Stevie Nicks has often been caught in the slipstream of the extraordinary and the banal. Blessed with beauty, songwriting skill and a one-of-a-kind voice, she's a clear inspiration to today's weird, witchy women of song — Joanna Newsom, Zola Jesus, Cat Power — but also maintains the kind of icon status in the mainstream that tends to constrict women into cliché. During both Fleetwood Mac's imperial era and the early years of her solo career, she dealt with this pressure like a champion. But in the aftermath of this success, she struggled with addiction and recorded patchy, occasionally cringe-worthy albums that serve as textbook examples of how to make a bald cash-grab. One thing is clear: The middle ground is not for Nicks.
Until now. Produced and largely co-written by former Eurythmics maestro Dave Stewart, with studio help from hit-maker Glen Ballard, Nicks's first album in 10 years realigns her artistic and commercial sides to create adult pop that's mindful of the charts while conveying the contours of her heart. It responds to the current female singer-songwriter boom, yet remains true to her mythic vibe. Taking cues from Edgar Allen Poe ("Annabel Lee"), the resilient French Quarter ("New Orleans"), humanitarian efforts ("Soldier's Angel"), and her own back pages, In Your Dreams is sometimes spacey, sometimes a little corny, but always very Stevie.
First single "Secret Love" evokes vintage Mac, and for good reason: Written in 1976 and demoed for '77's blockbuster Rumours, this meditative midtempo charmer is a previously unpublished short story from those halcyon days, one that details Nicks's conflicted relationship with guitarist Lindsay Buckingham. On the other side of the emotional and musical spectrum is "Ghosts Are Gone," a bluesy but joyful jam that waves goodbye to the past with a nod to rocking Eurythmics anthems like "Would I Lie to You?" and "Missionary Man."
Both Nicks and Stewart try harder than they have in years, occasionally to their mutual detriment. The eight tracks at the center of the album all linger beyond the five-minute mark, and are all as dense as they are long. Songs like "Wide Sargasso Sea," which takes its title from Jean Rhys's postcolonial prequel to Jane Eyre and simplifies its plotline, are essentially romance novels set to symphonic surges of processed guitars. Nicks is also disarmingly literal through much of Dreams: "More exciting than high fashion/ High passion," she and Stewart sing in concluding duet, "Cheaper than Free." Grandmother to the latest generation of supernatural sisters, rock's ultimate enchantress yearns to return to earth. Here, she's midway between the stars and the soil.