The music on this album is hauntingly real. It proves Nicks’ prowess as a songwriter, and her vocals shine.
In 1981, rock icon Stevie Nicks took some time off from fronting the mega-successful band Fleetwood Mac to express her pent-up musical visions. Produced by the now legendary producer Jimmy Iovine, Bella Donna was born. And while Nicks was enjoying immense popularity at the time, with hits like “Rhiannon,” “Landslide,” and “Sara,” no one expected this album to do much. Basically, it was thought of as a necessary step in her musical journey. It was believed that she would record the album, perhaps do a short tour, and get it out of her system, returning to her position in Fleetwood Mac.
Had the members of The Mac known the outcome of this release, they would possibly had vetoed the project altogether. Upon the album’s release, it took a mere three months for the record to hit number one on the Billboard Charts. September of ’81 saw Bella Donna achieve platinum status in the U.S. and singles including “Leather and Lace,” a poignant ballad with Don Henley of the Eagles joining Nicks on lead vocals. The song was originally written by Nicks at the behest of Waylon Jennings, who wanted the song to be a duet between himself and his then-wife Jesse Colter. However, when the couple decided to divorce, Nicks pulled the song from them and recorded it herself. The lead single from the LP was the rock track “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” written by and featuring Tom Petty. The song shot up the charts, making Nicks a force to be reckoned with.
This album was the start of a very successful solo career for Nicks. To date, Bella Donna has sold almost seven million copies, making it her best-selling solo effort. The third single released from the album, “Edge of Seventeen (White Winged Dove)” is a staple on classic rock stations today, while the unmistakable guitar riff from the song has been sampled and used, most notably by Destiny’s Child for the song “Bootylicious.”
The music on this album is hauntingly real. It proves Nicks’ prowess as a songwriter, and her vocals shine. Musically, the players on this recording are all top notch, including members of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, veteran drummer Russ Kunkel, and Wardy Wachtel, guitarist and now Nicks’ musical director. From the eerie lyrics to “Edge of Seventeen,” which were written about the death of her uncle, to the murder of John Lennon, to the lovelorn prose of “Leather and Lace,” Bella Donna is the work of a true artist.
The remastered set is composed of three discs: Disc one is the album in full, completely remastered. Disc Two brings us unreleased material, such as “Gold and Braid”; “The Dealer,” later released on 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault in 2016; as well as the demo version of the title track. New artwork and photos grace the inside covers, and a 24-page booklet is included.
Nicks fans will love this remastered set. It contains songs fans have always wanted released, as well as the classic music from this magnificent album. Bella Donna was just the beginning of a very successful solo career for Nicks. Just recently, she has released her eighth solo effort, 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault, as well as having enjoyed a very successful tour with Fleetwood Mac. Now, we can take a look back at the album that started it all. A+ | Marc Farr