The Best of The New Riders of the Purple Sage (1976)

Kronomyth 9.0: THE BUST OF THE NEW RIDERS. Their greatest hits (get it?), although I would have racked ‘em up differently. Since the Riders didn’t even have a pair of hits to call their own, this compilation attempts to pick the best from the first half-dozen Columbia albums, with ample consideration given to their first album. Columbia should have swapped out “Glendale Train” and “Louisiana Lady” for “Groupie” and “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke” or, here’s a notion, added a few more songs and puffed this up to a respectable forty minutes. (At under 31 minutes, this may be the shortest “best of” record on record.) In other words, if you thought Skeletons was slight, this is bone thin. While it’s over too quick, The Best of New Riders of the Purple Sage is pedal-steel perfection and sweet country harmonies the whole way through. These are small, powerful doses of what made the Riders so intoxicating: the mythical drug tales (“Panama Red,” “Henry”), gilded cowboy songs (“Last Lonely Eagle”) and tangential Dead tracks (“Kick in the Head”). So is this the logical place to start in navigating the New Riders? Hell, no. Because it repackages half of the first album anyway, better to just bite the bullet and buy their debut, since song for song it’s better than this Best Of. Also, the complete absence of anything from Dave Torbert seems like a mean-spirited move, seeing as how he’d just jumped ship to join up with Bob Weir in Kingfish. Of course, this compilation doesn’t mark the end of the ride, just ta-ta’s for now.

Original LP Version
A1. I Don’t Know You (John Dawson) (2:25)
A2. Glendale Train (John Dawson) (3:00)
A3. Hello Mary Lou (Goodbye Heart) (Gene Pitney/Cayet Mangiaracina) (2:57)
A4. Louisiana Lady (John Dawson) (3:03)
A5. Kick In The Head (Robert Hunter) (2:30)
B1. Panama Red (Peter Rowan) (2:47)
B2. Last Lonely Eagle (John Dawson) (5:11)
B3. You Angel You (Bob Dylan) (2:41)
B4. I Don’t Need No Doctor (Nicholas Ashford/Valerie Simpson/Josie Armstead) (3:05)
B5. Henry (John Dawson) (2:35)

The Plastic
Compilation released on elpee in 1976 in the US (Columbia, PC-34367) and the UK (CBS, 81742). Re-released on CD in the US (Columbia, CK-34367). Album design by Ed Lee, photography by Eric Meola, lettering by Gerard Huerta and Richard Kenerson.

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