Over his last three albums, Rick Nelson has attained the heights of creativity which even the excellence of his early work never prepared us for. In the year or so since Garden Party, anticipation among his audience has run high. And now, Windfall fulfills most expectations, but with a few surprises.
Nelson seems to be fronting an all-new Stone Canyon Band; the sound, though, is none the worse for the changes. The big shocker is in the songs themselves. After building his stature as a songwriter throughout Rick Sings Nelson, Rudy The Fifth and Garden Party, he has stepped back and allowed Dennis Larden, a former member of Every Mother’s Son, to write or co-write most of the new material.
Rick Nelson has relied on favored songwriters in the past, most successfully Johnny Burnette and Baker Knight, who even make an appearance here with “I Don’t Want to Be Lonely Tonight,” an album highlight. But that was before Rick himself could write as well as he sings. Ironically, Larden writes as though he’s imitating Rick’s style, so the songs come off as good but second-rate Nelson. Two exceptions are “Legacy” and “Don’t Leave Me Here,” which are superb.
Nelson’s own material is the best, especially “Someone To Love” and the single, “Life-stream,” which, to me, is the album’s highlight. Despite Larden’s real contribution, I hope for the pleasure of more Nelson tunes on the next album. Which is not to say that Windfall isn’t a thoroughly enjoyable record. It is, and more. With Rick Nelson, that much can always be taken for granted.