"A"-sides & "B"-sides--but with irritations!
(3 out of 5 stars)
"EMI had the admittedly cool idea of collecting both sides of Rick Nelson's 1st 10 singles on one disc. So why did they blow it in so many ways? The CD is missing "Don't Leave Me "b"-side of "Poor Little Fool"); they inexplicably included previously-unreleased "alternate takes" of "Never Be Anyone Else But You" and "Sweeter Than You" (instead of the originals); and they tacked on "Milk Cow Blues" (the "b"-side of "You Are The Only One", which appears on Vol.2!). But WORST of all, whatever possessed them to include studio "out-takes" at the start of "Be-Bop Baby" and "It's Late"? I can't believe ANYONE really wanted to hear these, and they ruin the songs(thus necessitating getting other CDs to be able to hear them without these "interruptions"). At least they've learned: when they released the 25th Ann. Ed. of Deep Purple's IN ROCK, the included "out-takes" were given separate tracks, which you could program your CD player to skip over if you wanted."
A flawed but potent introduction to a rockabilly great
Harley P. Payette | Phillipsburg, New Jersey United States | 07/03/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There was no incentive for Ricky Nelson to make great records. In an era where Johnny Crawford and Richard Chamberlain had hit records based solely on a their looks and TV exposure, he could have sold millions with garbage. The impulse to cruise must have been furthered by his pleasant but limited tenor which was far from one of the best voices of the era. That Nelson went on to become one of the great rockabilly singers and even one of the era's best balladeers is one of the true miracles in rock history. The best part about it is that Nelson was directly responsible for that miracle by pushing his thin voice to the limit, forming a series of great bands and truly discovering a team of top flight writers.All of that is on display in this first disc of the Legendary Masters' Series. You can hear Nelson's rapid development as a singer from the careful almost halting phrasing on "Be Bop Baby" to the rapid fire delivery on "Waiting in School" to the cool swinging confidence of "It's Late" one of rockabilly's all time classics. The great band is best displayed on "Waiting in School" which contains a furious attack on both lead and rhythm guitar. It's one of the wildest and most intense records in rock history. If Nelson were not such a restrained singer the record would be almost too hard to take. Elsewhere on the album, James Burton unleashes brilliant, inventive and economic solos on song after song. Notice also how Nelson eggs the band on to even greater efforts with well placed asides like "ohh yeah," and "Let's go now."Dorsey and Johnny Burnette and Baker Knight are Nelson's song writing discoveries here. Nelson's interpretations of their work are top knotch. No Burnette record (except "Train Kept a Rolling") is better than what Nelson does here with their work on "Believe What You Say", "It's Late" etc. And Nelson's plain tenor is perfectly suited for Knight's "Lonesome Town".That all being said, the set is not perfect. At just under 46 minutes it's way too short. Another ten tracks could have easily been added. Tracks like "You Tear Me Up" and Johnny Cash's "Restless Kid" are dying to be included. Also "Never be Anyone Else But You" and "Sweeter Than You" are alternate takes not the originals. I happen to the think the alternate of the latter is better than the original and the former is almost indistinguishable from the original, but both the originals and the alternates should have been included especially considering the length of the CD. Also while the opening chatter on some cuts is interesting, it becomes annoying on repeat listens. Still the liner notes are great, the sound is superb and the quality of most (two weaks cuts of 20) of the material is excellent. This is an excellent introduction to the hall of famer.P.S. If you like this check out Vol.2 and the new Capital Ricky Sings Again/Songs by Ricky reissue.They fill in the holes left here."
Sparkling collection from one of rock's first teenage idols
hyperbolium | Earth, USA | 08/17/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"From the opening guitar and drums of 1957's "Be Bop Baby" through the closing shuffle of 1960's "Milk Cow Blues", Ricky Nelson and band show themselves to be much more than a TV star and his hired hands. While not in the league of Elvis, neither was Nelson as pre-fabbed as the Bandstand Boys (Fabian, et al) who would follow. The rockin' tracks here really do rock, partly due to Nelson's melodic rockabilly-inflected vocals, and partly due to the great supporting cast.This disc starts with Nelson's first recordings for Imperial, backed by a band that included legendary guitarists James Burton on rhythm and Joe Maphis on lead, and the Jordanaires. In early '58, apparently, Nelson took over on rhythm and Burton switched to lead guitar. "Be Bop Baby", starting with a few false takes and some studio chatter, is a great pop-rockabilly song. It often takes a compilation of this sort to refocus one's view from "oldie icon" to "great pop song". In its normal radio presentation (between "Mack the Knife" and a commercial), this song tends to lose its pizazz. But put back into the context of 1957, there's a great rough rhythm guitar sound, and some nice drumming from Richie Frost. The closing cymbal stroke, which sounds kind of corny, is the sort of thing that would be edited out in today's multitrack recording. Instead, playing live, it was just left at the end of what was otherwise a great take.Other big hits include "Believe What You Say", a great mid-tempo rocker with Ricky testifyin' and either Joe Maphis or James Burton (or both) ripping some great guitar in the break and slipping a couple of twangs in between the verses. The whole thing just MOVES. "Poor Little Fool" has a very easy, confident vocal from Nelson and nice background vocals from the Jordanaires. "Lonesome Town", has sparse guitar accompaniment and a plaintive lead vocal. "Never Be Anyone Else But You", a classic Ricky love song, with more great backing from the Jordanaires. "It's Late", a swinging rockabilly cover of a Dorsey Burnette tune... bopping Jordanaire vocals and some nice piano from Gene Garf and one of many classic guitar breaks from James Burton. It's great to hear those raw, twangin' strings peeking through on something that was a Top 10 hit. "Young Emotions", featuring Ricky and a full string score, and a great tinkling piano line.And those are just the tip of the Ricky iceberg. Lots of other top-tenners here. A good disc, and a good value for your CD dollar."