The second of four discs containing Rick Nelson's complete recordings for Imperial Records, Ricky Sings Again/Songs by Ricky combines the singer's third and fourth albums, both released initially in 1959, with alternate takes and a few other stray tracks. By this point in his career, Nelson, who turned 19 that year, had begun to distinguish himself from the rockabilly legends he admired, at least to the extent of retaining his own songwriters to pen original (if derivative) material, notably brothers Dorsey and Johnny Burnette, who handled the more rocking tunes, and Baker Knight, who wrote ballads and some light rhythm numbers; between them, they contributed 15 of the 27 different songs heard here. It's easy to tell what they were listening to -- "It's Late" is reminiscent of the Everly Brothers' "Wake Up Little Susie," "You'll Never Know What You're Missing" is a rewrite of Elvis Presley's "Treat Me Nice," and "A Long Vacation" apes Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away." The similarity to Presley's records is accentuated by the use of the Jordanaires, who also sang backup for him, but Nelson's band is distinctive, particularly lead guitarist James Burton, and the singer himself had grown in confidence since his early recordings. As such, this is the peak of Nelson's early career, a time when he was scoring hit after hit with his singles (six of the songs on the disc made the Top Ten) and even assaulted the LP charts (according to Cash Box, Ricky Sings Again hit number one and Songs by Ricky made the Top Ten, though Billboard's rankings were much lower). Also featured are Hank Williams and Johnny Cash covers that anticipate Nelson's turn toward country music, as well as the bizarre reading of Billie Holiday's suicide ballad "Gloomy Sunday" that first turned up on the Legacy box set.
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