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Album Review

Rick Nelson's Garden Party album rocks a lot harder than the title track would lead one to believe, and is also as much of a showcase for the Stone Canyon Band as it is for Nelson. Allen Kemp's lead guitar crunches and grinds its notes on the opening track, the edgy "Let It Bring You Along," before we hear the familiar, laid-back, country-rock strains of "Garden Party." The jaunty "So Long Mama" follows, dominated by Nelson's rhythm guitar and showcasing Tom Brumley's pedal steel guitar, and then Kemp and the rhythm section of Stephen A. Love (bass) and Patrick Shanahan (drums) move to the fore on the pounding "I Wanna Be With You." Nelson slips into a completely different mode on the ethereal, understated "Are You Really Real?" The original's second side opened with a solid rendition of Chuck Berry's "I'm Talking About You," which offers Kemp in a somewhat jazzy and discursive break. The playing is more subdued and lyrical on Nelson's own "Night Time Lady," and the bluesy "Flower Opens Gently By," and the album ends on the soft, bittersweet ballad "Palace Guard." There's a fair amount of melodic invention throughout, though not quite enough to make this album a classic. The domestic CD version from the end of the 1980s offers only fair sound — those interested in something better should opt for the 2002-vintage BGO two-on-one reissue of Garden Party.


Born: May 08, 1940 in Teaneck, NJ

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Rick Nelson was one of the very biggest of the '50s teen idols, so it took awhile for him to attain the same level of critical respectability as other early rock greats. Yet now the consensus is that he made some of the finest pop/rock recordings of his era. Sure, he had more promotional push than any other rock musician of the '50s; no, he wasn't the greatest singer; and yes, Elvis, Gene Vincent, Carl Perkins, and others rocked harder. But Nelson was extraordinarily consistent during the first five...
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