“Why does the greatest love become the greatest pain?”
— Stevie Nicks, “Thousand Days“
Sometimes I imagine a parallel universe where Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham never met cute while singing “California Dreaming” together at a youth church function in 1966. Without that moment, there would be no Buckingham Nicks album, no chiffon-twirling witchiness, no Rumours, and a lot less pain spread out over the lives of the five members of Fleetwood Mac who took the stage on Sunday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. That isn’t to say that the music that poured out from the decades of fighting, jealousy, drugs, and break-ups wasn’t sublime — it has always been that and more. But, while Fleetwood Mac’s tortured path through the pain has always been fascinating and tuneful, it has not always been easy to watch.
“Thank you for coming back!”
A lone voice called out during a small pause between songs at Damien Rice’s sold out performance at the Apollo Theater Saturday night. The Irish singer-songwriter paused, and smiled ruefully, and finally responded, “thank you for coming back.” Rice was right to be grateful for the loyalty of his fans, who have endured an eight year hiatus between Rice’s 2006 album, 9, and My Favourite Faded Fantasy, released this October. Aside from a few tracks on charity albums, a bizarre appearance at a Haiti benefit in 2012, and an unusually revealing interview concerning the disintegration of his band and his relationship with girlfriend and collaborator Lisa Hannigan, Rice seemed to be destined to become another one’s of rock’s famous recluses. When asked how he spent the intervening years, Rice admits to doing a bit of sailing off the coast of Ireland, but mostly gives opaque answers about “cleansing” his mind, which might just mean therapy. From the lyrics of My Favourite Faded Fantasy, it certainly seems that Rice has managed to seek and find forgiveness from those around him, and, perhaps most importantly, from himself.
It’s hard to imagine that the band that has spent the better part of the last three decades as the “world’s greatest band,” would have trouble getting attention. Yet, after their critically acclaimed, but relatively modestly selling 2009 release No Line on the Horizon failed to capture the public’s imagination, U2 spent much of the intervening five years trying to figure out how to remain relevant to today’s music audience. The end result was the fresh-faced collection of musings on their own personal and musical roots in Songs of Innocence, which they boldly gave away for free to nearly 500 million iTunes subscribers.
The question remains, nearly two months later, was it enough?
Known for his dense, sunny arrangements of Fleetwood Mac’s romantic turmoil, Lindsey Buckingham contributed this plaintive piano ballad to the band’s 2013 iTunes-only EP, Extended Play. A self-proclaimed stylist and studio rat, Buckingham has regularly infused both his contributions to Fleetwood Mac albums and solo output with his signature layered, guitar-laden production.
In some ways, “It Takes Time” is a radical departure for Lindsey Buckingham, a rare piano track adorned only with a delicate string arrangement. Yet, the raw emotion of the track is classic Buckingham. While the personal mythology of Stevie Nicks and the feel-good love songs of Christine McVie may have garnered them bigger hits, Buckingham’s heartfelt and direct lyrics, from “Go Your Own Way” to his still-modern contributions to Tusk, have always revealed him as the band’s beating, and often broken, heart.
Mention Stevie Nicks and the image of a waifish, witchy singer twirling on stage is sure to come to mind. However, beyond the crepe shawls, Nicks has always been a distinctive songwriter, whose songs display a weathered wisdom and a unique sense of melody that have made her an enduring favorite. That isn’t to say that Nicks is a perfect songwriter. At times, her repeated invocation of dreams, chains, angels, and her other personal talismans can be too self-referential. Similarly, some of her songs can be so specifically autobiographical that it is hard for the listener to identify with the larger themes that shine through in her best work.
That said, there is no doubt that Nicks made good use of her tumultuous 20s and 30s. For her upcoming album, 24 Karat Gold, Nicks has mined her considerable archives to officially record some of the leaked demo tapes that have been circulating among her fans for over 20 years. The first single from 24 Karat Gold is “The Dealer,” a song that appeared first as a demo from the 1978 Fleetwood Mac Tusk Sessions, but was subsequently re-recorded for possible inclusion on her first solo album, Bella Donna, but didn’t make the final cut either time.