Fleetwood Mac‘s ‘classic’ line-up (ok, the classic line-up post-Peter Green) may be back together and touring, but the wait goes on for a new album. Despite the arena tours and the yearly rumours (pun intended) about the band headlining Glastonbury, Say You Will from 2003 remains the most recent Fleetwood Mac record.
Some may say that’s hardly important with such a back catalogue of riches to draw upon, but those who are really experiencing withdrawal symptons may well be sated with this, Mac stalwart Stevie Nicks‘ 10th solo album. And it’s no ordinary solo album – as the slightly self-aggrandising title, 24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault, would suggest, this is a collection of old demo versions that Nicks has abandoned over the years, spruced up and re-recorded. So, there’s Fleetwood Mac songs that could have been, lost Buckingham/Nicks numbers – everything in fact, to make a hardcore Mac fan salivate.
It doesn’t sound like a hotch-potch of songs all thrown together either, as you may expect from that description. Indeed, most of the songs that Nicks has resurrected are strong enough to make you wonder why she scrapped them in the first place. And, considering that the timespan of these songs stretches from the late ’60s up to the mid ’90s, it sounds like a surprisingly cohesive album, even if the hour-plus running time means that a more judicious editor would have ensured that some tracks remained in demo form.
There is some gold unearthed though, albeit maybe not of the 24 Karat variety. Starshine kicks the album off to an energetic start, and the sad tale of silent film star Mabel Normand, who died at the age of 37 of tuberculosis, following years of cocaine abuse is a story that’s obviously close to Nicks’ heart. Long-term Nicks fans who scour the internet for bootlegs will be well aware of the gorgeous country workout Blue Water, which sounds – on this version at least – like it would have fitted in nicely onto the Mirage album, not least because the word ‘gypsy’ is referenced in the lyrics.
Talking of Gypsy, that famous Fleetwood Mac song is more than musically echoed in the title track, one of a few numbers that are inevitably reminiscent of Nicks’ band’s golden era. Yet this doesn’t sound like a ‘lost’ Fleetwood Mac album, mainly because Nicks’ backing band have the nouse not to copy Buckingham, Fleetwood and the McVies. Instead, it sounds like what it is – a collection of old songs, spring cleaned and brought up to date.
Obviously, Nicks’ voice has lost its wispy, breathy quality over time, but her more mature, throaty growl sounds perfect for these songs. Her performance on the powerful ballad Lady is genuinely affecting, the sound of a woman looking back on her life and contemplating regret and loneliness (as the song’s key line has it: “I’m tired of knocking on doors when there’s nobody there”. There’s also some familiar lyrical ground trodden over, such as Hard Advice’s intriguing tale of a doomed affair with a rock star and the inevitable ‘is this about Lindsey?’ song, She Loves Him Still.
With only the creaky, clunky Cathouse Blues and the rather pointless Vanessa Carlton cover Carousel counting as real duds, this is a surprisingly strong album considering it consists of songs initially rejected or abandoned by their creator. Nothing on 24 Karat Gold comes close to classic Fleetwood Mac songs, but long-term fans will delight in hearing decently recorded versions of tracks that they may otherwise only have heard as scratchy demos.