Sandy Nelson

Golden Hits/The Best of the Beats

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Although their titles seem to suggest best-of compilations, both Golden Hits and Best of the Beats are simply two more entries in a long line of Sandy Nelson records cut in response to the chart blockbusters of the moment. These LPs live or die on their relative compatibility with Nelson's strengths and sensibilities, and each of these 12-song efforts is a significant cut above average thanks to the inclusion of several R&B classics that afford the drummer the chance to cut loose. (Their similarities also make them more compatible than many of the pairings on See for Miles' other Sandy Nelson two-fers.) Nelson clearly savors the verve and creativity of Golden Hits covers like Wilbert Harrison's "Kansas City," Bill Doggett's "Honky Tonk," and Fats Domino's "Walking to New Orleans," and his drum solos exhibit an unusual finesse, complementing the melodies instead of overpowering them. The Best of the Beats is even better. The loosey-goosey energy of the New Orleans party classics "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" and "Mother-in-Law" proves particularly well matched to the chaotic abandon of Nelson's rhythms, and he also captures the Latin-flavored verve of the Ritchie Valens hits "Let's Go" and "La Bamba." Best of all are the back-to-back Elvis Presley covers "All Shook Up" and "Don't Be Cruel," which pay implicit homage to D.J. Fontana, the King's longtime sideman and arguably the first truly great rock & roll drummer.

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