Greatest Hits [Capitol 2002]

by: Rick Nelson

There's nothing more frustrating than an excellent retrospective that nevertheless has a serious shortcoming. Such is the case in Capitol's near-definitive 2002 Rick Nelson compilation, Greatest Hits, which has so many hits and so many great songs, it's easy to believe upon a glance that they're all here. But they're not. Most egregiously, "Waiting in School," the flip side of "Stood Up" (which made it perhaps the greatest rock & roll single ever, as no less of an authority than Cub Koda stated), is not here, but such classic sides as "If You Can't Rock Me," "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It," and "String Along," among others, aren't here, along with good cuts from his recordings with the Stone Canyon Band. Of course, since this is a Capitol release called Greatest Hits, it's little surprise that it doesn't cover the Stone Canyon Band, but the absence of "Waiting in School" is enough to keep this from bliss. Even so, it's essential because it contains the great majority of Nelson's great songs, and because he really was one of the best of the first generation of rockers. Perhaps not a trailblazer nor a genius on the level of either Chuck Berry or the Everlys, but one of the greatest pure singers of his time, fronting a crackerjack band and singing his peerless material with a conviction overshadowed only by Elvis. And, unlike Elvis, he was one of the legions of teens that wished he was Elvis, giving his music a distinctive edge, even if he was backed by unflappable pros. And that's something he didn't lose in his career -- he was always a superior interpreter with impeccable taste, which is evident by the two Stone Canyon Band cuts that close this collection (including his comeback classic, "Garden Party"). Much of what Rick Nelson cut is enjoyable, a lot of it is worth hearing, but Greatest Hits comes as close as any single disc could to capturing his greatest -- even if it's missing one of his greatest songs. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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