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POP MUSIC | Record Rack

* * 1/2 STEVIE NICKS, "Trouble in Shangri-La," Reprise

April 29, 2001|STEVE HOCHMAN

Nicks fans take heart: With acolyte Sheryl Crow helping out on production, the best songs on her first solo album in seven years (in stores Tuesday) recall '70s-vintage Stevie as much as the gauzy gown she's wearing on the cover does.

Unfortunately, the best Nicks-penned songs here really are '70s vintage--she wrote the love-and-loneliness ballad "Candlebright" in 1970, the love-and-magic tale "Sorcerer" in '72 and the love-and-cosmos metaphor "Planets of the Universe" in '79. And the two others she wrote alone are from the mid-'90s, undermining the theme of the album's centerpiece, "That Made Me Stronger," a self-affirmation explicitly about finding confidence through writing songs alone (though it, in fact, is a collaboration).

Clearly, Nicks benefits from community, and Crow is the MVP, co-producing five of the 13 songs with the same unvarnished instincts that keep her own music distinctive. Her crisp instrumentation and earthy tones suit Nicks' now-husky voice, giving at times the sense that the singer is seeing her crystal visions through jaundiced eyes. Less prominent guest turns from Dixie Chick Natalie Maines, Macy Gray and Sarah McLachlan also add winning shadings.

But overall Nicks is still trying too hard to remain queen of the unicorns-and-rainbows brigade. Even new lyrics ('I touch with gossamer wings") suit a dewy-eyed teen girl's journal, not the life of a middle-aged icon.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless noted otherwise.

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