As a TV teen idol, Ricky Nelson sang more than his fair share of ballads and they're almost all collected on the 30-track 2013 Bear Family compilation The Ballads of Ricky Nelson. The title here bills "Ricky," not "Rick," and that's an important distinction: after he left Imperial in 1962, he shortened his name to "Rick" and made a bid as a serious country-rocker. None of that material is here; this focuses entirely on the years between 1957 and 1962, when he was starring on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet and cutting records on Imperial. There are plenty of hits here -- "Poor Little Fool," "Lonesome Town," "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You," "Never Be Anyone Else But You," "You're My One and Only Love," "A Teenager's Romance" -- and there are also covers of hits from other singers (Elvis' "Trying to Get to You," Jimmie Rodgers' "Honeycomb," the standard "Unchained Melody"), a few originals, and a bunch of solid examples of L.A. studio craft. Naturally, Nelson had much more to offer than ballads -- he was a terrific rock & roller -- so this can't be seen as a thorough overview of his early years as it's missing those classic rockers "Waitin' in School," "It's Late," "I'm Walking," "Be-Bop Baby," "Stood Up," and "Believe What You Say" -- but as a portrait of his sweet side, The Ballads of Ricky Nelson is thoroughly enchanting.
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