Playing To Win - Capitol 1981
Bobby Neal is also very important charcter on this album. His great skill for rock/rockabilly licks helps making this album one of the most overall satisfying Nelson albums. At this time Nelson still had ambitions to be more than just an oldies act, a situation he had already described in his 1972 come-back hit "Garden Party"
After 10 years with his country-rock inspired Stone Canyon Back, Nelson had gathered a handful of very skilled musicians and was ready for yet another come-back and a return into the rock-field. The opening track is a terrific version of John Fogerty's "Almost Saturday Night", this version beats Fogerty's own by miles. Funny thing is that Nelson had already recorded the song for an unreleased 1978/79 album "Rockabilly Renesaince" - that version has released on the fine posthumous album "The Memphis Sessions" Bobby Neal is really showcased on the breathtaking re-recording of the old 1950's rocker "Believe What You Say", which was also a live-favourite on Nelson last tours.
Rick Nelson was also a fine songwriter himself, and his songs are usually among the stand-outs on his albums. At times though, the song did not come very easy to him and many of them very results of hard work. This album only features two Nelson originals. Among these two "The Loser Babe is You" ( describing his painful divorce" ) is Nelson at his very best. The other "Call it What You Want" is a classic rocker. Band-members John Davis and Micky McGee wrote another highlight on the album "I Can't Take it No More".
The only real ballad type song on the album is the closing track "Do the Best You Can", which along with "The Loser Babe is You" is my favourite track.
The CD re-release also contains 6 fine bonus-tracks. "No Fair Falling in Love" is an out-take which was released as a single in 1982 - a fine song. "Give Ém My Number" was recorded in 1982 and intended for a follow-up album, but ended up as the B-side to "No Fair". "Tired of Toing the Line" was recorded before the album-sessions, and it could have been the song that gave Nelson his deserved come-back; but for inexplainable reasons the record-company was not willing to release. Soon after the song was a big hit for its writer Rocky Burnette.
That Nelson was a fan of John Hiatt shows in his recording of 3 of his songs for the album. Somehow on "It Hasn't Happened Yet". "Doll Hospital" and "Radio Girl" are included as the final two bonus-tracks. Though none of these tracks are paticularly memorable, I think at least "Radio Girl" should have been included on the original album.
No doubt that Nelson had much more to offer when he sadly died.