent guitar lead.

The album then abruptly takes a radical turn with “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”, one of two songs by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers on the album, along with the entertaining “Outside the Rain” on the second side. That band didn’t use these songs for themselves (and their current album, Hard Promises really could’ve used these), and the resultant Nicks-led recordings add a completely new dimension to Bella Donna.
 

 
“Leather and Lace” is a true duet with Henley, resulting in a moody and romantic ballad which has a sparse acoustic arrangement that really showcases the vocal talents of both. On the other end of the pop spectrum, “Edge of Seventeen” offered a rhythmic dance beat with a near rap in between the oft-repeated chorus about the “white winged dove”. Rumor has it that the title was coined by Tom Petty’s wife, who replied “age of seventeen” when asked by Nicks how old they were when they first met. But Stevie mis-heard this as “edge of seventeen” and was instantly taken by the concept.

Perhaps the most enjoyable song on the album, “After the Glitter Fades” is a pure country song, reminiscent to some of Olivia Newton John’s early stuff, with dynamic vocals nicely complimenting to rich arrangement, which contains virtuoso piano by Roy Bittan and masterful pedal steel by Dan Dugmore.

Stevie Nicks would continue on with Fleetwood Mac as well as produce more solo albums with much success in both throughout the rest of the 1980s and well into the 1990s. But artistically, she would not again reach the heights of Bella Donna in either side of her musical career.

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1981 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1981 albums.