Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 24, September 27, 1976.
Rock — "NRPS" — New Riders (of the purple sage)
"NRPS" — New Riders (of the purple sage)
Well, here we are with another in the long line of New Riders' discs, ones which are pleasant, harmless, and slightly above-average easy-listening music (for the porch on a sunny day). But the New Riders are simply no longer providing sufficient fresh material, as are the Charlie Daniels Band and the Ozark Mt Daredevils (to mention only a few). There have been set formulae for country songs for decades, and the New Riders just aren't adding much to Merle Haggard's and Hazel Dickens' songs.
For example, "Don't Put Her Down" starting with side two to be fair, is as sentimental as a boondocks ballad can get. Woozy pedal steel accompanying 'There's more to her than powder and paint....don't put her down, you put her there....".
Whereas Gram Parsons had the ability to create masterpieces out of essentially stale material - to resurrect them through a genuine love of, and feeling for the songs he was singing - the New Riders don't seem to bother to change the pattern enough.
With "Honky Tonkin" comes a pick-up in rhythmic interest, there's a firmer foundation. But, again, its initial appeal won't last long.
"Thanks but no thanks, baby. I don't want no lonely, lustful woman's irate husband coming after me" - god lyrics, eh, but tedious once registered in the brain.
It's the same story with "She's Looking Better Every Beer" – 'Her hair is soft and shiny, her eyes are bright and clear'. Admittedly the guitar work is smooth, but still on the sleepy side (or are they trying to just be 'laid back'?)
Congratulations to Marmaduke Dawson for "Can't Get Over You". No, this song won't induce anyone to burble about its technicalities for hours, but there's a good sound/feel and a few Surprises even though the choruses do sound familiar. Side two [unclear: clos] closes with Loudon Waiwright's "Swimming Song" which is a bit of a laugh. It's the liveliest, and shortest, track on the album, and the jaunty vocals are right in keeping with the "banjo-pickin" bounce and humour.
Side one opens with "15 Days Under the Hood" which, after three playings is sticking in the head like an ad for Kentucky Fried Chicken. It's a repetitive, Commander Cody-type rocker (to pay it a compliment).
So far, the New Riders have always included a song about a lady on each lp. "Annie May" is this one's contribution, and it's no "Louisiana Lady" or "Portland Woman" by a long shot....."She's not quite a lady, babies come and go, but as long as she's taking care of me, that's all I need to know.." or "Annie May comes from Alaba Alabama, nearly made it through the seventh grade." It's something else from the wrenching lady-love songs on the first two lps.
I've heard Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell" ('It was a teenage wedding....') also too often so that by the second playing it gets to sound like–––––––––––– (insert your own non-favourite band here). One redeeming point is a fine interplay between pedal steel and guitar — the old musicianship is still present somewhere so why are they using up so much energy in reproducing often-heard and little-improved numbers?
"Hard to Handle" by Otis Redding, is, for me, the high point on "New Riders" and the track I'll pick out to play to an interested party when I (rarely) play bits and pieces. Having been conditioned to loving Jerry Garcia's utter destruction of any words or coherence at all (on "Bears Choice")' it's interesting to know what it's all about: "I'm advertising love for free, so won't you place your ad with me...... Boys will come a dime a dozen, but that ain't nothin' but 10c lovin'..." This is the one track l'd like to hear the Country Flyers or a loosened-up Slack Annie play... they'd most likely do it more than justice, all the other tracks, too.
Some of our local bands can, I know, produce as skilled an interplay between instruments as Buddy Cage, John Dawson, and Dave Nelson do here on guitars.
Lastly, an unspectacular rendition of "Dead Flowers", which has the feel of a wedding rather than a funeral. However, some fine pedal steel and a smooth, continuous flow makes it vaguely worthwhile. The song certainly has changed over the years. And the Red Hot Peppers' version's far more interesting.
As in all the New Riders' lps since "NRPS" and "Powerglide", which are, or should be, staples in anyone's collection, this disc will be played by me a half dozen times a year, for two reasons: A) I actually do consider three tracks to be for above average and the lp worth keeping for that reason and for nostalgia's sake, or B) To boost my guilty conscience about visitors ('ignorant' ones) who say "How come you got so many discs you never play, eh?" Well, 'time is slipping.... into the future' too rapidly to pay full homage to all my "fine" albums. My basic grips about "NRPS" is that the New Riders lps peter off in memorability with each successive one. So there.
- Katy Corner.