All-Time Albums: #32



1 I Can’t Wait 4:36 (UK single, #54)
2 Rock A Little (Go Ahead Lily) 3:37
Sister Honey 3:50
4 I Sing For The Things 3:44
5 Imperial Hotel 2:52
6 Some Become Strangers 3:27
Talk To Me 4:10 (UK single, #68)
The Nightmare 5:22
9 If I Were You 4:10
10 No Spoken Word 4:13
11 Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You 4:35 (UK single, #84)

The third solo set from Fleetwood Mac’s witchy woman, Rock A Little is Stevie in her rehab wilderness years. No amount of production wizardy could disguise how shot her vocals were during the sessions, and a raft of big-name songwriters and collaborators shore up the material to fashion some prime AOR fodder like Talk To Me, I Can’t Wait and the evocative ballad Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You which concludes the album.

With the Mac on indefinite hiatus, this was her second album since the group’s last effort Mirage in 1982, but the sound is a lot heavier and contemporary compared to The Wild Heart or Bella Donna. I Sing For The Things, and possibly the title song, apart, this record went for the big, airbrushed poodle-rock heartland and actually made Stevie Nicks sound absolutely part of the Top 40 landscape.

It sold over a million copies in the US, reaching #12, but the critics didn’t like it. Over in Britain, its chosen release date of early December saw it lost in the pre-Christmas stampede and as a result its UK peak of #30 (achieved in early 1986) was the lowest of her career thus far.

In 1985, Fleetwood Mac were before my time (vague childhood memories of some songs notwithstanding). I got heavily into this album via the first US single, Talk To Me, which was in the Billboard Top 10 in the build up to Christmas. I’d hear it every Saturday afternoon on the Radio 1 US chart show, and at the time I didn’t connect the singer with her (old) band, I just heard a great slice of AOR that made we want to investigate some more. Which wasn’t easy when the album was given a very low-profile release in the UK and most local stores weren’t stocking it at first (I eventually managed to get a copy on cassette in Brent Cross).

The follow-up single I Can’t Wait, which I think debuted in the US while Talk To Me was still around, just increased my desire to get this album. A completely over-the-top production, but very much in vogue, I would eventually realise that Stevie Nicks’ usual style was a lot less frenetic and croaky. The nearest thing I compared it to back then was someone like a Kim Carnes or Pat Benatar. It was that kind of appeal, because I hadn’t (re)discovered Fleetwood Mac at that stage.

Regardless of what the critics might say about Rock A Little, for me it doesn’t have a weak track on it. Imperial Hotel is about the closest to a filler in my opinion, but even that taps into a Lone Justice-esque vibe which, again, was pretty contemporary in 1985. On cassette, this was another of those albums of the time which each side was uneven in length, so there was always a need to fast-forward after Some Become Strangers to avoid a long silence before Side B kicked in. EMI cassettes were notorious for their muffled quality, and I used to assume the album was meant to sound that way (it certainly did Stevie’s ravaged vocals a favour).

The sequence from Talk To Me to No Spoken Word used to be a particular high point for me, but over time I’ve grown to love the first half of the album just as much.

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