24 Karat Gold:
Songs From The Vault

Stevie Nicks

I don't need to remind you that whenever an artist chooses to issue an album of “previously unreleased material,” that generally means that what you are about to receive will fit comfortably under the heading of “mediocre.” After all, if an artist’s songs are anything to be proud of, they would have popped up on any of the previous releases. But they didn’t. Such is the case, unsurprisingly, with Stevie Nicks’ 24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault. The title, by the way, is misleading in that it tends to make one think perhaps this is a greatest hits collection. Nicks may have been better off going that route.

In the case of 24 KG, her eighth solo release, maybe it was the typical artist-owes-the-label-an-album situation. Or, perhaps, it was simply laziness. As the story goes, Nicks was aware of the wealth of her material available on YouTube, including a slew of demo material. So, she thought, why not record those demos and release them? So, yeah, it seems to be the latter.

Regardless, 24 KG is almost pointless. After all, at the time of its release, Nicks had already packed her platform boots, incense and candles, and was off on another Fleetwood Mac tour. Logic would have dictated to delay her release, do the Fleetwood Mac tour, and then focus on 24KG. That right there tells you something.

The material, for the most part, is not anything to get excited about (no surprises there). As a collective whole, it all sounds unfinished, and uninspired. Some of it does have potential, but so what? Why not finish the job, rather than just recording it, and adding a little gloss? It is almost as if Nicks tossed us an album and said, "Here you go, this should tide you over.”

The opener “Starshine” is, for Nicks, a bit of a driving rocker, but it quickly runs out of steam, failing to keep up with its own momentum. The title track bears more than just a coincidental resemblance to 1982's “Gypsy,” from Fleetwood Mac’s Mirage album. The very promising but predictable “Blue Water” is whimsical (almost light and airy), but lazily floats into oblivion rather quickly. “Cathouse Blues” may sound like it will be a honky-tonk/blues ditty, but is nothing more than…well, just another song. “Belle Fleur” is the most confident track on the album. It is beautiful, and haunting, a style that is best suited for Nicks’ persona. And, lo and behold, it sounds as if time was actually spent on it. Why the same attention wasn’t taken on the other tracks, is beyond me.

Nicks has never been adventurous, not in terms of expanding her musical horizons; she is too attached to her white-witch, gypsy character. But, that’s no excuse for not trying. She’s no Peter Gabriel, but if she could take a page from his book of musical boldness, that material would quite possibly surpass her demo toss-asides. Instead, she prefers to stay safe, giving her fans exactly what they expect, and that’s the problem: There are no surprises.

As for Nick’s singing voice, it has been gravelly for quite some time, but it now sounds like it’s developed into near Tom Waits mush. Her vocals, in addition to the material itself, are cloaked in so much studio production, 24 KG almost glows in the dark. It’s come to a crossroads in rock music, whether a classic rock artist should even release new material or, instead, rest on their laurels. But, if “living in the past” allows performers like Paul McCartney or Elton John to still fill large venues, then so be it. I’m betting the barn that Fleetwood Mac aren’t exactly playing dive bars right now, and a solo Nicks could carry her own weight, attendance-wise. I guess my rambling point is unless you can release something new that really grabs the listener’s attention, why bother releasing remnants that you found in the bottom of your drawer?

Her diehard fans will probably hang onto every word and phrase that Nicks sings, on 24 KG, as if it they were the meaning of life, without realizing these are the same lyrics as always, just, well, worded a little differently. If it satisfies them, then so be it. But, for the more scrutinizing ear, one will find 24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault to be a one-time-listen-to album, something to be tucked away, along with the other Fleetwood Mac-related albums one may own, but quite unlikely ever to be pulled out again.

~ Bruce Forrest

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