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Cream of The Crate: Album # 187 - Ricky Nelson: All My Best

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  • Cream of The Crate: Album # 187 - Ricky Nelson: All My Best

    "Rick Nelson was there at the beginning of the modern rock era." (Steve Horowitz -Popmatters - 2012)
    "Musicians as diverse as Eric Andersen and John Fogerty, and even some of his own heroes, including Carl Perkins and Scotty Moore, admired and respected Nelson." (The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll)
    I remember him not just as a nostalgic rock singer but as a lively and talented artist who loved what he did and did what he loved."
    (This review)

    This is album review number One Hundred and Eighty Seven in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and CD albums from my collection.

    The series is called Cream of The Crate and each review represents an album that I believe represents significant musical value, either because of its rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of a music or because there is something unique about the music, the group or the particular production. The first fifty reviews were based on vinyl albums from my collection, with the following fifty on CD albums from my collection. Links to all these reviews can be found at the bottom of the page.

    This artist started out in the 1950's, first as a teen idol in a TV show, but later as a genuine recording star, recording from the 1950's through into the 1970's.

    The artist is the Ricky Nelson and this is a vinyl album is titled - All My Best. It was released on the Australian J&B label in Island label in more recent years - 1985 in fact. It has the identifying code of JB 231. It is a twenty two track album with twelve tracks on side 1 and ten tracks on side 2.

    The musical story of Ricky Nelson starts with a young very clean cut teenage boy appearing with his real life family in a US family comedy, called The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet. This was the real life story of the Nelson family, consisting of the all American dad - Ozzie Nelson, his very 1950's middle-class wife, Harriet Nelson, older son David, and younger son Erick, also known as Ricky. The show actually had its genesis on radio, but became a far more popular show in the USA when it switched to television in 1952, and later when the program was screened in the late-mid 1950's, in Australia.

    Ozzie with David & Harriette with Ricky

    Now Harriette was quite an accomplished singer and so Ozzie, who wrote most of the scripts, made the decision in 1957, to let his then 17 year old son Ricky start singing on the program. Ricky, who was born on may 8th 1940, was incredibly good looking and proved to have a great voice, and smart dad quickly realised that presenting Ricky singing would also being a lot of teenage girls to the program.

    So it was that this TV show, which ran through until 1966, when the program was finished because of a severe decline in ratings, a decline that was tied to both a change in what the public in the mid 1960's perceived to be the "real" American family, and, because Ricky had left to pursue his own musical career earlier.

    Ricky (to become Rick in 1961) had as his major influences, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis. In fact it was an Elvis impression on an episode in 1957 that gave his dad the idea to introduce more of him singing. He had it all in the '50's, the ducktail, the flat-top cut, was handsome and really could sing!

    For his first single, Ricky Nelson cut a double-sided smash: “A Teenager’s Romance” backed with Fats Domino’sI’m Walkin’.” Both songs made the Top Five shortly after the single’s release in April 1957, instantly launching his musical career. He was all of sixteen years old, and this was just the beginning. All totalled, he would score three dozen hits, record seventy singles and compilations and releases after his death found 37 albums under his name. This makes him one of the most successfully prolific rock and roll artists.

    According to the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, "His less frantic brand, more poppy brand of rockabilly went down easily with America’s suburban teenagers. After the success of his first two singles on Verve, Nelson quickly signed to the Imperial label, where his hit streak extended into the early Sixties. In 1958, Nelson reached #1 with “Poor Little Fool” (written by Sharon Sheeley, who was Eddie Cochran’s girlfriend). His discerning taste in material also led him to “Hello Mary Lou” - his signature song, penned by Gene Pitney - and “Travelin’ Man,” both of which topped the charts. During a three-year period from 1957 through 1959, Nelson owned the pop charts, placing 18 songs in the Top 40 for nearly 200 combined weeks.

    As indicated earlier, he dropped the "y" from his name in 1961 as he found his appeal with the teens beginning to wane and he turned to a slightly older audience, both that which had grown up with him, and what he hoped, would be an audience that was even a bit older than he. He turned 21 in 1961.

    The further into the 1960's he went, the more his career floundered. in some ways no more than many artists who failed to keep pace with the rapid changes to what the public wanted, and, what they were being exposed to courtesy of the exploding music scene in Great Britain, something even his idol Elvis was struggling with.

    He then formed the Stone Canyon Band in 1970, whose mellow, California-based country-rock sound anticipated the laid-back likes of the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt.

    Rick far left & the Stone Canyon band

    One of his band members, in fact, was bassist Randy Meisner, a founding member of Poco who’d later find fame with the Eagles. During this era, Nelson had a minor hit with his easygoing remake of Bob Dylan’sShe Belongs to Me.” All the while, he resisted the idea of becoming a nostalgia act desperately trying new material to reinvent himself.

    In 1972 he performed at a Richard Nader Oldies Concert at Madison Square Garden where the audience booed him, because, he felt, he was playing new songs instead of just his old hits. When he performed The Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Women", he was booed off the stage. He was strongly leaned on to return to the stage to perform his "Golden Oldies" - but it cut deep.

    Not long after he recorded Garden Party, which he sang of his absolute dismay!

    By now hits in any form or shape had dried up. This didn't stop Rick from working hard, some say harder than ever and he performed up to 200 dates a year. The decade wasn’t entirely kind to him, as personal problems (including a cocaine addiction) began to mount as his popularity waned.

    His life ended tragically in 1985 when his tour plane caught fire and crashed near a highway in DeKalb, Texas, killing him and six others.

    Track Listing:

    Side 1

    1. Travellin' Man
    2. Hello Mary Lou
    3. Poor Little Fool
    4. Stood Up
    5. It's late
    6. You Know What I Mean
    7. I Got A Feeling
    8. Just A Little Too Much
    9. Believe What You Say
    10. Waiting In School
    11. Never Be Anyone Else But You
    12. Teenage Idol

    Side 2

    1. I'm Walkin'
    2. Fools Rush In
    3. It's Up Too You
    4. Sweeter Than You
    5. Mighty Good
    6. You Are The Only One
    7. Young World
    8. Don't Leave Me This Way
    9. Lonesome Town
    10. Garden Party

    So, there are about 16 versions of this album released in various countries from 1985 trough to 1996, and the track listing order varies across labels and years. With this album, the only Australian version, we find that the tracks are not in any chronological order which is the bane of my life with compilations. There are a great way of hearing a (sometimes) full range of styles of the artist and you would think, the record producers would give some thought to maybe assembling the tracks in a chronological order so we, the listeners, can hear the progression as the artist develops and the styles change.

    But no, in terms of years of release, it's real "dogs breakfast".

    Track 1 - Travelling Man was released in 1961. Written by
    Jerry Fuller originally for Sam Cooke, the track was passed onto Ricky when Cooke's manager decided that it wasn't a good enough track for Cooke. Well, the track in fact went onto be reach number 1in the US charts, US Cashbox, Australia and number 2 in the UK. Now it wasn't his first number 1, that was Poor Little Fool in 1958, but it was his second number 1, and came after an almost three year break.

    The song itself is about the loves experienced by a world traveller who seems to catch the eyes of pretty women where ever he goes. If it had been written by Ricky we could easily imagine it was a reflection of both his experiences and, maybe his dreams. but the song in fact was written by Fuller as we discussed. During the song Fuller's clever lyrics suggest that our traveller has a girl in every port, so to speak where, the girls are sung about in terms of a word or sentence that is associated with the location.

    For example we find the women were: a "pretty señorita" in Mexico, an Eskimo in Alaska, a fräulein in Berlin, a china doll in Hong Kong, and a Polynesian in Waikiki.

    What is certain is that it seems to fit Ricky Nelsons voice beautifully, and he delivers in it a way that must have had many teen girls hearts a flutter at the time.

    Travelling Man

    Track 2 which is Hello Mary Lou was in fact the B-side to Travelling Man and for a B-side charted at a respectable number 9 in the US, but charted at number 1 in Australia and number 2 in the UK.

    Track 3 is his first number 1 hit - Poor Little Fool. Released in 1958 it was written by a 15 year ld school girl, Sharon Sheeley. The story goes that she was encouraged to write by Elvis, a pretty strange claim - but it could be true. Anyway she decided that Ricky was the person she wanted to have sing it, and again among the many rock 'n' roll stories, it is suggested that she deliberately had her car break down outside Ricky's house, and that he subsequently came to her aid, and she convinced him to try the song. What a 15 year old was doing driving a car is beyond me, even though a few states allow a 15 year old to have a learners permit - but hey! A story is a story!

    Her ability to write is not in question and over the years she wrote songs for
    Glen Campbell, Ricky Nelson, Brenda Lee, and her former fiancé, Eddie Cochran.

    The track as played by Ricky is a medium tempo country/rock track which totally was right for the period, and yet today we can listen with a degree of nostalgia for a very innocent period. incidentally it was supposed to be played more uptempo, but Nelson decided to bring the temp down.

    James Kikland -bass, rick nelson & James Burton - guitar

    The track certainly has a pedigree with backing musicians with the legendary James Burton on guitar and James Kirkland on bass.

    Poor Little Fool

    The remainder of side 1 is made up of tracks from albums and featured singles such as the 1959 It's Late a decent medium tempo rocker, and a very good cover of A Little Too Much, which is track 8. This track reached the lower end of the top 10 in the USA and came from his 1959 album Songs By Ricky (Ricky Sings Spirituals). A strange track for an album sub-titles Ricky Sings Spirituals as it was written by rocker Johnny Burnett and certainly Ricky sings it as a medium-uptempo rock piece. What it demonstrates is that while Ricky Nelson was never a high energy rock "screamer", he had an ability to use his more mellow voice in rock pieces by virtue of his ability to put "bounce" into his delivery and certainly, his good looks were fundamental in him attracting the female rock teen fans.

    Some five years after Ricky released it, our own home-grown rocker, Col Joye would release it.

    Just A Little Too Much

    The other outstanding track on side one is the second last track, track 11 - Never Be Anyone Else But You. Call a spade a spade, today many people would call this a saccharin sweet ballad, it was released late 1958, but when Ricky first played it on the Ozzie and Harriet show in circa 1959 it was grabbed and promoted strongly as it represented the gentle non-threatening side to "rock 'n' roll", that was taking a hammering from all the various scandals of the day. In some ways it typifies the gentle balladry nature that seemed to fit Ricky Nelson so perfectly, but ricky sought more.

    Oh the track made it to number 5 on the US Cashbox.

    Turning the album over it has a great collection of popular Nelson songs and some good tracks at that. It kicks off with a popular piece by Fat's Domino - I'm Walking. Back in 1957 we need to remember that black artists were largely only followed by black audiences and so it was quite something for a 17 year old white middle class boy to sing a track written and performed by a black artist.


    Not long after the Waller version was released, Ricky Nelson performed the song on an episode of his parents' show,
    The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet. Ricky's version was released as a single, which reached number four on the pop singles chart and number ten on the R&B charts. His version was released on Verve Records label with the B-side being A Teenager's Romance. When you listen to the two versions side by side, in some ways it is not so much chalk and cheese, as probably well matured cheese and fresh cheese. OK, enough of the dairy food analogies, what I'm trying to say is that the Fat's version is actually faster than the Nelson version and reeks of "jive", has more "swing" in it - but we still have to dip our hats at what Ricky achieved for one so young.

    Of course it's a little 'sanitized" but with the help of James Burton on guitar (don't you just love his playing?), it may not have the swing that the original version has, and even though the tempo is dropped a little,

    I'm Walking

    Track 2 - Fools Rush In was released in 1963 and represents the period where Rick Nelson appeared out of Ricky Nelson. It is a deliberate move away from the teen crowd and, rock. Written by Johnny Mercer it was a track recorded by the likes of the Tommy Dorsey band with Frank Sinatra and, also by Billy Eckstine. They were the artists of the teens parents generation. But on the other hand, R&B artists of the day, such as Brooke Benton and Etta James also recorded it, so on one hand it was still considered music of the day, but, it really was not the music of the teens.

    Ricky did a good job of interpreting the track, and it reached number 12 in the UK and the US. The Nelson version, while not rock is a decent uptempo track, with a smidgeon of Latin America laying below the surface. I'm not certain, but it sounds a lot like James Burton still accompanying Ricky, and what a great middle eight guitar solo..

    Fools Rush In

    The rest of the album consists of an eclectic arrangement of pieces from various albums, with the only tracks to be released as singles being tracks 4 - Sweeter Than You (1959) which reached number 9 on Cashbox, Young World (track 7) in 1961, which also reached number 9 on Cashbox and the final track - the 'telling" track of the album, the 1972 track - Garden Party.

    It was telling for several reasons. First of all while it only reached number 3 on Cashbox (actually a damn fine effort when you consider the year and the styes of music that were popular), it reached number 3 in Australia and number 1 in the little known adult contemporary chart in the USA. So it was his first number 1 for nine years, that last track being "For You" which was released in 1963 and also made number 1 on the SC chart.

    Secondly, it was a long time between drinks so to speak and it would be his last number 1 track - ever!

    It was also representative of the long journey he had been on, a journey where like many other artists he wanted to break free of the "good old songs" and start afresh, but where, the audience would punish him for it. That performance at Maddison Square Garden reminded him, and all artists that, you need to be careful and be very aware that when you build your fan base up, the expectation is that you will continue to provide those same songs that you gave them when building your fan base. To do otherwise is to pul the foundations away, and fans are very unforgiving.

    It is a sad song, a song of reflection but also a song of insight and realisation.

    I went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends
    A chance to share old memories and play our songs again
    When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name
    No one recognized me, I didn't look the same

    But it's all right now, I learned my lesson well.
    You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself

    People came from miles around, everyone was there
    Yoko brought her walrus, there was magic in the air
    'n' over in the corner, much to my surprise
    Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan's shoes wearing his disguise


    lott-in-dah-dah-dah, lot-in-dah-dah-dah

    Played them all the old songs, thought that's why they came
    No one heard the music, we didn't look the same
    I said hello to "Mary Lou", she belongs to me
    When I sang a song about a honky-tonk, it was time to leave


    lot-dah-dah-dah (lot-dah-dah-dah)

    Someone opened up a closet door and out stepped Johnny B. Goode
    Playing guitar like a-ringin' a bell and lookin' like he should
    If you gotta play at garden parties, I wish you a lotta luck
    But if memories were all I sang, I rather drive a truck


    lot-dah-dah-dah (lot-dah-dah-dah)

    'n' it's all right now, learned my lesson well
    You see, ya can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself

    t remains hauntingly beautiful and so very relevant, even today some 44 years later.

    Garden Party

    Ricky Nelson was popular, at times incredibly popular and his accolades are righteous and worthy.

    He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1515 Vine Street. In 2004, Rolling Stoneranked Nelson #91 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

    Yet if you ask people to name their favourite R&R artists, let alone musical artists of the period from the mid 1950's through to the early 1970's, few if any would mention Rick(y) Nelson. His album sits comfortably as part of the cream of my crate, and I remember him not just as a nostalgic rock singer but as a lively and talented artist who loved what he did and did what he loved.

    This album does just about contain all his best work, certainly his hits and therefore is a good album to have in any collection that purports to be a R&R collection. The album All My Best has been released some 16 times and differing versions have fewer tracks, and sometimes the tracks are in a different order. Do be aware that some versions are shortened with only 17 tracks, so why be shortchanged?

    There is this original Australian vinyl release on J&B which Discogs have a couple of copies of for under $10.00, but there was also a re-release on vinyl in 1986 on the Skyline label and a CD re-release in 1988.

    Click image for larger version

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    VIDEOS - Youtube came up trumps with Ricky, and we can thank the TV program The Nelson's for some of the material still available to view.

    Hello Mary Lou

    Never Be Anyone Else But You

    It's Late [ The audio is out of synch but very clear pictures of the backing group that includes the legendary James Burton)

    Young World

    Garden party (I had to include this clip)

    If you are interested in checking out the first fifty vinyl albums reviewed, just click here

    If you are interested in checking out the first fifty (50) CD's reviewed by me, just click here

    If you are interested in checking out reviews 101 to 150 (Vinyl & CD) as reviewed by me, just click here

    Past album Reviews - Numbers 151 onward:

    Number 151 - The Shaggs: Philosophy Of The World

    Number 152 - The Animals: The Animals

    Number 153 - Omar Khorshid: Live in Australia 1981

    Number 154 - Alan Parsons Project: Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Edgar Allan Poe)

    Number 155 - Billy Thorpe: Tangier

    Number 156 - Aretha Franklin: The Best Of

    Number 157 - Big Bill Broonzy: Big Bill Blues [His 23 Greatest Songs]

    Number 158 - The Supremes: Where Did Our Love Go

    Number 159 - The Band: Stage Fright

    Number 160 - Ray Brown & The Whispers: Hits and More 1965 - 1968

    Number 161 - Guitar Junior: The Crawl

    Number 162 - Jimi Hendrix: Radio One

    Number 163 - Memphis Minnie: Queen Of The Blues

    Number 164 - Eno: Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)

    Number 165 - The Loved Ones: Magic Box

    Number 166 - Various Artists: On The Road Again [An Anthology Of Chicago Blues 1947 - 1954]

    Number 167 - Janis Joplin: Greatest Hits

    Number 168 - David Bowie: Ziggy Stardust

    Number 169 - Red Hot Chili Peppers: Californication

    Number 170 - Chain: Two Of A Kind

    Number 171 - Bob Marley and The Wailers - Legend

    Number 172 - Coco Taylor: What It takes

    Number 173 - Stevie Wonder: Original Musiquarium

    Number 174 - Various Artists: The Unissued 1963 Blues Festival

    Number 175 - Noeleen Batley: Little Treasure

    Number 176 - B.B. King: The Best Of

    Number 177 - Fleetwood Mac: Fleetwood Mac (The White Album)

    Number 178 - Memphis Slim: I Feel So Good

    Number 179 - Manfred Mann's Earth Band: Live Budapest

    Number 180 - Flowers: Icehouse

    Number 181 - Joe Tex: The Best of

    Number 182 - Chicago [Transit Authority]: Chicago Transit Authority

    Number 183 - Deep Purple: The Deep Purple Singles

    Number 184 - The Doobie Brothers: Best of the Doobie Brothers

    Number 185 - Dig Richards: Jive After Five

    Number 186 - Stereo MC's: Connected
    Attached Files
    Last edited by Rob Greaves; 27 May 2016, 09:52 AM.