It's true that Rick's Rarities is a vault-scraping exercise. The 23 tracks are about evenly divided between previously unreleased material on the one hand, and various items from non-LP singles and obscure soundtrack and compilation albums that haven't been on CD before on the other. It's not bad, though, even if it's not on the level of the best material he did for Decca, and certainly not on the level of his best early stuff on Imperial in the late '50s and early '60s. All but one of the songs was cut between 1964 and 1969, and as much as the compilation CDs that actually showcase the best of Rick Nelson's Decca output, they reflect his drift from mild rockabilly-pop to early country-rock. Of the more interesting mid-'60s earliest selections here, Sonny Curtis' "I've Been Lookin'" is a fair rockabilly-tinged rocker; "I Need You" a nearly gorgeous orchestrated ballad that didn't see release at the time; the Nelson-penned "Freedom and Liberty" an ultra-tentative stab at social consciousness; and "Your Kind of Lovin'" an obscure song by Jill Jones and Annette Tucker, who'd go on to write songs recorded by the Electric Prunes. But much of the material is unmemorably average, and sometimes lethargic, even if Nelson and his backup musicians deliver reasonably committed performances. Oddest are four string-laden Bacharach-David songs from the soundtrack LP to the forgotten 1966 television special On the Flip Side, one ("Try to See It My Way") sung with Joanie Sommers. Nelson sounds far more comfortable with the laid-back country-rock on the late-'60s sides, which include covers of Tim Hardin's "The Lady Came from Baltimore" and Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today," as well as a nice 1967 Nelson-authored single, "I'm Called Lonely." The packaging on this CD is perhaps more inspired than the music, the 28-page booklet including not just thorough track-by-track details on these Decca-era rarities, but also excerpts of pieces in which several of Nelson's associates talk about their work with the singer.
AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger
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