Rick Nelson: The Complete Epic Recordings

By the end of the '70s, his record company had such little faith in him that they did not release many of his records in the United States.

The Complete Epic Recordings

Arist: Rick Nelson
Label: Real Gone
US Release Date: 2012-03-06
UK Release Date: 2012-03-06
Label website
Artist website

Rick Nelson was there at the beginning of the modern rock era. He starred and sang on a television show during the early '50s and '60s. He was straight enough for mom and dad to like, but cute and rebellious enough to be adored by the kids. He oozed charm without trying. He sang really good material (like "Travelin' Man", "Hello Mary Lou", "Poor Little Fool") backed by some of the best side musicians (e.g., James Burton, Joe Maphis, Scotty Moore) of the time period. Nelson had a rockabilly streak that gave him an edge, even when performing love ballads.

Nelson was left in the dust when the British Invasion came and knocked American music off from the charts. He want back to his country rock roots and recorded material that suited his own tastes. As he famously sang later, "You can't please everyone so you got to please yourself." That song ("Garden Party") was among the more famous ones that led to his revival in the '70s. But that fame too was short lived. By the end of that decade, his record company (Epic) had such little faith in him that they did not release many of these songs in the United States.

Thankfully, the 41 tracks he recorded for Epic have just been issued, and they are amazingly good. The 2-CD set includes 1977's Intakes, the only disc to be released during his life time. The Al Kooper produced 1978 Back to Vienna Sessions that was posthumously remixed and released and in 1986 is issued here for the first time as Kooper intended. These each are both 10 cuts long.

The new anthology also includes 21 cuts known as the Memphis Sessions from 1978-9 that have been largely unavailable in America until now. He covers songs made famous by Elvis Presley ("That's Alright Mama"), Bobby Darin ("Dream Lover"), and Buddy Holly ("Rave On"), and many others. In fact, there are three versions of "Rave On" and two of "Dream Lover", but the tracks are different enough and good enough to bear repeated listenings. For example, Nelson takes on "Rave On" first as a straightforward pop song with an almost martial beat. The second time around the groove is much looser. He lets the musicians jam more and allows his voice to slither as well as hiccup during the appropriate moments. The third is live and features the audiences' reactions to his performance.

Nelson turns both versions of “Dream Lover” into acoustic, heartfelt pleas for a mate. He annunciates every word with a slight ache. Nelson offers an intimate prayer for love that makes the listener feel like someone eavesdropping on a private moment. It’s beautiful. But the Memphis sessions aren’t always so serious. He has fun with Bobby Womack’s “It’s All Over Now”, John Forgerty’s “Almost Saturday Night” and other more uptempo material.

The 1978 Back to Vienna Sessions was originally issued in a remixed version that stripped off Al Kooper's production. This is the first time one can hear his original Kooper lets each song have a separate personality. Nelson takes on some excellent creative material such as Arthur Alexander's "Everyday I Have to Cry Some", Allen Toussaint's "What is Success", Randall Bramblett's "Carl of the Jungle", and Terry Allen's "New Delhi Freight Train". Nelson's phrasing adds to the depth of the material just as Kooper's production gives the songs a frame.

Nelson always covered Bob Dylan well. He had a hit in 1970 with "She Belongs to Me". Here he performs "Mama, You've Been on My Mind" with a wistful touch that serves the song well.

Intakes captures that sunny California sound of 1976-7 with sweet guitar melodies/or piano lines mixed harmony vocals that evoke good times. Self-penned tracks like "It's Another Day" and "Something You Can't Buy" just beg to be heard while driving to the beach or the mountains. And other tunes, like the appropriately entitled "I Wanna Move With You", make you want to move. While there is something slight about the 10 tracks, that's also their charm. Life in this post-Watergate era was heavy enough. This is meant to take one's mind off of such things and just party.

Times are different now, or not, you figure it out. But Nelson's main concern was always the music. During this period of his life Nelson was making fine music that most people never heard--until now.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.