I am currently listening to the original NRPS album, released in 1971 - you know, the one with John Dawson, David Nelson, David Torbert, Jerry Garcia and Spencer Dryden, with additional help from Mickey Hart and Commander Cody. Damn that was a good record and it still holds up 38 years later! Earlier, I was listening to the NRPS' current release, "Where I Come From." While that is also a good album, I do not believe that we will still be playing it 38 years from now (if we should live so long). The songs on the new record are reflective of the new band and the new direction it has taken, and I have to say, man for man, the current lineup probably beats the hell out of the original in terms of musicianship - but it is really apples and oranges out there in the fruit basket of life known as NRPS.
Don't get me wrong, "Where I Come From" has some excellent material but some of it is obfuscated by the extensive and, in my mind, unnecessary jams whereas the 1971 recording is tight and concise. The title song, one of many written by Robert Hunter and David Nelson, is really good and other standouts for me include Johnny Markowski's "Higher" (a logical next step in NRPS terminology), a song which, when I have seen the band in person, appears to be the new anthem for the band. "Carl Perkins Wears the Crown" is another wonderful song and Michael Falzarano is spot on with this composition which actually reflects the late composer of "Blue Suede Shoes." The only song on the record that holds true to the original NRPS sound is Ronnie Penque's "Olivia Rose." "Olivia Rose" sounds as if John Dawson could have written and/or sung it but by now, pretty much everyone knows that Olivia was Ronnie's daughter who passed from heart disease at age 5. Still, the song is not maudlin at all but upbeat:
Do you know Olivia Rose?
Do you know the way the story goes?
Good things will come to those who know
Angels sometimes fly down this low
She's been gone all day
I know she's gonna do it her way
People calling all night, I ain't got nothing new to say
A change of heart is all that she's feeling
It's OK, it's OK
Smile for me Olivia Rose
Butterflies are landing on your clothes
Ever since the day that you came
I knew life would never be the same
I brought you a picture for your table
I'm lying on your floor trying to write my song
You'll be coming home just as soon as you're able
Don't take long, don't take long
Straight to the heart, Olivia Rose
The world is at your feet and you know
You are the warm morning sun
you blew in like breeze and you're gone
Your phone's been ringing and blues been singing in hallway
But you don't answer,
I'm waiting just to hear you say
I'd do it all again if I only had the chance to
I cannot help but think that little girl is beaming down from Heaven, very proud of her daddy. I found the one disappointing cut on the record to be another Hunter/Nelson ditty (yet another song about Garcia's passing and the legacy he left behind), "Ghost Train Blues," which sounds less like a tribute to Garcia and more like a combination of guitar work by The Ventures, Dick Dale and The Beatles ("Things We Said Today"). On the other hand,I could just see Garcia out there, catching a big one off the coast of Maui, Telecaster in hand.