Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band
Released: November 1972
Chart Peak: #32
Weeks Charted: 18
On the front cover, which is stunning, there are several things of note. Rick photographs better here than he ever has in 32 1/2 unnaturally handsome years, resplendent in a jacket of rock & roll (embroidered) velvet. He's gripping his Les Paul Gibson with both hands, and with the same tenacity that's kept him going through the dubious success of his recent career. Right above his elegantly coifed head, in thin but emphatic lettering, is the name of the first bona fide smasheroo he's had in God knows how long.
"Garden Party" isn't the only song of self-revelation Rich has ever recorded -- there was, after all, "Teenage Idol" way back when ("Some people call me a Teenage Idol/Some people say they envy me/ I guess they got no way of knowing/How lonesome I can be") -- but it has a surprisingly intimate production that helps the earnestness ring true. His singing is clearer and stronger here than anywhere else on the album, and better in tune with the lyrics, too. And he's singing about something that's both simple and specific (almost too much so, what with the dash of name-dropping), an effectively limited subject that works perfectly with the controlled vocal and muted, bouncy backup.
"Let It Bring You Along" is the most interesting cut on the album, because it beautifully exemplifies the unresolvedly schizoid qualities of Rick's style. The song is alternately gentle and driving, quiet and loud, with no real transitions between the two moods (only a tiny bit of ooh-ah, which sounds like a straight steal from middle-kingdom Beatles). As for the lyrics, a little couplet like "Is she real or just an image?/ Did she leave satisfied?" juxtaposes the two distinct temperaments that crop up in Ricks own compositions. Line one sounds like the guy who wrote "Life" (on his last album), or "Are You Really Real?" here. The second line, its concern both more commonplace and more substantial, is closer to Rick at his least over-extended, his most vulnerable, his purest and best.
- Janet Maslin, Rolling Stone, 2/15/73.
Having just had a phenomenal return to the charts with a top 10 record, Nelson presents a fine LP sure to compete in the top 10 of the LP charts. With the Stone Canyon Band, he spotlights his hit "Garden Party," and others like "Nighttime Lady," "Palace Guard," "Are You Really Real?" and "So Long Mama," all Nelson originals. He also does "I Wanna Be With You" and Chuck Berry's "I'm Talking About You."
- Billboard, 1973.
This is the music "no one heard" at the Garden party because Rick "didn't look the same." Despite such titles as "Are You Really Real?" and "A Flower Opens Gently By" he has some reason to pout if music rather than songs is the operative concept -- the band is concentrated, jagged. Best music: Chuck Berry's "I'm Talking About You." Second-best song: Rick's own "So Long Mama." B-
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
This comeback introduced Nelson to a new generation. * * * *
- Bill Dahl, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
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