New Riders of the Purple Sage

Instant Armadillo Blues: Best of 1971-1975

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Australia's excellent Raven reissue label offers a definitive double-disc anthology of the New Riders of the Purple Sage's tenure with Columbia Records. The band released eight records with the label between 1971 and 1975 -- including the Best of New Riders of the Purple Sage collection and a live album. The first disc here compiles all but one track from their self-titled debut (which listed the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia as a member on pedal steel -- Buddy Cage took over that chair after this disc) and seven cuts from their sophomore effort, Powerglide (among its tunes was Ashford & Simpson's "I Don't Need No Doctor," which showcased the band's ability to stretch country into rockin' R&B). Their third album, Gypsy Cowboy, is represented on disc one and the beginning of two by eight of its 11 tracks. The inclusion of so many tracks from albums one and three is justified because, while their debut is inarguably their finest effort, Gypsy Cowboy is almost equally focused. Disc two continues with six of the ten tracks from Panama Red (warning: "Importin' Exportin' Man" and "One Too Many Stories" are not among them), and the tracks included from 1974's live album Home, Home on the Road are member John Dawson's "Hello How Are You" and excellent covers of Gene Pitney's "Hello Mary Lou," Terry Fell's "Truck Drivin' Man," and Chuck Berry's "School Days" (the only regret here is that the live version of the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers" was left off). NRPS's studio album from 1974 was Brujo; the four cuts here include a fine cover of Bob Dylan's "You Angel You" and the title track of this compilation. The set closes with four selections from the band's final effort -- of new material -- for Columbia, Oh, What a Mighty Time, represented by covers including decent reads of Ray Wylie Hubbard's "Up Against the Wall, Redneck" and Rusty Weir's "I Heard You Been Layin' My Old Lady" -- reflecting NRPS's interest in the new hardcore honky tonk coming from Austin -- as well as their lovely versions of Dylan's "Farewell Angelina" and Don Nix's "Mighty Time." The sound on this collection is completely remastered and the set contains an excellent liner essay by Raven's own Glenn A. Baker. Instant Armadillo Blues trumps the original Columbia best-of collection, as it goes far deeper, and is right to have left off the material they later recorded for MCA and A&M, which was wildly inconsistent. This collection is the standard-bearer of essential material by this often overlooked but excellent country-rock band.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:11
2 2:52
3 3:55
4 2:49
5 2:47
6 4:05
7 2:30
8 3:03
9 2:15
10 2:33
11 2:21
12 3:02
13 2:56
14 3:27
15 2:14
16 2:42
17 2:51
18 3:54
19 2:41
20 3:23
21 4:13
22 5:10
blue highlight denotes track pick