Stevie Nicks

24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault

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With the subtitle "Songs from the Vault," you'd be forgiven if you thought 24 Karat Gold was an archival collection of unreleased material and, in a way, you'd be right. 24 Karat Gold does indeed unearth songs Nicks wrote during her heyday -- the earliest dates from 1969, the latest from 1995, with most coming from her late-'70s/early-'80s peak; the ringer is a cover of Vanessa Carlton's 2011 tune "Carousel," which could easily be mistaken for Stevie -- but these aren't the original demos, they're new versions recorded with producer Dave Stewart. Running away from his ornate track record -- his production for Stevie's 2011 record In Your Dreams was typically florid -- Stewart pays respect to Nicks' original songs and period style by keeping things relatively simple while drafting in sympathetic supporting players including guitarists Waddy Wachtel and Davey Johnstone and Heartbreakers Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell. It's certainly not an exacting re-creation of Sound City but Stewart adheres to the slick, hazy feel of supremely well-appointed professional studios, so 24 Karat Gold has a tactile allure. Sonically, it's bewitching -- the best-sounding record she's made since 1983's The Wild Heart but, substance-wise, it's her best since that album, too. If there aren't many remnants of the flinty, sexy rocker of "Stand Back" (the opening "Starshine" is an exception to the rule), there's enough seductive, shimmering soft rock and the emphasis on Laurel Canyon hippie folk-rock feels right and natural. Retrospectively, it's a surprise that Nicks sat on these songs for years, but that only indicates just how purple a patch she had during Fleetwood Mac's glory days. It's a good thing she dug through her back pages and finished these songs, as she's wound up with one of her strongest albums.

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