Rick Nelson and his four backing musicians were booked to play a week’s engagement at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. It wasn’t the first time the group had played there, but this time, between 30 October and 2 November 1969, the shows would be recorded for an album that would give new credibility to its star.
Six months earlier Rick had cut the Dylan song ‘She Belongs To Me’ and had used the steel guitarist Buddy Emmons on the session. Back in 1967, when Rick was recording his “Country Fever” album, Emmons had played steel on the old Jim Reeves song ‘When You Are Gone’, but the track was aborted. Rick was unable to secure the services of Emmons on a regular basis, so had toured for four months with his new trio of Randy Meisner, Allen Kemp and Pat Shanahan with the promise that “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow would join in time for the Troubadour recording. Let down at the eleventh hour, top pedal-steel player Tom Brumley joined just a day before the gigs began. The “In Concert” LP marked Rick’s first new recordings without his super sideman James Burton.
The album came as quite a shock to some people. Here was an artist considered by many to be a fabricated teen idol. Fired up and ready to go, at age 29 Rick Nelson had never looked or sounded better, singing the songs he loved, and some he’d written himself. How could he interpret Bob Dylan, Eric Andersen and Tim Hardin? It turned out that he could do so very well and the calibre of his own songs such as ‘Easy To Be Free’ even approached theirs. “In Concert” was a groundbreaking album that made a big contribution to the new style of music that came to be called country rock.
The album was released by Decca in the USA in January 1970 as a showcase for Rick and his new band. Not only did it receive critical acclaim, Rick’s fans also loved it. It was issued in a superb gatefold sleeve, folding out to reveal some great colour photos of Rick and the band, with a close up of Rick in action on the front cover. All the Troubadour concerts were recorded over a four-day period, sometimes with three shows a night. The tapes were edited down and Rick made the final choice of 12 tracks for release. Those tracks were transferred from 8-track to 16-track for overdubbing.
Having been deleted for many years, the album is reissued here in glorious expanded form over two complete CDs – more than Rick’s legion of fans could have ever hoped for. As the compilers of this musical treat, we were able to listen to nine reels of previously unissued material, from which we selected the best tracks. CD1 comprises the original 12-track album from the actual master recording remastered with dramatically improved sound plus 10 previously unreleased live cuts. Some might say that these 10 tracks alone, remixed with great care by Rob Keyloch and mastered by Duncan Cowell, would make a great Rick Nelson CD. CD2 contains a further 20 unissued mixes of live recordings from the Troubadour shows. All sound so fresh and up-to-date that it’s hard to believe that they were recorded live and not in the studio. All the alternate versions have been mixed directly from the original 8-track recordings to produce pristine sound.
By Iain Young