Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 37, No 21. August 28, 1974
The Adventures of Panama Red:
The Adventures of Panama Red:
I haven't heard any of New Riders' albums before this one. To succeed in playing music similar to that of Grateful Dead, demands enough musical skill and arrangement to sound unique. The music of the Dead is now widely known and perhaps a little dated. Quite some effort has gone into making this album as original as possible. For once, I see a team responsible for a very fine cover design and art, and also "album concept". There's a superbly drawn Harold - Hedd type cartoon folder enclosed in the record cover, which provides humerous reading while you listen to the music.
The first track is appropriately entitled "Panama Red". The melody is bright and the lyrics humerous. The vocals are well controlled and the harmonies are as tight as the Dead, yet seem more lively. The lead guitarist's performance, with that quick Nashville style melody, is excellent. It is those harmonious vocals and telling lyrics which make the best of less interesting tunes on the LP like "L.A. Lady" or "Important Exportin' Men". The instrumental togetherness of the group on this first track is consistant on every other.
The second track ("It's Alright With Me") is memorable for B. Cage's steel guitar solo — to be heard on many following tracks. In my opinion, track 3 side 1 is the finest. "Lonesome L.A. Cowboy" has a captivating melody and interesting lyrics. The song expresses the best features in the album — particularly the subtle but quite pleasant background of harmonica and guitar to the main vocal. It is this which redeems entirely, the somewhat pedestrian rhythm of "One too many stories", on the uptempo, commercial "Mexicali Clues' sound of "Teardrops in my eyes'. The brats backing in several tracks, though tightly disciplined, brings welcoming variety. It is advantageous to avoid boredom, by breaking up those other technically very smooth tunes.
I should mention. "You should have seen me running", because it features Buffy Sainte Marie, singing the chorus (as she does in 'Cement, Clay and Glass'). This reflects the high standard of musicianship in 'Panama Red'.
Before, I made a passing note on the 'album concept'. There's a definite sequence in these tunes. In 'Panama Red' the lyrics express optimisim, adventure and the workings of the 'counter' American-dream. I don't think 'Kick in the Head' followed by 'You should see me running', needs further explanation.
The final track of the LP is in contrast to the first — being lyrically thoughtful and melancholy. The melody is slow with the full strumming of acoustic guitar, rounded out with brass and keyboard backing. Cement, Clay and Glass reminds me of anything from Randy Newman's LP — "Sail Away". It's rather cynical.
There's a rather subtle story to "The Adventures of Panama Red'. I shall recommend it for chat.