In paying tribute to one of my Desert Island Discs on the 30th anniversary of its initial release date (July 27, 1981), here is my original review of BELLA DONNA that was written for my school newspaper:
STEVIE NICKS – BELLA DONNA Where the wispy fairy/poet/waif we adored – and still do – on FLEETWOOD MAC, RUMOURS and TUSK becomes the queen of rock and roll we are dared to worship, challenging the nay-sayers and snickering critics to finally take her seriously. With BELLA DONNA, Nicks not only solidifies her significance as a rock persona, but establishes herself as a great songwriting force to be reckoned with. Displaying that superlative craft, she employs an ultimate ensemble of musicians borrowed from the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty (including Tom himself on the striking and rocking duet “Stop Dragging My Heart Around”) and paints an incredible journey through the multi-facets of love. Her country music heritage is apparent on some of the best cuts here: from the bittersweet, elegiac “After The Glitter Fades” to the dark, but lovely, innuendo of “Leather And Lace” (sung with Eagle Don Henley) to “The Highwayman”, a tale that delves deeper than the title suggests. There is also a sure-to-be classic rock track “Edge Of Seventeen” which will span the ages ahead, and the albums best piece, the hauntingly beautiful, enigmatic title track. As if possessing, albeit arguably, the most distinct and recognizable female voice in rock’s short history isn’t enough, one could measure BELLA DONNA as an archetype of portraits to come. Stevie Nicks’ solo career is just beginning, but with the Mac on an unknown hiatus, one needn’t worry about the lack of Stevie in their lives – as this collection of provocative and gorgeous tunes prove, there’s more to Nicks than meets the eyes – and ears – of even the most casual fan. Grade: A
To which I added, year later to a revised review on Amazon.com:
“…could anyone really see Prince’s images of lace, purple and doves without wondering if his evolution didn’t come via Nicks’ mirror? [He did play keyboards on “Stand Back” from her WILD HEART album]. And who begat the whole angels-as-rock-imagery but Nicks on her Mac recordings and solo work?”
Many fans, and even some critics, have boasted that her recent, erratic CD, IN YOUR DREAMS, is Stevie’s best solo album (my review will come in a forthcoming Musical Report Card). I can’t fathom that peculiar statement while listening to BELLA DONNA again and marveling at its intricate harmonies and sonic splendors.
It remains her most consistent solo work to date, and it, above all her other works, remains an achievement that still towers three decades later.
Happy Anniversary BELLA DONNA…still we fight for the Northern Star…