Saturday, 10 September 2016

Rockin' With Ricky

Ricky Nelson - Rockin' With Ricky
ACE Records CH85

Side A
Mighty Good
Milkcow Blues
If You Can't Rock Me
Be-Bop Baby
There's Good Rockin' Tonight
It's Late
Waitin' In School

Side B
Shirley Lee
There Goes My Baby
Boppin' The Blues
I Got A Feeling
My Babe
Stood Up
Down The Line

For many, Ricky Nelson is considered part of the clean cut wave of manufactured 'Bobbies' that flooded the charts after Elvis got drafted, teen idols produced by record companies desperate to regain control from the rock 'n' roll phenomenon. I first heard them called 'Bobbies' by Jerry Lee Lewis and the name fits as most of them were called Bobby. But to lump Ricky Nelson in with them is doing him a serious disservice. Despite the fact that he was a radio, TV and film star who had a very clean cut image and was very photogenic he could rock 'n' roll with the best of them, as this album proves.

The fourteen tracks on this LP were recorded for Imperial Records between 1957 and 1960 and showcase Ricky's rock 'n' roll and rockabilly credentials. Any of them stand comparison with any of the acknowledged greats of the time. Every track on this album is great, six of them made it into the Billboard top 40 and three of them into the UK top 40. Most of the tracks are cover versions but they all stand up to the originals and sometimes surpass them. For instance compare Ricky's 'Milkcow Blues' with Elvis' (not the original, I know, but most likely the version covered), personally I'm not sure who did it better. Ricky's version is a prime slab of rockabilly, recorded in 1960 when most rockabilly/rock 'n' roll artists had moved into country or pop. That's not to say that Ricky was not a pop singer, he was, and a lot of the good stuff was hidden away on the B-sides of pop singles, which is the case for 'Milkcow Blues', but name me one Elvis single from 1960, A or B-side, that rocked as much.

The guitarist on all theses tracks is a young James Burton, just starting out on his career. The "Master of the Telecaster" would go on to play with just about everybody in country and rock 'n' roll, most famously he led Elvis' TCB Band in Vegas. He's currently touring but it seems that he's mostly doing the Elvis Vegas stuff rather than anything on this album. Still worth going to see though, I would if I was well enough, he's playing locally.

I was given this album for my seventeenth birthday, almost thirty(!) years ago, and it's always been a favourite. I could easily pick any of the tracks on this album to share with you but I've gone for 'Milkcow Blues' because it's fantastic and I've spent half of this post banging on about, his amazing version of Little Walter's 'My Babe' and one of his biggest hits 'Stood Up'. I hope that if you consider Ricky a 'Bobby' these tracks will change your mind. Play loud............

(To compare with Elvis, click here)

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