Rick Nelson's Best of 1963-1975 is a compilation that too many casual fans will probably by-pass, to their loss, mostly owing to the period of his career that it represents. His dozen years at Decca/MCA Records caught Nelson somewhere between his biggest hits and greatest stardom, and his career revival from the early 1970s. It is laced with hits, ...
Rick Nelson's Best of 1963-1975 is a compilation that too many casual fans will probably by-pass, to their loss, mostly owing to the period of his career that it represents. His dozen years at Decca/MCA Records caught Nelson somewhere between his biggest hits and greatest stardom, and his career revival from the early 1970s. It is laced with hits, to be sure, including the beguiling "String Along" (Number 25 in the spring of 1963), "Fools Rush In" (Number 12 that same summer), "For You" (Number six the following fall), and "The Very Thought of You" (Number 26 in the spring of 1964) -- none of this might have had the pop-culture impact of, say, "I'm Walkin'" or "Travelin' Man," but they're excellent music-making. Those teen pop/rock & roll hits are accompanied by a pair of edgy singles that didn't do so well, "Gypsy Woman" (which charted modestly as the B-side of "String Along") and Nelson's killer rendition of Billy Vera's "Mean Old World," plus two LP tracks from the mid-1960s that stand out in retrospect: the rockabilly-style "Mystery Train," and the sincere reconsideration of the Skyliners' 1959 hit "Since I Don't Have You." And neither "Mean Old World" nor "Since I Don't Have You" is on the four-CD Legacy box. The only peculiarity about this 15-song CD is that the first ten songs defy release/recording order. The presence of the Skyliners' song, incidentally -- beautifully sung and arranged for solo voice -- and Nelson's rendition of Bob Dylan's "She Belongs to Me" point to the conundrum faced by Nelson as the mid-1960s wore on. His own biographical roots lay in the 1950s, just a couple of years behind Elvis Presley, and, courtesy of his father's influence, his musical range extended back easily 30 years before that ("For You" and "Fools Rush In" were in that category); but he was also growing musically, to encompass the songs of Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, among others, not a big deal for Nelson, but more of a stretch than some of his fans were willing to make. Nelson's whole career, in its various aspects, straddled several generations, and one too many for some of the oldies' buffs who attended a Rock & Roll Revival show at Madison Square Garden where he performed; so one account (accepted by Nelson and supported by some on-lookers, though disputed by others) goes, as soon as he did his newer repertory, the audience turned off and said so very loudly; the result of the experience was Nelson's last hit song, "Garden Party." What makes this disc handy is that it gives a good road map, short of listening to his complete earlier output, to the evolutionary process that led to this career crossroads. The disc concludes with a quartet of superb country-rock singles that followed (and somehow never charted) with which he finished his contract with Decca/MCA. The sound is excellent and the annotation is extremely thorough, and short of a 30-song double-CD from the same repertory, this is a good, detailed snapshot of this side of his career, a better one than the Legacy box offers. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi