The cover of this great collection of 26 tracks says it all really, with three pictures of Rick as the tidy young TV star in shirt, tie and cardigan; the more mature chap without the tie; and eventually the longer-haired country rock star of the 70s. Here was a singer who achieved an almost seamless transition from teen pop idol into respected rock musician.
Having a rounded and attractive voice that could wrap itself easily around a lyric, Rick was able to sound right in many musical genres: from his early rockers, through teem ballads, to the emergence of country rock at the end of the 60s. This comprehensive collection takes a chronological journey through his Decca and MCA years, from the hits of 1963/4 to the influential country licks on the 1966/7 albums and the early 70s hits such as ‘Garden Party’.
The first dozen or so tracks take the best from his first four Decca albums, including the hits ‘I Got A Woman’, ‘Fools Rush In’, ‘For You’ and ‘The Very Thought Of You’, along with Jerry Fuller’s song ‘Hey There, Little Miss Tease’ and Chuck Berry’s ‘I’m Talking About You’. By the mid-60s Rick was ready for a fresh musical focus; country music provided this for him. With guitarist James Burton leading the way with splendid licks, the albums “Bright Lights & Country Music” and “Country Fever” breathed new and contemporary life into established songs and country music. ‘Truck Drivin' Man’ and ‘Night Train To Memphis’ from the former and ‘Mystery Train’ from the latter led the way, showing that Rick and his band were more than at home in their new genre.
With this new confidence, Rick was able to look around for songs to adapt to his revitalised persona. He delivered a beautifully gentle take on Bob Dylan’s ‘She Belongs To Me’, breathing a new and different life into the song. By 1970 there was a live album, “In Concert”, which showed he was still more than happy to re-visit his back catalogue; ‘Hello Mary Lou, Goodbye Heart’ and ‘I’m Walkin’’ are included here with new countrified arrangements. The final tracks pull the best from the “Rick Sings Nelson” and “Rudy The Fifth” albums. There’s also the autobiographical ‘Garden Party’, one of his most successful self-penned songs, and the strong rocker ‘I Don’t Want To Be Lonely Tonight’ from the “Windfall” album. Closing this fine collection is ‘Rock And Roll Lady’, a reflective look back on aspects of his career. Rick Nelson was a great artist by any measure, and this compilation more than proves it.