As the disc begins, there is a bit of stage banter before the band goes into “Leaving On Her Mind.” “See if we can pull this Charley Pride tune off for you here.” Though Pride released one of the first recordings of the song, it was written by Jack Clement. Interestingly, New Riders Of The Purple Sage also played this song to kick off their November 23, 1972 show, which was released as Thanksgiving In New York City a few years ago. Well, it’s a good choice to get things going. It features some great vocal work, something the band was known for. John Dawson wrote much of the material for the New Riders, and the first of his songs the band played at this show was “Whatcha Gonna Do.” They introduce this one: “It’s called ‘Whatcha Gonna Do On The Planet,’ which is really very tiny of course.” This song was included on the band’s first album. “Where ya gonna go on the planet today/Oh, Missy there’s so much to see/Whatcha gonna do on the planet today?” Sure, the planet is small, but I love how this song reminds us of how the possibilities are fairly large, fairly wide open. Sometimes we feel stuck, but really, there are many options.
I have always enjoyed hearing NRPS cover “Hello Mary Lou,” a song that was included on The Best Of New Riders Of The Purple Sage, which was the first NRPS album I ever bought. It’s just a fun number. And check out Buddy Cage’s wild work on pedal steel in the second half, the way it seems to coil its way up the steepest mountains, threatening to burst in on the heavens. Wonderful! That’s followed by another John Dawson tune, “Lochinvar.” This one was included on the band’s Powerglide album, which was released in 1972. This song has a sweet, gentle vibe. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “When we both were very small/I asked you, would you leave it all/And come and ride away with me/You said, wait and see.” I also love the line “And dreams should not be left behind.” This is one of my personal favorites. They then increase the energy and sense of play with their rendition of “Truck Drivin’ Man.” There is some great playing here, and of course some delicious harmonies.
“Glendale Train” is another of my favorite New Riders songs, and is certainly the one that gets in my head the most often. Basically every time I drive through Glendale, it is running through my head. It’s a great song, written by John Dawson, and this is a particularly good version, the band digging into it and cutting loose with it, delivering a nice jam. And it’s a request. You can hear a guy shout out “Glendale Train” before they start it. That is followed by “California Day,” which was written by Dave Torbert, and included on Powerglide. “On the sandy shores I ran until I could not run no more/Left it far behind in dreams of death.” Crazy to think that almost the entire band you hear on these tracks is now gone. Only David Nelson remains. They then follow that with a cover of “Duncan And Brady.” They introduce this one by saying, “This song is about the heat, you understand.” It’s a strange and kind of humorous tune. I mean, there is a shooting, and the comment that follows is “Been on the job too long.” John Dawson introduces Dave Nelson’s lead by saying “This is David Nelson, he’s going to tell you a little bit about this thing here,” and then he introduces Buddy Cage’s lead by saying “This is Mr. Cage’s part of the story, here we go.”
When they mention the next song they’re going to play, the crowd is clearly excited. It’s a cover of “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music),” the song that was the lead track on Powerglide. It was written by Joe Maphis, Max Fidler and Rose Lee, and was recorded by several artists before New Riders, and even more since then. They then tell the crowd, “We’re going to play ‘Doctor’ in case you need one here.” “I Don’t Need No Doctor” is another song the band covered on Powerglide, and is another one the band stretches out on a bit. The energy is high, the band rocking, delivering some great stuff on guitar. Also from Powerglide comes “Rainbow,” this one an original composition by John Dawson. It’s a sweet love song. “And if you love me, tell me you do/Reason I’m asking is ‘cause I love you, honey/Oh, don’t you know that I love you.” And what better choice to follow “Rainbow” than the Rolling Stones’ “Connection”? Though of course “Rainbow Connection” was still several years away. “Connection, I just can’t make no connection/All I want to do is to get back to you.” A whole lot of folks did not make their connecting flights this past week, and I have to imagine at least a few them had this song playing in their heads. Buddy Cage delivers some more fantastic work on pedal steel.
“Sailin’” is an original composition. It was included on the band’s Gypsy Cowboy, which was released in 1972, and is another sweet number. “The sun in the morning is her only wine/She wakes me and takes me with her to the sea/Oh, we often go sailin’, my lady and me.” After “Sailin’” someone calls out a request for “Louisiana Lady.” The band responds that they’ll get to it. But first they dive into “Dirty Business,” the longest song from the band’s first album. On that record, the track is nearly eight minutes. Here it is a bit longer, the guys delivering a good, relaxed jam. This is more somber number, about a mine town. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Well, I make two bucks a day/And that ain’t a healthy pay/My kids are only just beginning to get sick/There’s talk been going the rounds/How they’re gonna shut it down.” Also from the band’s first album comes “Last Lonely Eagle,” one of the band’s best songs. It was written by John Dawson, and it features a moving vocal performance. “‘Cause the people who live ‘round the bend in the river/Have forgotten their dreams.” Then they get to that guy’s request, delivering a delightful, energetic rendition of “Louisiana Lady,” another of this band’s gems, and another from the band’s debut album. There is a bit of banter before the band’s final number of the set, a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women,” which is introduced as an “English import.” It’s a fun rendition. They put their own spin on it, singing “back home in ‘Frisco.”
CD Track List
- Leaving On Her Mind
- Whatcha Gonna Do
- Hello Mary Lou
- Truck Drivin’ Man
- Glendale Train
- California Day
- Duncan And Brady
- Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)
- I Don’t Need No Doctor
- Dirty Business
- Last Lonely Eagle
- Louisiana Lady
- Honky Tonk Women
Lyceum ’72 was released on September 23, 2022 through Omnivore Recordings.