Home Geek LifeCulture Vinyl Me, Please May Edition: Stevie Nicks – ‘Bella Donna’

Vinyl Me, Please May Edition: Stevie Nicks – ‘Bella Donna’

by Patrick Phillips

Good things come in 12 inch packages. Delivering limited edition pressings of new and classic albums directly to your doorstep, Vinyl Me, Please operates under a simple philosophy: The Album Lives. With a carefully curated catalog of new and hard to find releases, the subscription service is more than just a record club, it’s a lifestyle choice for folks who wish Record Store Day could happen every month … in their living room.

The Skinny

Here’s how it works. You send Vinyl Me, Please some of your hard-earned money (plans start at $25/month) and they send you one carefully selected album they feel is an Essential addition to any record collection. Yes, it’s every bit as easy as it sounds. And each custom pressing (often on colored wax!) also comes with killer special features like original artwork, informative booklets, or even a recipe for a companion cocktail. You’ll have membership privileges in the VMP store too, which means you can grab a copy of previous VMP selections from the archives – including April’s face-melting, first ever reissue of The Stooges’ masterful self-titled debut – not to mention a bevy of rare releases pressed exclusively for the folks at Vinyl Me, Please. The store is open, and Team VMP are dropping fresh new selections to their stock every single week. Do not miss out.

Word to the wise, most of the more covet-worthy stock in the VMP Store is only available to members, so membership definitely has its rewards. If you’re peckish about relinquishing control of your record collection to complete strangers, know that VMP’s Swaps Program is in full effect. That means you can flip any VMP pick you don’t like for a past AOM (or other VMP Exclusive pressings) that’s a little more your speed. My advice? Don’t overthink it. Do yourself a favor and sign up today.

What’s in the box for May? Nothing short of a stone-cold classic from the gypsy queen of rock, Stevie Nicks.

For the Love of Music, Please DO NOT BEND (or, how I learned to stop worrying and embrace my inner gypsy diva)

I try not to be in the habit of assuming folks know about this band, or that singer when writing up these unboxing pieces, because I’m a firm believer that music/artists/albums do, indeed, find you when you need them and not the other way around. That being said, I have to believe you’ve heard of Stevie Nicks already, because the alternative to that assumption is that you literally know nothing about the history of rock & roll. Also, it likely means you’ve never seen Richard Linklater’s pitch-perfect, cinematic ode to rock & roll, School of Rock.

Should that be the case, let me be the first to tell you that, if you’re so inclined, you can actually learn quite a bit about rock history from Linklater’s film. You can also catch Jack Black in what may be the best role of his entire career. And yes, you can also fully indulge in one of the most unheralded needle drops in movie history via Jack Black and Joan Cusack losing their minds over a certain track by the one and only Stevie Nicks.

That track (and its absolutely iconic guitar intro) is, of course, “Edge of Seventeen.” It’s pretty much the centerpiece Stevie Nicks’ solo debut, Bella Donna – which was recorded while she was still an active member of storied rock super-group Fleetwood Mac. Close to 40 years after it was first released, “Edge of Seventeen” remains one of the most instantly identifiable rock & roll anthems ever recorded. It remains as close to a signature song as an artist of Nicks’ boundless talent could claim. And it remains, more than any other song on Bella Donna, a signal to Nicks’ own staunchly devoted fanbase (and in particular her perpetually bickering Fleetwood Mac bandmates) that she was an artist who’s singular gift for song craft could no longer be contained to a mere two or three songs per album.

True to that sentiment, the 10 songs that form the bones of Bella Donna seemed to erupt fully formed from somewhere so deep inside of Stevie Nicks that even the biggest Fleetwood Mac fans had yet to expose them. Some were stone-cold ballads, and some were bluesy proclamations of erotic entanglement. Some were witchy explorations of emotional/romantic angst, and others folksy introspections viewed through the foggy light of lust. However the songs on Bella Donna spilled from the soul of their conjurer, they were all of them so distinctly Stevie Nicks songs it’s all but impossible to imagine another human being singing them.

Given the quivering, unshakeable power of the voice which called them forward from the cosmos, few have wisely ever tried. And for many, the sprawling Stevie Nicks songbook is considered more or less untouchable. Because, even in spite of the sugary cosmic flights of fancy that accompanied much of her musical oeuvre, Stevie Nicks has become such a singular voice in the rock & roll landscape that, even people who don’t dig her witchy-woman vibe still tend to admire her pure (if sometimes painfully transparent) approach to song.

That approach was well on display when she was cutting tracks with Fleetwood Mac, of course. But the full breadth of Nicks’ soulful songwriting chops, playful pop acumen, and doe-eyed diva gypsy persona feel as if they’d barely been glimpsed when seen through the star-dusted lens of Bella Donna – an album so undeniably of its maker even the likes of Tom Petty, Don Henley, and more seem eager to take a back seat throughout, if only to ensure they can come along for the journey. Almost four decades after its release, Bella Donna is still a journey worth taking. And yes, this shiny, remastered edition of the album from Vinyl Me, Please is the purest way to take it.

Cover Matters

There are several methods an artist can take when it comes to cover art. Some take the irreverent approach to artwork. Some go allegorical. Others go full-on psychedelic. The cover art for Stevie Nicks Bella Donna takes a relatively simplistic approach, putting Stevie herself front and center with just a flourish of mystical energy. Fans of Nicks’ work know there’s nothing simple about that image, of course. And rest assured, there are not many covers that capture both the spirit of the artist and the vibe of an album quite as succinctly as this one.

There are a couple of things worth examining on the back cover of Bella Donna as well, none more worthy than that pic of Stevie Nicks herself. You’ll also want to take in the foil-stamped Vinyl Me, Please label too as it forever proclaims Bella Donna a true Essential.

There’s a little more stamping on the opposite corner as well, this one capturing a few choice words from Nicks herself. And if you’re the sort who really, really cares about packaging, yes, Bella Donna comes snug inside one of those super-hot Tip-On sleeves all the crazy collector kids are raving about these days.

And if you care about who did what behind-the-scenes on Stevie Nicks’ Bella Donna, you’ll want to check out the credits on the bottom right corner, if only for the reminder that Mr. Tom Petty had a hand in a couple of the album’s most enduring tracks.

Of course, if you’re wondering what exactly makes this Vinyl Me, Please pressing of Bella Donna so special, you can find that info on this handy little hype sticker. Legendary album? Check. AAA pressing cut directly from original master tapes? Check. Fresh, exclusive 180g pressing on colored wax? Check. Sure sounds like Team VMP gave Stevie Nicks’ solo debut the royal treatment to me.

If you’re looking for more info about VMP’s pressing of Bella Donna, you’ll probably want to check out the vital stats on the OBI Strip as well. That’s where you’ll find the artist’s name, the album’s title, and its Vinyl Me, Please catalogue number.

There’s a few well-chosen words on the flip side of that strip as well that help explain why Vinyl Me, Please believes Stevie Nicks’ debut album is worthy of the Essentials title.

And for those interested in having a tasty beverage while rocking out to Bella Donna, Jeffrey “Tradewinds” Taylor from L.A.’s In Sheep’s Clothing Hi-fi has picked out a doozy this month with “Kind of Woman.” I’m thinking it might be a touch sweet for my personal tastes, but I’m generally down to try pretty much any drink with a touch of coffee liqueur.

Now, historically speaking, the 12 X 12 art print that accompanies every Vinyl Me, Please Essentials pick tends to be a highlight of the package for me. In recent months, Team VMP has switched more frequently over to a photograph of the artist in lieu of original artwork. And while that switch has been a bit hit or miss, this shot of Stevie Nicks in full gypsy regalia (from the archives of Herbert Worthington III) is a bit of a stunner.

Of course, I think we can all agree that, while cocktail recipes and lavish photography are all well and good, it’s the sexy wax inside that Bella Donna sleeve that really matters. And those of you who don’t already know every single lyric from this beloved album will be happy to know that wax comes tucked inside an inner sleeve with a full lyric breakdown. Not to mention a couple of extra killer pics of Stevie Nicks from the time of Bella Donna‘s release.

The detail-oriented amongst you will also want to have a peak in side Bella Donna‘s outer sleeve as well, ’cause it fittingly comes with its own bit of stardust. Which is more than a little bit fitting for a Stevie Nicks record.

As for the wax itself? Well, that promised blue/black galaxy swirl doesn’t quite pop on first look. But if you hold the disc up to the light, it’s truly a stunning effect.

And while Bella Donna‘s smoky/swirly effect doesn’t entirely shine through when the album’s on your deck, I can assure one and all the mysteries of the galaxy itself still sort of do.

How’s it sound? Like you walked into a psychic’s tent at a carnival, and turned yourself mind, body, and soul over to a legitimate mystic as she sings songs of life, and love, and loss, and lust, and the all-encompassing reach of the universe itself … and doing so with a couple of hard-hitting guitar licks to boot.

Give it a spin

I can only imagine that Vinyl Me, Please’s announcement of Stevie Nicks’ Bella Donna as an Essentials pick was met with a touch of ambivalence from many amongst its subscription base if only because the album has been pressed, and re-pressed extensively since its release almost four decades ago. And if I’m being completely honest, I was sort of among the ambivalent. Not because I don’t dig Stevie Nick’s vibe, mind you. Quite the opposite is true, in fact, and I’ve even got a couple of regularly spun Fleetwood Mac records in my collection to prove it.

I have, however, never been a particular fan of solo records from Fleetwood Mac’s members. And as Bella Donna is an album readily available via other pressings, so I wasn’t entirely sold on it as an Essentials pick. I’ll also go ahead and cop to having never actually listened to the album in its entirety before, though. And after spinning VMP’s immaculate pressing of Bella Donna, I’m happy to admit that I really could not have been more wrong about its Essentials status. More than just a collection of B-sides wrapped around a couple of classic rock banger, Stevie Nicks’ Bella Donna is as complete a rock record as has ever been produced. It’s also gloriously focused musical document of an icon stepping fully into her own sound and skin, and I cannot thank the folks at Vinyl Me, Please enough for bringing that indelible fact to my attention.

A big THANK YOU to our friends at Vinyl Me, Please for sponsoring this subscription. Don’t forget to check out the Vinyl Me, Please website and sign up to get some choice wax delivered right to your door each and every month! And like the rest of the vinyl loving world, we really cannot wait to get our eyes and ears on their anniversary edition of The White Stripe’s classic sophomore album De Stijl, which is set to hit doorsteps in June!

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