Nelson, After the Rain (Geffen, 1990)
The Big Idea: The spawn of a late teen pop star churn out fluffy pop metal
Choice Cuts: "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection," "After the Rain" and "Tracy's Song/Only Time Will Tell"
Sonic Brethren: Winger, Bon Jovi, Slaughter
First off, let me say that I know this is a much maligned album. However, I believe it's one of the stronger efforts in the commercial metal genre. If you like your metal with pop hooks, Nelson are a sure bet. Consider the band's pedigree for a moment. As the twin sons of '50s teen star Ricky Nelson, singer/bassist Matthew and singer/guitarist Gunnar had ample opportunity to study up on pop songwriting from their father's catalog of hits, which included "Travelin' Man," "Poor Little Fool," "Garden Party" and more.
But while their old man's connections may have helped them secure a record deal, Matthew and Gunnar's music succeeded on much more than nepotism alone. The material on their After the Rain debut married a strong Top 40 vocal presence with pop-metal production values and blazing guitar solos courtesy of Bret Garsed. And let's not forget the role their image played in their initial success -- those boyish faces framed by straight blonde hair earned them the nickname the Timotei Twins in the European press (after a popular Swedish shampoo that featured a female look-alike in its commercials).
The band's first single, "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection," builds from a beautiful acoustic guitar pattern topped by the brothers' mellifluous vocals into a pop confection with sugary hooks. I'd say 'saccharine hooks,' but the connotation is disingenuous. Call me a fool, but I find Nelson believable when they perform their songs. This tune, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1990, is said to have been developed from a riff Matthew came up with while looking at a photo of Cindy Crawford in Vogue magazine.
Meanwhile, the disc's title track benefits from sparkling keyboard flourishes courtesy of piano man Paul Mirkovich, additional vocal and instrumental expertise from six-stringer Joey Cathcart and a rock steady groove laid down by ex-Vinnie Vincent Invasion drummer Bobby Rock. While "After the Rain" is a mid-tempo rocker, "Only Time Will Tell" is a true power ballad in every way: Mirkovich dominates with a piano-based arrangement; the hook kicks in with a swooning string section; and the tune is even preceded by a classical guitar intro titled "Tracy's Song" in honor of Matthew and Gunnar's sister Tracy. Need a quick primer on every glib power ballad cliché in the book? Look no further than "Only Time Will Tell." But that's precisely why we love the Timotei Twins -- they give their fans what they want.
I believe Nelson fans suffer from the same affliction that strikes Spice Girls or New Kids on the Block lovers: Though these are all multiplatinum acts, you can't find a single person who'll fess up to having bought a copy. Well, I'm proudly announcing myself as a Nelson fan and consumer, albeit 16 years too late. (Though I would never pay full price. I found After the Rain used for $1 at a local record shop!)