Nelson: ‘After The Rain’

Released on June 26, 1990 (DGC Records)

Review by Lance Lumley:
I first encountered Nelson watching MTV and seeing the music video for “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection.” I fell in love with the song immediately, and could not wait for the cassette to come out in the music stores (unlike today, fans had to wait months after the single or video was released to get a copy of it on the albums). I religiously watched MTV waiting to see the video again, like most of us did with our favorite bands at the time. I was a fan of their father’s work (early rock icon and Hall of Famer Rick Nelson), and was excited to see what Matthew and Gunnar could do with their music (years later, I became more of a fan of Rick‘s music in the several bands I played drums for, because most of my guitar players were fans of Rick‘s legacy of great songs).

I remember going to my local National Record Mart music store in Boardman, Ohio, a 20 minute drive, scanning the cassette wall rack trying to find a copy (cassettes were place on the wall in the stores back then). I was excited to get one of the only copies of the cassette and, like many of us back in the day, stared at the cover and read the liner notes until I could get to my room and play it in my boom box. The album was filled with struggles for the brothers, from Matthew and Gunnar trying to get a record deal along with dealing the label executives on who they could work with on the album (all which is an interesting read to look into). The album became a huge seller after its release, and made millions for the label.

The album is filled with harmonies and great songs that reached both the pop and rock crowd. The lead single, which starts off the album, “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection,” is still heard on radio stations today in my area during the flashback weekend, where songs from the ’80s and ’90s are played. Matthew stated that he was inspired by the song after seeing model Cindy Crawford on a magazine cover, which is reenacted with a different model in the opening of the video. The song is a catchy up  tempo song, with the narrator singing about trying to get the unreachable girl. This song came out when I was a sophomore in high school, which made the theme hit home to me at the time, with the teen angst of trying to get the popular girl to look my way.  The song hit #1 in the U.S., putting the brothers into the Guinness Book of World Records for three generations of musicians to have a #1 hit on the U.S. charts (Grandfather Ozzie Nelson, and their father Rick before them).

The second song, “I Can Hardly Wait,” has some harder guitar parts than the first song, with some fills in the background that one may miss if not listening close, which complements the song. The positive lyrics about the narrator moving on from a bad relationship and is excited about the future, by “living again,” is a theme on several of the tracks on the album. The guitar solo and musicianship throughout the song (and the album as a whole), is underrated.

When I saw the Nelsons in concert in 2010, during the “Ricky Nelson Remembered” tour, they said that the next song, the hit “After The Rain,” was about hope. The bass guitar by Matthew Nelson drives this song during the verses, along with the harmonies of him and Gunnar during the chorus. Once again, the theme of being positive while moving on from whatever life is throwing at the person (this example of moving on from a bad relationship) is especially shown in this song. This has a great driving beat and grove to it, and just makes the listener feel good, even if they are in a dark place.

“Tracy’s Song” is an instrumental, credited with Rick Nelson as a songwriter, taking parts of the song from Rick’s “Song For Kristin” (Rick’s wife, and the twin’s mother) from his 1971 album “Rudy The Fifth.” Tracy, is the sister of Matthew and Gunnar (an actress known for her work on TV’s “Father Dowling Mysteries”).  For the fans that knew the lineage of the family, this is a nice one minute tribute to the other family members.

“Tracy’s Song ” is actually a prelude to the fourth single released off the album, the ballad “Only Time Will Tell” (when released as a single, “Tracy’s Song” was omitted from the beginning). This song is the typical power ballad for the time, with the heavy keyboard / piano and the strong, hard drumming from Bobby Rock. While watching the video in researching for this review, it reminded me of the similarities of KISS‘ “Forever” video. This song has been used on many power ballad compilation CDs in the past, and charted, although it was lowest charted of the four singles released, hitting a respectable #28 on the U.S. Charts. The vocals and harmonies continue throughout with great success.

“More Than Ever,” the third single released, has nice harmonies starting off the song before the band kicks in. I remember the video showing the band in a concert setting, which made me want to see the band live. Even though the lyrics of the song is simple, it is still catchy. Bobby Rock‘s big sounding drums on the song made the song fun to drum along with, which I did often with the whole album. This song has an arena rock feel to it. The song, for some strange reason, is also in my mind as being the last song on Side One of the cassette (back in the day when we had to flip over the sides!)

Side Two of the cassette started with “(It’s Just) Desire.” The song starts with a bass guitar fill and then Bobby Rock lets loose on the drums. The groove has a R&B feel to it with heavy keyboards on it. This song is my least favorite song off the album, with the lyrics like “ball and chain” makes it a typical late ’80s/early ’90s reference about relationships (the phrase is really overused in music). This is the only song that I would skip on the album. If I do decide not to skip the song, it is only around four and a half minutes, so it’s not like it drags down the album.

“Fill You Up” is one of the deeper gems on the album. It has driving, powerful guitars with strong vocals. This is a solid Bobby Rock song, with the drumming beats and fills showing off his skills. This song has a heavy feel to it without losing its pop focus, which was neither too heavy or too light for my taste. This has a great blend to it, which combined the things I liked at the time in music, a pop sound but still hard enough to rock out, with a catchy chorus.

If I have one complaint of the album is that after the grooving heavy tones of “Fill You Up,” the album goes into a light piano introduction, just called “Interlude” by keyboardist Paul Mirkovich. Having more than one instrumental introduction takes away from the album (even listening to it today)  making me wonder what the reason for doing this on the album. Nonetheless, “Interlude” runs into “Everywhere I Go,” one of my favorite Nelson ballads from their entire catalog. The beginning starts with a slow creeping vibe until it kicks into the chorus, with the narrator thinking back on a love, whose memory keeps on. This song is one of my favorites because of the dynamics of the song; it starts with a slow eerie feel, builds up, then back down, and then all out again. This song has roller coaster ride to it. I also like the last chorus line, which changes from the normal chorus, where the singing tag changes, which gives a positive outlook and not one of hatred for the couple being apart, which once again, shows the album’s positive lyrics.

“Bits And Pieces,” starts out with an acoustic feel, which is similar to the opening of the album with the first song. Although the theme of the song is a stereotype of other relationship songs at the time, with a girl cheating on the boy, this song is another favorite on the album. This song should have been a single off the album. Strong harmonies throughout this song (and the whole album) makes it a wonderful listen. This track should’ve gotten more attention.

The last song on the album, “Will You Love Me?” starts off with a crunching guitar riff. Gunnar Nelson‘s guitar solo on the song is nice, showing that he wasn’t just a rhythm player. The song details the girl coming back after breaking the guy’s heart and trying to start the love over. Will the girl be loyal, and love him like in the past, or will she let him go? Fans of a melodic rock sound would enjoy this song, and may not even know it was the Nelson brothers if they did not know ahead of time. This is a great rocking way to end the album. I like up tempo tracks to end an album, and this one does not disappoint, along with great songwriting by the brothers, who co-wrote every track.

After The Rain, still to this day, is filled with many memories for me. The songs  have a positive outlook of relationships (with the exception of maybe two of the songs), great harmonies, driving guitars and strong drumming, while combining with a few power ballads. The album has both melodic rock and pop to it, which is why the album was a hit when it came out, appealing to the female fans on the pop side,  and the rock musicianship without compromising the songs. I finally got to see the Nelson brothers in concert in 2010 (where they only played two songs from this album because it was a tribute tour for their dad), but did not get to meet them afterwards, thanks to the horrible management at the venue when it was promised they would meet with everyone. The Nelson brothers made me a fan for life (their “Because They Can” album is vastly underrated as well) and my second rock tee shirt I ever bought was a Nelson shirt, which I still have, now as a pillow. The album is full of  vocal harmonies, which helped my playing in local bands later on, and still brings back memories of my high school years. After years of touring on the album, the music change towards grunge affected the band’s momentum, along with the label’s rejection of the first attempt of a sophomore album.

It’s a shame that many only view Matthew and Gunnar for their long hair image during their debut, along with thinking they were “One Hit Wonders” (which is not the case). There is a respectability in their songwriting, musicianship, and vocal abilities. Sometimes music fans need to just listen to songs to take them away from their struggles in life, and their problems, with positive lyrics that give them strength. Matthew and Gunnar did this for me many times with this album. After The Rain is still one of my favorite all time albums of all time.

Review by John Stoney Cannon:
Back in the mid-eighties, my post-teen Saturday nights were filled with a regular routine of putting the kid to bed before grabbing an acoustic guitar and planting my tail on the couch to strum in between episodes of funny sitcoms and the late night ending Headbanger’s Ball. Before “The Ball” debuted in 1986, the best rock and roll Saturday night fix was laughing at the madness on Saturday Night Live (SNL to some of you younger folk) while waiting to see what the musical performances would be like. In the middle of the decade, the musical acts were all over the place including performances by newer alternative pop, country, new wave, and hip hop artists, some of which were pretty forgettable.

One musical guest in particular during the start of February 1986 was such a toss out that it has pretty much been erased from SNL‘s visual history was semi-rockabilly band The Nelsons featuring bassist/lead vocalist Matthew Nelson and then drummer Gunnar Nelson, sons of TV/alt country pioneer Rick Nelson who had passed away the previous December in a plane crash. The timing not only presented the twin brothers with a chance to make history as the first unsigned act to perform on the show, but according to Gunnar, the inspiration for the young drummer to take up guitar and join his brother in fronting the band.

Less than a handful of years later, the group then simply named Nelson had the number one song on the Billboard charts eventually scoring three top 20 hit singles on the way to their debut album After the Rain going double platinum. I can still vaguely remember that Saturday Night Live performance by the young Nelsons back in 1986 and at the time I kind of dug it. While the brothers’ first scratch with musical fame has been largely deleted from pop culture history, their eventual mainstream explosion in 1990 has over the past thirty years become a mixed bag of rock legend. But whether you remember Nelson as a nostalgic part of your past or in a more rick-roll your eyes kind of way, few can deny the Nelson brothers’ ability to write (or co-write) catchy, infectious power pop anthems.

Starting off with first single, the irresistibly catchy “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection”, the twins’ official introduction to the world landed on radio and video much like “MMMBop” by teeny boppers Hanson did a few years later. It was everywhere, and if it just got close enough to tickle your ears, impossible to shake. Yeah, there’s a reason hooky pop is called bubblegum and it has to do with it being so sticky sweet that much like a wad of gum in a head of hair, you pretty much gotta force something sharper in between to get rid of it. That’s was “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection” only, it was actually a well written song with a bit of substance and meaning. So the video of the twin blondes gawking over a fashion magazine cover is a bit cheesy but the sentiment is there just the same and if we are being honest, it’s not like Geffen Records‘ plan was to market two long-haired blonde guys in tight spandex singing infectious pop-hair metal to bikers. Bottom line — the first bit of Nelson was a welcome mix of hard to put down sing-a-long power pop mixed with serious sensibilities that not only hit number one but gave a sincere preview of things to come on After The Rain. Even if it was aimed at a younger female demographic, compared to the other songs that hit number one up to that point in 1990, Nelson‘s debut single could almost be considered edgy.

Side one of After The Rain might have been loaded with all the tunes Geffen ended up pushing as singles with “I Can Hardly Wait” being the exception. Similar in strummy fashion to Trixter‘s recently released debut single “Give It To Me Good”, best guess is that it came in second to “More Than Ever” a tune also loaded with acoustic guitar but with a bit more of a Bon Jovi kind of energy. It’s kind of tough to argue, “More Than Ever” just broke the top 15 making it Nelson‘s third consecutive top 20 single. Still, on an album full of solid songs from start to finish, “I Can Hardly Wait” is a better song than some of the actual singles from other rock albums out at the time.

Through my reviews, I’ve been pretty vocal about my thoughts on album title tracks. For me, I just dig when an album is all brought together under a title that when perfectly thought out, perfectly represents the music and mood of the record as a whole. Sometimes you hear a title track and this vision pops in your head of someone picking it off a list of songs planned for the album because it’s the one with the coolest title. I love KISS‘ “Love Gun” as much as the next person and the record will always be one of my faves but representative of that record as a whole?

Well, maybe but you get the feeling that after starts, changes, tragedy, and more in the previous five years that maybe “After The Rain” is the perfect track to name their debut record after. An uplifting rocker filled with themes of hope and overcoming, it’s got everything a good arena rock song needs including driving rhythm on the verse, a great sing-a-long chorus, and a great guitar solo leading to a solid build back up to the final chorus. Listening to album as whole, you kind of get the idea that Matthew and Gunnar leave the five or so years up to the release behind on the album in preparation of moving on. It also serves as a great lead up to the precious instrumental subtleties of “Tracey’s Song”, the sweet dedication to their sister that leads up to what is possibly After The Rain’s most personal, and in some ways strongest, track.

Had it been released a few years earlier, ballad “Only Time Will Tell” may have fared better than barely cracking the Billboard top 30. The fourth single from After The Rain, it has pretty much every key ingredient an eighties and very early nineties power ballad needs but maybe in a slightly more Air Supply sort of way. The most important ingredient being the perfect swaying concert chorus to which young lovers can gather as lighters flicker high above. In a perfect world, “Only Time Will Tell” plays on thirty years later on retro stations alongside classic eighties power ballads like Night Ranger‘s “Sister Christian” and Journey‘s “Faithfully.” In the real world though, it stands as a bookmark in time for Nelson fans as heart nostalgia and the perfect song to make way for side one closer “More Than Ever.”

While still chock full of hooks and catchy choruses, side two of After The Rain is in many ways the more rock side featuring edgier electric guitar and at times a bit more thump on the kick drum. Aside from the pretty piano of “Interlude” and the Richard Marx-like dreary, dark vibe of “Everywhere I Go” (which even picks up on the chorus), the second half of After The Rain is pretty much a batch of fun rock and roll tunes. Opening with driving keyboard laced rocker “(It’s Just) Desire”, Nelson take little time showing that they can rock a little tossing in tasty lead guitar and even a bit of a rap break.

The walking guitar at the end drives the point home and is a perfect secondary launch pad for the chugging rock of the very Boston-esque “Fill You Up” and the rocking call and respond verses of “Bits And Pieces”, the latter perfect hit single material had it landed on the radio in 1985. Even final tune “Will You Love Me?” with its reunion sentimentality manages to finely blend rocking guitar with sticky sweet hooks on both the verse and choruses. If Nelson have a superpower, it’s that ability to consistently create solid hook-filled power pop rock songs much like fellow eighties rockers Night Ranger and Bon Jovi. Just a listen forward in their musical catalog shows that never really went away regardless of whether rocking out or paying a more rootsy homage to their late father.

After The Rain was not only one of the biggest albums of the height of hair metal but also one of the last to break so big just as the world was on the brink of changes in musical culture. There’s no telling how much more they might have achieved had they either started earlier or not taken five years to complete follow up Because They Can. Even thirty years later, it still sounds great and compared to some that now sound dated, holds up pretty well but how will music fans see Nelson‘s 1990 debut record in thirty more years or sixty? Well for those who still love it now, After The Rain will always sound special and for the rest of the world, well, I guess only time will tell.

Track List:
01. (Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection
02. I Can Hardly Wait
03. After The Rain
04. Tracy’s Song / Only Time Will Tell
05. More Than Ever
06. (It’s Just) Desire
07. Fill You Up
08. Interlude / Everywhere I Go
09. Bits And Pieces
10. Will You Love Me?
Japanese Special Edition Bonus Tracks:
11. Too Many Dreams
12. Keep One Heart

Band Members:
Matthew Nelson – lead vocals and back up vocals, bass, electric, 12- string, and acoustic guitars.
Gunnar Nelson – lead and back up vocals, rhythm, 12 string, gut and acoustic guitars, solos (4(2), 10)
Brett Garsed – lead guitars, clean rhythm, acoustic 6 and 12 strings, back up vocals.
Paul Mirkovich – all keyboards, grand piano, strings and things, back up vocals.
Bobby Rock – drums

Additional Musicians:
Joey Cathcart – additional vocal and Instrumental Expertise.

Produced by Marc Tanner and David Thoener
Recorded and mixed by David Thoener
Additional mixing by David Holman
Mastered by Greg Fulginiti
Mastering supervised by David Donnelly
Programming and drum stuff by Stephen Klong and Gunnar Nelson

Band Websites:
Official Website

Reviewed by Lance Lumley and John Stoney Cannon for Sleaze Roxx, June 2020

Nelson‘s “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection” video: