Monday, June 2, 2014


Next time some boy band or Spice Girls (gawd I'm out-of-date) or whatever the latest teen sensation comes along, send a little acknowledgement to Ricky Nelson.  Compared to his contemporaries Elvis, Jerry Lee, Little Richard, Johnny Cash, etc., Nelson barely gets a mention these days.  But he was not only the original rock and roll teen idol, he was a massive star in the late 50's - early 60's, and had a ton of high quality songs.  Sure, his career was the product of a brilliantly conceived TV-music crossover from The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, but the kid had the real thing vocally, and charisma to boot.  Plus, the grade-A material and the presence of James Burton, the Master of the Telecaster on guitar just made things that much better.

The eleven songs found here on the budget-priced Icon line cherry-pick the biggest hits, but there are many more that are deserving.  From the Holly-like rockabilly of Hello Mary Lou to the vocal group harmonies and hiccups of Young World, Nelson could move from style to style.  Given his TV, clean-cut image, dad Ozzie never let him get too out of control, so Elvis and Jerry Lee got to keep the rebellion.  Perhaps that explains why he doesn't get as much respect.  And yes, numbers such as Fools Rush In are pretty slick, but listen to Burton's solo!  Appreciate the 50's craftsmanship too, as the 50's suburb dream of America was still holding on.

The set finishes with Nelson's famous Garden Party, his 1972 comeback hit about hating the oldies circuit in which he was stuck.  It's the only self-written number here, and is a great one too, in the country rock feel of The Eagles.  He really did have talent,he  just never got respect because he was a teen.  And such it has been ever since for teen stars.  At least he didn't go all Bieber on us.

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