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Sounds Like the Past

Stevie Nicks, The Rolling Stones, and Dionne Warwick.

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At this point in time, Stevie Nicks has half as many compilations to her name (both single- and multi-disc sets) as she does solo studio albums. The latest, Stand Back: 1981–2017 (Rhino) consists of 50 songs spread out across three CDs. If anything, the set confirms Nicks’ status as an underappreciated dance-music diva. Gay men of a certain age are sure to remember dancing in clubs to songs including “Stand Back,” “I Can’t Wait,” and “Edge of Seventeen.” In fact, the queer community’s love affair with Nicks has been going on for years and includes the annual Night of 1,000 Stevies drag ball, as well as movies such as 1998’s Edge of Seventeen and 2001’s Gypsy 83 (both written by Todd Stephens). The first of Stand Back’s three discs features 17 tracks representing all of Nicks’ solo recordings. The second disc mostly draws on Nicks’ long history of collaborations, featuring songs she sang with Kenny Loggins, Tom Petty, Don Henley, Walter Egan, John Stewart, Natalie Maines, Chris Isaak, LeAnn Rimes, Lady Antebellum, Dave Stewart, and Lana Del Rey. Disc three is a mix of live recordings and selections from Nicks’ contributions to movie soundtracks.

The Rolling Stones’ ratio of hits collections to studio albums might not be as high as Stevie Nicks’ (considering how long the band has been in existence), but it’s still considerable. The three-disc, four-LP (or digital) deluxe edition of Honk (Interscope/Rolling Stones Records) features 36 studio recordings, from 1971’s Sticky Fingers to 2016’s Blue & Lonesome. Coming as it does, 14 years after 2002’s Forty Licks and seven years after 2012’s Grrr! (two of the most thorough Stones compilations ever issued), Honk is a little lacking, especially given the band’s 55-year recording history and the limited scope of the set. A third live bonus disc, consisting of 10 21st-century live recordings, is probably the main reason to add this set to your Rolling Stones collection.

The best periods of Dionne Warwick’s lengthy career (almost 50 years) can be separated into the Scepter Records years and the Arista Records years. The Scepter period, which stretched from the early 1960s to the early 1970s, are probably best known for Warwick’s association with the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. The string of hits that this creative partnership produced is legendary, and includes timeless tunes such as “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” “Do You Know the Way to San José?” “Walk on By,” and “Say a Little Prayer,” to mention just a few. Things slowed down throughout most of the 1970s, but when she teamed up with label-mate Barry Manilow (who did production duty on her 1979 Arista debut album), her second phase was set in motion. During the Arista period she worked with producers including Barry Gibb and Luther Vandross, and later reunited with Bacharach (and then-wife Carole Bayer Sager) for “That’s What Friends Are For,” resulting in one of the biggest songs and albums of Warwick’s recording career. It speaks volumes about the newer compositions on She’s Back (Kind/eOne), her first studio album in five years, that she not only felt the need to dig into her past for material, but to also include a bonus disc featuring a remastered (and reordered) version of her 1998 disc, Dionne Sings Dionne. The biggest problem with the new recordings is that the various producers have made the songs sound already dated and lacking the staying power of her classics. For example, was it really necessary to rerecord “Déjà Vu”? More successful updates on the album include “Tears Ago” (by gay singer/songwriter Rahsaan Patterson), her sensitive reading of “How Do You Keep the Music Playing” (by Michel Legrand and the Bergmans), a snappy take on Patti Austin’s “We’re in Love,” the timely Bacharach/David tune “What the World Needs Now,” and the Warwick original “Two Ships.”

This article appears in the July 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Gregg Shapiro

Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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