New Riders of the Purple Sage

New Riders

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"The New Riders of the Purple Sage take pride in announcing their new association with MCA Records," reads a statement on the back of the album, reflecting NRPS' switch of label affiliation after a stint at Columbia Records. It would be good to report that this start-over, reflected in the abbreviated self-titling of the album as New Riders, marked a reinvigoration of the brand, but that is not the case. New Riders is another indifferent addition to the band's catalog. One problem simply may be that they have recorded too much; this is NRPS' eighth LP in less than five years, so it's not surprising that it contains only one original composition, John Dawson's "Can't Get Over You." There's nothing wrong with the cover material, which includes songs by the likes of Chuck Berry, Delbert McClinton, and the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, but the group doesn't do anything special with their versions. In particular, Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle" was a longtime staple of the Grateful Dead, the band for which NRPS served as a spin-off, and this rendition isn't a patch on the Dead's, much less Redding's. A performance of the Stones' "Dead Flowers" appeared previously on NRPS' 1974 live album Home, Home on the Road, so it's unclear why they needed to do it again. Loudon Wainwright III's "The Swimming Song" is fast becoming his most valuable copyright since "Dead Skunk," but again, NRPS doesn't do anything with it that the songwriter himself or Kate & Anna McGarrigle or the Earl Scruggs Revue didn't do first. It may be that the solution to NRPS' decline isn't a new recording contract, it's to take time off and write a batch of high-quality new material before returning to the recording studio.

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