Sandy Nelson

Country Style/Teenage House Party

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This two-fer assembles a pair of 1963 dates for Imperial, capturing the best and the worst of Sandy Nelson. With Imperial churning out Sandy Nelson LPs at a breakneck pace, the drummer began to explore genres some distance outside of his trademark proto-surf bailiwick. With Country Style, he tackles Nashville hits of the past and present, and if classics like Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life," Jim Reeves' "Four Walls," and Johnny Horton's "The Battle of New Orleans" seem like odd choices for a drummer of Nelson's energy and abandon, you're right. His primal style proves painfully ill suited to these barroom ballads and honky tonk in general, which relies on the kinds of nuanced, consistent backbeats that are anathema to the Nelson aesthetic; if anything, this is Bizarro country, elevating drums to the foreground while relegating guitar and fiddle to the shadows, and the formula falls flat. In a move later copied for the faux-live Beach Boys' Party!, Sandy Nelson's Teenage House Party adds post-production crowd noise and chatter in an effort to lend the material a loose, informal feel. Such overdubs and trimmings are unnecessary, however, as this is Nelson's most inspired effort in some time. Its success hinges largely on a particularly well-chosen and far-ranging set of cover tunes geared to the drummer's wild, pummeling approach. From the jazz staple "Night Train" to the seminal New Orleans R&B number "Let the Good Times Roll" to the rockabilly favorite "Tweedle Dee," Nelson performs with energy and ferocity, and while the album doesn't actually document a high school kegger, it more than likely served as the soundtrack for more than a few.

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