Artist Spotlight:: Rick Nelson And The Stone Canyon Band – Chapter 4

Ian Cooke, Co-Music Supervisor of “Easy To Be Free: The Songs Of Rick Nelson” (Planting Seeds, 2006) takes a multi-chapter look at one of Rock & Rolls most underrated legends, examining Nelson’s country rock period. Here is the fourth installment.

Chapter Four: Rick Nelson And The Stone Canyon Band

Awaiting the January release of “Rick Nelson In Concert” Rick appeared on the Glen Campbell Show, December 11, 1969. Nelson’s first national tv musical performance since the Ed Sullivan Show back in January 1966. Lip-synching his comeback hit “She Belongs To Me” and then reminiscing with Campbell about the 1966 tour of Japan ( Campbell played bass) where they learned the song “Louisiana Man’ which they performed unplugged. To the millions who saw this appearance, it was their first exposure to the new Rick Nelson, an auspicious national debut and a great way to end his most successful year in some time.

January 1970 saw the release of “Rick Nelson In Concert” packaged in a special double-fold jacket that opened to show color pictures of Rick and the band. Eric Anderson’s liner notes stated concisely and also gave Rick credibility to fans of the singer-songwriter movement.

“Ricky Nelson. That’s Him…..
The skinny kid with the big voice who we all watched grow up. And if you look in his eyes now, you can see he’s been through a lot of changes like everybody else. The kind of changes that make you grow and feel, wonder, hurt, learn and love. It’s all these kind of feelings (called life) that are the kind of things that go into making a man’s soul, and that’s what makes his music. And music, I believe, can create a powerful feeling within people. I’ve seen it in the faces of the folks who have watched Rick sing in concert. When he starts singing and the group starts playing, it’s hard to keep yourself still. You just want to move with it.

And that same magical feeling happens when this record begins to play. It was recorded at one of Rick’s performances at The Troubadour Club in Los Angeles and captures that same raw natural spirit. It comes right out at you and grabs hold. He sings old songs, new songs and even some that he’s written himself. “Easy to Be Free” is one of the most beautiful songs I ever heard. There seems to be a lot of electric music going on these days and Rick, you know, is one of the few rare souls who understands what rock and roll music is all about. It’s no complicated or sophisticated thing to him. It’s in his guts, like an instinct, and just seems to come ut naturally. He says it’s a feeling, like tappin’ your foot.

Some people believe music can change the world. Maybe it’s true. Rick has been through a lot of changes. But most important, he’s still making music-and maybe he’ll make the world a little better for it, too.”

Rolling Stone critic Lester Bangs raved about the release. “This album is an unmitigated delight. A strong set of authentic American music. Clearly now, the dude who can sing songs like “Hello Mary Lou” is also a member of that great company which includes the likes of Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds. Listening to this album, and recalling Nelson’s early work, the extent of his influence on the styles of composition and delivery of above artists becomes obvious and now he has returned the favor with a brilliant collection of gutsy originals and exquisitely rendered favorites by Dylan, Kershaw, et al. And the big, rich country sound of the guitars here show how thoroughly Rick has digested the rock ensemble sound of the Byrds and Springfield.

The opener, “Come On In,” sets the mood perfectly. It is a sanguine handshake of a song that draws you in and sets you perfectly at ease. When that great steel guitar takes off on its first rippling solo flight, the exhilaration is doubled as you realize that this music is as technically impeccable as congenial. Mention should also be made of Rick’s announcement of songs and general comments to the audience: he’s so nervous and shy it’s almost embarrassing, yet absolutely charming. The rest of the album is just as comfortable and inspire as the great beginning “Mary Lou” features a vibrant steel guitar excursion by Tom Brumley that I wouldn’t trade for almost any album by hip LA country-rock groups. Somehow, Rick’s music seems more authentic, as if he and his band had been hiding out in Okie bars all these years paying dues and assimilating the pure draft beer ethos of this music.”

Author Stephen King after Rick’s death would write “the live version of “She Belongs To Me” is maybe the best cover of a Dylan song ever recorded.” “In Concert” would be Rick’s benchmark album and reach number 54 in the Hot Two Hundred Album Charts. Proving for once and for all that Nelson was more than a manufactured Teen Age Idol.

Read the previous Three Chapters:
Artist Spotlight: Rick Nelson & The Stone Canyon Band Chapter 1
Artist Spotlight: Rick Nelson & The Stone Canyon Band Chapter 2
Artist Spotlight: Rick Nelson & The Stone Canyon Band Chapter 3

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