Top 10 Nelson Songs

Nelson Songs

Our top 10 Nelson songs list presents ten of the best songs released by an American band renowned for its remarkable glam-metal/pop rock 1990 debut album After the Rain. Nelson is the brainchild of Gunnar and Matthew Nelson, twin sons of popular teen idol Ricky Nelson. The band’s signature hit “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection” topped the Billboard Hot 100, a feat that saw Gunnar and Matthew replicate a legacy once held by their father Ricky Nelson and grandfather Ozzie Nelson.

Nelson’s Career Beginnings and Breakthrough

After signing a recording deal with Geffen Records, Nelson started working on their debut album, After the Rain. The band went ahead to release the album in June 1990. After the Rain saw Nelson take on an amalgam of glam metal, pop rock, and arena rock. The album catapulted the band to mainstream success, peaking at number seventeen on the Billboard 200.

After the Rain also charted on the Australian Albums Chart, peaking at the hundredth spot. The album went on to be Platinum-certified in the US eight years after its release. “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection,” “After the Rain,” “Only Time Will Tell,” and “More Than Ever” are some of the best Nelson songs from the album.

Nelson’s Album Releases over the Years

In 1995, Nelson issued its sophomore studio album, Because They Can. Unfortunately, the album failed to match the feats reached by After the RainBecause They Can saw Nelson take on pop-rock sound influences. “(You Got Me) All Shook Up,” “Cross My Broken Heart,” and “Won’t Walk Away” are the most popular songs by Nelson from the album. Unfortunately, Because They Can was the last album by Nelson released under Geffen Records. 

Imaginator, issued in 1996, marked the band’s third studio album. The album was issued through Victor Entertainment, under the production of the band members Matthew and Gunnar Nelson. Unlike the previous albums by the band, Imaginator saw Nelson explore the hard rock sound. The album had initially been recorded in 1992 but wasn’t released till 1996. Gunnar Nelson has severally compared Imaginator to Metallica’s 1991 eponymous debut album. Of course that remains a bone of contention for hard rock fans. Nevertheless, Imaginator managed to feature notable hits including “Kiss Me When I Cry,” “We’re All Right,” and a cover of the hit “Action” by British glam rock outfit The Sweet.

Nelson’s fourth LP The Silence is Broken and its fifth LP Life has often been described by critics as a rehash of the band’s efforts in its first three albums. Nevertheless, The Silence is Broken managed to feature some of the best Nelson songs including “Ghostdance” and “Tears of Pain.” On the other hand, Life brought to Nelson fans memorable gems like “Let’s Talk About Me,” “She Said She’d Be Mine,” and a cover of “She Sheila” by the new wave/power pop ensemble, The Producers.

The band’s next major release was the album, Lighting Strikes Twice, issued in 2010 through Frontiers Records. Lightning Strikes Twice was warmly received in the mainstream despite the band’s dwindling star since its sophomore studio album, Because They Can. “How Can I Miss You,” “You’re All That I Need Tonight,” and “Kicking My Heart Around” are the best Nelson songs from the album. In 2015, Nelson released Peace Out, its second studio album issued through Frontiers Records. The album featured notable musical gems including “Back in the Day,” “Rockstar,” and “Autograph.”

Nelson’s Legacy

Nelson’s musical pursuits have been quite a rough journey since its departure from Geffen Records. However, its debut album places the band as one of the outfits that helped glam metal endure mainstream success in the early ‘90s. Nelson’s hit “Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection” remains the band’s biggest achievement having it top the Billboard Hot 100. As mentioned earlier, the success of this hit pushed the Nelson brothers to a family legacy of chart-topping. Gunnar and Matthew Nelson’s dad Ricky Nelson topped the charts with his 1958 single “Poor Little Fool” while their grandfather Ozzie Nelson achieved success with the hit “And Then Some.” Here we present the ten best Nelson songs of all time.

#10 – Ghostdance

Ushering us to the top 10 Nelson songs list is the rip-roaring hit “Ghostdance.” The song is among the best cuts from the band’s 1997 fourth studio album, The Silence is Broken. “Ghostdance” is a perfect embodiment of the band’s hard rock sound. The hard rock sound on this hit feels more refined than on any songs from the previous albums. While Imaginator might have been the first pure hard rock-inspired album by Nelson, very few songs (if any) can match the aggressive and hard-hitting beats of “Ghostdance.” 

#9 – Won’t Walk Away

“Won’t Walk Away” introduces us to the brilliant pop-rock sound by the band, moving away from the hard rock influences seen with “Ghostdance.” The hit is among the best Nelson songs from the band’s sophomore outing Because They Can. “Won’t Walk Away” was penned by the Nelson brothers in conjunction with Jack Ponti. Ponti has also co-written hits for other musicians including Bon JoviDoroBabylon A.D.Alice Cooper, Eric Gales Band, and Baton Rouge.

“Won’t Walk Away” remains a special gem among the band’s fans, thanks to the vocal delivery by the Nelson brothers. Special credits to ex-Cars guitarist Eliott Easton who delivers an outstanding guitar solo in this song. Bobby Rock, a former member of Nitro, also delivers brilliant drumming skills on this hit.

#8 – How Can I Miss You

Coming in at number eight on our ten best Nelson songs list is the terrific hit “How Can I Miss You.” Like most of the songs featured on the album, Lightning Strikes Twice, “How Can I Miss You” oozes vigor and passion for AOR. This masterpiece is revered for its melodic yet hard-hitting tune. “How Can I Miss You” is a lyrical gem that finds the singer crooning about what he would do for his lover if they were miles away from each other. However, he can barely do all these things, let alone miss her, since the love can’t go away from him. 

#7 – You’re All That I Need Tonight

“You’re All That I Need Tonight” solidifies the magnificence of Nelson’s album Lightning Strikes Twice. Priceless and breathtaking are the two words that fully describe this hit. “You’re All That I Need Tonight” oozes crisp vocal quality from Gunnar and Matthew Nelson with its impressive guitar work adding glamour to this lyrical masterpiece. The song is among the few songs by Nelson from the twenty-first century that brings to light the band’s artistry to issue emotions-driven ballads.

#6 – After the Rain

Number six on our top 10 Nelson songs list is the outstanding hit “After the Rain.” The song serves as the album title track of the band’s debut studio album. “After the Rain” is a glam metal work of art that finds the Nelson brothers Gunnar and Matthew consoling a lady who just underwent a heartbreak. The two wishes to let her know that it all gets better with time despite the pain in the current moment.

“After the Rain,” as revealed by Gunnar Nelson, is an autobiographical inspired by the separation of their parents, Ricky Nelson and Kristin Nelson. However, Gunnar and Matthew Nelson rise above the pain of this hit, reminding their fans that they should never be afraid of losing what was not meant to be theirs. “After the Rain” peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100. The song also graced the Australian Singles Chart, rising to a peak position of number seventy-five.

#5 – Cross My Broken Heart

Because They Can, the band’s sophomore studio album is home to the fifth pick on our top 10 Nelson songs list “Cross My Broken Heart.” This acoustic-flavored ballad proved that Nelson was more than just a glam metal ensemble but a diverse rock outfit that dared delve into the pop-rock sound. While the band never gained similar traction with Because They Can in comparison to its debut album, “Cross My Broken Heart” is among the musical gems that still manage to bring the brilliance of the band into the rock scene. 

#4 – More Than Ever

“More Than Ever” is a song penned by Gunnar and Matthew Nelson when they were just teenagers. Even without the perfect exposure to what love entails, Gunnar and Matthew were able to pen this fan favorite gem thanks to the guidance of Marc Tanner, a songwriter/producer at Geffen Records. “More Than Ever” was the band’s third single, featured on the band’s debut studio album, After the Rain.

The song finds the Nelson twins affirming love for a certain lady. “More Than Ever” made it to the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart, peaking at number forty-four. The song would eventually enter the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number fourteen. “More Than Ever” rose to number thirty on the Canadian Singles Chart. 

#3 – (You Got Me) All Shook Up

The third pick on our top ten Nelson songs list is the stunning hit “(You Got Me) All Shook Up.” Gunnar and Matthew Nelson teamed up with songwriter/producer Marc Tanner in penning this classic. “(You Got Me) All Shook Up” is among the hits by Nelson that received a great reception on the airplay. The song rose to number thirty on the Radio & Records Pop Chart, proving Nelson’s move to pop-rock influences not to be in vain.

“(You Got Me) All Shook Up” missed the top hundred slot on the Billboard Hot 100 by just four slots. Special credit to the drummer Mike Baird for some enthralling drumming skills on this hit. Mike Baird has also recorded songs with other reputable artists including Rick SpringfieldBilly IdolKenny LogginsDonna SummerPrismHall & Oates, and The Pointer Sisters.

#2 – Only Time Will Tell

Time is a healer and Nelson members know this better as evidenced by the hit “Only Time Will Tell.” This hit remains one of the best Nelson songs from the band’s debut studio album, After the Rain. “Only Time Will Tell” finds the Nelson twins crooning about how time will determine whether a relationship with last forever. The song peaked at number twenty-eight on the Billboard Hot 100, rising to number eighty-one on the Canadian Singles Chart.

#1- (Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection

Number one on our top 10 Nelson songs list is the charming hit “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection.” The song is the most memorable cut off the band’s debut studio album, After the Rain. “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection” alludes to a gentleman who is in a friendship with a girl with whom he frantically wishes to foster a romantic relationship.

Nelson chose to distinguish this hit from the 1976 hit “Love and Affection” by Joan Armatrading by adding the words “Can’t Live Without Your” to its title. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number fifty-four on the UK Singles Chart. “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection” also made it to the Canadian Singles Chart, peaking at number eleven.

Feature Photo: Cesare Andrea Ferrari / Shutterstock

Top 10 Nelson Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022

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