New Riders of the Purple Sage

Boston Music Hall, December 5, 1972

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They've been a long time coming, but live recordings -- "authorized bootlegs" -- have found their niche in the CD market. Instead of listening to chopped-up concerts from the 1972 tour, Grateful Dead and New Riders of the Purple Sage (NRPS) fans can listen to the whole show. Boston Music Hall, December 5, 1972 is the second NRPS release plucked out of the vault by Kufala, and qualifies as another rocking show from the band's classic years. The gig gets a jaunty kickoff with "Truck Drivin' Man," a good-time ode to life on the road, and then delves into the hippy-dippy "Watcha Gonna Do." One of the joys of hearing NRPS live during this period is the dual powerhouse of David Nelson's guitar and Buddy Cage's pedal steel. Even on a throwaway like "Hello Mary Lou," Nelson's country-flavored fretwork sounds as though it would match Clarence White note for note, while Cage's wacky no-holds-barred approach guarantees that something interesting will happen each time he cuts loose. There are fine versions of "Portland Woman" and "Glendale Train" from the band's own catalog, and plenty of fine, and, occasionally, unusual covers like "Down in the Boondocks," "Long Black Veil," and "She's No Angel." John Dawson's a fine vocalist, and overall, NRPS handle vocals with much more aplomb than the Dead. In a way, NRPS' combination of country and rock realized the potential of the new genre in a way that the Flying Burrito Brothers only hinted at. While it goes without saying, fans will want to pick up a copy of Boston Music Hall.

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