There is a surplus of Ricky Nelson collections; so many that they already outnumber his original labels’ catalogue releases. What begins to happen are thematic compilations. Of course, these are good and bad. The good is that releases like this one keep the name of the artist in the minds of future generations. It also helps that the music gets a new treatment making them potentially sound better. The bad? Lots and lots of ‘best of’ collections. Greatest Love Songs add to that considerable weight. Capitol, who releases this compilation, released a Greatest Hits set in 2005 to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Ricky Nelson’s premature death in 1985 at age 45 from an accidental but fatal plane crash.
Beginning at a young age, Ricky Nelson became what many could not successfully accomplish in a transitional state. Ricky Nelson became – and enjoyed – several lives, between that of a TV icon and that of a pop star. Both of his personas captured the hearts of a very wide audience. But his story is well known to many and need not be recounted here. Suffice it to say, his transition to a Pop star put him in a historical place, one that is occupied by the likes of Elvis Presley, all known as Rock’s beginnings.
Greatest Love Songs does a good job of assembling some of the better “love” songs of Ricky Nelson, including those that were covers. You’ll find the expected but timeless “Hello Mary Lou,” here as well as “Never Be Anyone Else but You,” and the great “Poor Little Fool.” But there are other gems that include the covers of “Unchained Melody,” as well as Bobby Darin’s popular “Dream Lover,” which was recorded late in the ‘70s by Nelson. Accompanying the 22 songs on this album is a 12-page booklet that offers a 3-page essay by Jim Ritz. In it, he recounts the essence of one of the tracks included on this set (“Gloomy Sunday”) and its controversial meanings but also notes Nelson’s love of the music that led to Nelson’s recording of the tune. The booklet also provides some photos as well as a detailed track listing complete with chart placements.
Ricky Nelson was one of those magic moments in music that took the Pop music of the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, and refashioned them into a new style that ultimately became the Pop/ Rock ‘n’ Roll of the time.