New Riders of the Purple Sage - s/t (1971)
pw = posted_first_at_chocoreve
Review (stolen from amg allmusic)
Anyone who enjoyed the Grateful Dead's Workingman's Dead or American Beauty and wanted more, then or now, should get the New Riders of the Purple Sage's eponymous release and follow it with the Riders' next two albums. With Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart in tow, and Jefferson Airplane's Spencer Dryden playing what drums Hart didn't, plus Commander Cody at the piano, New Riders of the Purple Sage is some of the most spaced-out country-rock of the period. Even ignoring the big names working with John Dawson, David Nelson, and Dave Torbert, however, this is a good record, crossing swords with the Byrds, the Burrito Brothers, and even Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and holding its own. Maybe a few of the cuts (especially "Henry") are predictable at times, but mostly, New Riders of the Purple Sage was full of surprises then (the amazingly sweet, brittle guitars, in particular) and has tunes that have held up well: "Portland Woman," "Whatcha Gonna Do," "I Don't Know You," and "Louisiana Lady," not to mention the eight leisurely paced minutes of acid-country found in "Dirty Business." There are no added notes, but they'd hardly be vital — the album is an open book.
Biography (stolen from amg allmusic)
For most of the early '70s, the New Riders of the Purple Sage™ (yes, the name is trademark-protected) were the successful offshoots of the Grateful Dead. Although they never remotely approached the success or longevity of the Dead, they attracted a considerable audience through their association with Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and Mickey Hart, whose fans couldn't be satisfied with only the Dead's releases — the New Riders never reached much beyond that audience, but the Deadheads loved them as substitutes (along with Garcia's periodic solo projects) for the real article. Their initial sound was a kind of country-acid rock, somewhat twangier than the Dead's usual work and without the Dead's successful forays into experimental jams, but they later acquitted themselves as straight country-rockers.
Essentially, the New Riders of the Purple Sage (their name derives from an old country outfit, Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage, who in turn took the name from an old Western novel) were initially formed as a vehicle for Garcia, Lesh, and Hart to indulge their tastes for country music beyond the albums Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. Their original lineup at early performances consisted of Garcia on pedal steel, Lesh on bass, John Dawson (born 1945) on rhythm guitars and vocals, sometime Dead contributor-member David Nelson on lead guitars, mandolin, and vocals, and Mickey Hart on drums. The New Riders quickly evolved into more of a free-standing unit, with Dave Torbert succeeding Lesh, and ex-Jefferson Airplane member Spencer Dryden on the drums, succeeding Hart. They also developed an identity of their own through Dawson's songwriting, which had an appealing command of melody and beat.
The group was a little shaky as a country-rock outfit, without the strengths of soulfulness or strong in-house songwriting of, say, Poco or the Burrito Brothers, but their association with Garcia and the Dead (Lesh co-produced one album) gave them a significant leg up in terms of publicity and finding an audience. High school and college kids who'd scarcely heard of Gram Parsons or Jim Messina but owned more than one Dead album, were likely in those days to own, or have a friend who owned, at least one New Riders album. That translated into many thousands of sales of the self-titled first album, which proved an apt and pleasing companion to Workingman's Dead and American Beauty with its mix of country and psychedelic sounds. By the second album, Buddy Cage had come in on pedal steel, replacing Garcia, and their sound had firmed up, helped by the fact that Dawson and Torbert were good songwriters.
Powerglide, their second album, proved that they had what it took to stand separate from the Dead, even though Garcia and Bill Kreutzmann played on a handful of cuts. The group continued to attract a following through the early and mid-'70s, mixing country-rock and folk sounds (Buffy St. Marie was a guest vocalist on the 1974 hit album The Adventures of Panama Red) and attracting the mellower component of recreational drug users. By the end of the decade, following a label change from Columbia to MCA, it seemed as though they were running out of steam and originality, however, and the growth in popularity of punk, disco, and power pop made them seem like an anachronism, along with most other country-rock outfits of the era. Ex-Byrd Skip Battin joined in 1975, replacing Torbert; Dryden gave up playing in 1978 to assume management of the band, and by 1981, Nelson was gone.
The New Riders essentially disbanded in 1982, although the name was later picked up by a new lineup built around Gary Vogenson (guitar) and Rusty Gautier (bass). Nelson subsequently played with the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band and assumed the de facto role of group archivist, supervising the release of unissued tapes by the band through the Relix label.