Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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New Riders of the Purple Sage

  • New Riders of the Purple Sage [Columbia, 1971] B+
  • Powerglide [Columbia, 1972] C-
  • The Adventures of Panama Red [Columbia, 1973] C-
  • The Best of New Riders of the Purple Sage [Columbia, 1976] D+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

New Riders of the Purple Sage [Columbia, 1971]
Many find the weakness of John "Marmaduke" Dawson's singing an a priori turnoff, but I'm perversely attached to it. This diminutive, definitely mild-mannered c&w fantast betrays (I said betrays) none of the manipulative self-regard that marks the true wimp, and his voice suits the folkie-hippie casualness of the band's "country"-"rock." A feckless myth, to be sure--trucking women and heroic dopers, gentle aspiration and mysterious evil. But a charming and tuneful one. B+

Powerglide [Columbia, 1972]
Last time the offhand, dreamy mythos of the originals seemed designed for the thin, dreamy pathos of the voices, and even then the combination didn't wear very well except as pastoral Muzak. This time the originals are depressingly unoriginal, and the memory of the country, Motown, and rock classics they cover renders the voices pathetic. C-

The Adventures of Panama Red [Columbia, 1973]
If your idea of adventure is getting wasted, you too might end up in bed with Panama Red. And if your idea of country-rock singing is drawling at medium volume in the general vicinity of the correct pitch, you might think they're improving themselves by letting Dave Nelson and Dave Torbert take their turns at the mike. C-

The Best of New Riders of the Purple Sage [Columbia, 1976]
Five of the six best songs here are on the debut; the other one, in case you care, is Robert Hunter's "Kick in the Head." Docked two notches for uselessness, another for the "New Riders of the Purple Sage is a registered trademark," and yet another for putting a circle-R next to the title on the spine. D+