Rick Nelson's Garden Party rocks a lot harder than the title track would lead one to believe, and is also as much of a showcase for the Stone Canyon Band as it is for Nelson. Allen Kemp's lead guitar crunches and grinds its notes on the opening track, the edgy "Let It Bring You Along," before we hear the familiar, laid-back, country-rock strains of "Garden Party." The jaunty "So Long Mama" follows, dominated by Nelson's rhythm guitar and showcasing Tom Brumley's pedal steel guitar, and then Kemp and the rhythm section of Stephen A. Love (bass) and Patrick Shanahan (drums) move to the fore on the pounding "I Wanna Be with You." Nelson slips into a completely different mode on the ethereal, understated "Are You Really Real?" The second side opens with a solid rendition of Chuck Berry's "I'm Talking About You," which offers Kemp a somewhat jazzy and discursive break. The playing is more subdued and lyrical on Nelson's own "Night Time Lady," and the bluesy "Flower Opens Gently By," and the album ends on the soft, bittersweet ballad "Palace Guard." There's a fair amount of melodic invention throughout, though not quite enough to make this album a classic.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder