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Ricky Nelson
Greatest Love Songs
Capitol Records
www.rickynelson.com


The current move to digital only television is a little bit exasperating for those of us who still play through tube amplifiers and realize that the old is oftentimes much better than the new. Whether or not you grew up with black and white television, The Ozzie And Harriet Show, Adam West as Batman, or Victrolas, there is a definite sense in the world of lost wonder. The songs that a young Ricky Nelson sang on the Ozzie And Harriet Show were eye-opening for so many of America's youth during the rise of television and the replacement of the radio in American homes. The sound that Ricky spawned went on to mutate into the raw sexual rock and roll of Elvis Presley, himself little more than a bad-boy Ricky Nelson. The guitar language that teenage James Burton was developing alongside this movement would have far-reaching effects, but that is a story for a different page.

Ricky Nelson churned out hit after hit, appealing to teenagers, bobby-soxers, and even the leather wearing rebellious motorcycle riders during his rise to stardom, but at the heart of what Ricky did was phenomenal songwriting. When you strip away the rock and roll of songs like "My Bucket's Got A Hole In It" and the heavy, heavy rhythm of "Believe What You Say" you are left with some amazing balladry and love songs, perfect for teenage love, but much farther reaching than that narrow audience. Songs like "Poor Little Fool" and "Lonesome Town" have a universal longing that transcends age and cuts deeply to the heart. There is a peculiar warmth in songs like "Never Be Anyone Else But You" that touches the heart of old and young alike, truly showing the ability of Ricky Nelson to plumb a song to its truest depths, revealing an exceptional amount of heart.

The tracks on Greatest Love Songs are all beautiful, whether it's the mid-tempo familiarity of "Hello Mary Lou" or the beautiful version of "Unchained Melody." Ricky Nelson could take a song and make it sing with a purity of spirit that appeals to the listener's heart intimately. The gospel boogie-woogie of "Trying To Get to You" has a resonant aching, while the soft samba of "Teenage Idol" expresses some of Ricky's own situation nicely. The classic "Young World" is a welcome inclusion, being one of young Ricky's finest swinging semi-country moments that nicely offsets the melancholy slowness of "True Love Ways." The later-career cover of Bobby Darin's "Dream Lover" is a slower, more produced affair that shows Rick never quite outgrew his ability to sing directly to the heart. The collection ends with the beautifully lush arrangement "That's All," a song that would sound more at home with the likes of Sinatra or Martin than with the teenage rock crowd.

This collection of Ricky Nelson's love songs is not by any means complete, but it is a great showcase of the breadth of sound that young Ricky produced. His silky vocals and tremendously talented backup band were some of the most influential in the formative years of rock and roll, and his balladry is just as important as the smoking, twanging heat of his rock tunes. Take a minute and fall in love all over again with one of the gretest voices ever recorded… Ricky Nelson.

-Embo Blake


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