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Poco: Just Like the Sun, They Come Shining Through
Written by Terry Roland

So....I'm sitting waiting my turn at an open mic night and there's this guy sitting behind me, his guitar in hand. He has a funny, sly, hipper-than-thou look on his face. Someone next to us mentions they'd like to do an old song from the ''70s called "Crazy Love" I immediately chime in, "That's by Poco." 

Hipper-Than-Thou smirks. Sensing this, I mention what a great band they are. He smirks again, only louder. Getting slightly pissed, I push the envelope as I say, "There's even a movement to have them inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame"  This time he snorts, "What are they going to do next, induct Bread?".  Looking at him with steel eyes that assures him my guitar could become a deadly weapon of destruction toward those who ignorantly carry their hipper-than-thou attitude in the uncharted territory of a beloved band, he backs off and just shakes his head, as I say, "You don't know too much about Poco do you". Later, Hipper-Than-Thou gets up and fumbles his way through a Leonard Cohen tune, forgetting the lyrics and stopping and starting along the way. A solitary moment of justice occurred in the world of a Poco fan. If you are one of those who thinks of Poco and the soft-rock hits of the '70s, read on. And, maybe you should think twice before attempting a Leonard Cohen song at a local open mic night. 
 
There are bands who start strong, peak, burn out, and fade away with an almost unrecognizable line up from the original members, only to re-merge as a nostalgic act for packaged shows, where they play their old hits. It often becomes something along the order of Spinal Tap through the eyes of David Lynch To be sure, Poco has defied this fate. In fact, in a music world full of commercial trends and bands that bend to the times and sounds of the day, Poco has remained remarkably true to their original vision. They have endured, but not without some twists, turns, and dips along the way. They are a rarity in music because because they have remained artistically viable through personnel changes that would have defeated other bands and, at the very least, caused them to lose whatever innovative edge they had created. But, through it all, this band held on to their identity, keeping a strong hold on their style and, unlike many bands and artists, have grown a following with an international fan base affectionately known as Poconuts. 
 
Poco found its beginning during a final session of the Buffalo Springfield's final album Last Time Around. Their third album was abandoned by all of the members except Richie Furay and Jim Messina. The need for a pedal steel player caused Furay to call in a recently made friend from Colorado, Rusty Young. The session resulted in one of the best songs of the Springfield era: "Kind Woman." Some consider this to be the beginning of Poco. They were later filled in with future Eagles, and former member of Rick Nelson's Stone County Band, Randy Meisner. George Grantham joined them on drums. After the release of the first album, Picking Up the Pieces, which yielded the another Furay classic in the title song, the personnel changes became legendary. Moving through band were Jim Messina, who left to join up with his friend, Kenny Loggins; exit Randy Meisner, who headed south to fly like an eagle; enter Timothy B. Schmidt, who would stay with the band for a few albums and tours before he flew south to replace bass player, Randy Meisner in the Eagles. Eventually, Paul Cotton, from Illinois Speed Press, would become a stabilizing force as a valuable contributing member of the band's high harmonic vocal style and as a fine songwriter himself. During the course of their first five years they were known for dynamic live performances that brought the raw energy of hard rock to their signature country sound. Although this period didn't yield any charted albums or radio hits, the band still managed to produce a string of influential, now classic songs like "You Better Think Twice," "Good Feeling to Know," "And Settlin' Down," and "Bad Weather."
 
Richie's anthem, Good Feeling to Know had all of the makings of a major hit, but the song never took off. And to make things worse, the Eagles' premier album with former Poco bass player, Randy Meisner, soared up the charts. Discouraged and frustrated, Richie began to pull away. Furay's parting gift to the band was the song "Crazy Eyes" written for Gram Parsons just after his death in Joshua Tree. It's an epic song that brings brass and orchestrated movements into the Poco country-rock realm. But it was clear after the lack of charting success of "Good Feeling to Know"that Furay's heart was no longer in the band he had co-founded. 

With Richie's departure, the band's direction fell on Rusty Young, whose multi-instrumental skills left room for a new direction for the band. Subsequent releases found Poco with a sound that emphasized the lighter acoustic performances with a focus on their strong harmonies. The 1978 album, five years after Richie Furay's departure, yielded the top ten hit song, "Crazy Love." The album Legend was their first gold album. Ironically, it was the one time in their long journey that the band blunted its harder, energetic country-rock sound for the trendier ''70s soft-rock sound of the day. Fortunately for their artistic and musical development, the success was not long-lived. 

Another of the band's landmarks occurred in 1989 when RCA signed Poco's original members for a reunion album. The blessing, however, was a mixed one at best. While the album gained commercial success, like the earlier, Legend, the compromises of the times, the music business, and the diverse lives of the members took its toll on the project, leaving the album (to this day) to be a curiosity in their recording history. Opening with Richie Furay's heartfelt tribute to the band he founded, the remainder of the album moves through what sounds like individual studio projects for each lead artist, with the irritating signature over-produced sound that characterized '80s popular music. Furay departed again when he felt his faith was being compromised. Even so, the album yielded two top 40 songs: "Call It Love"and "Nothing to Hide."

In the years since, Poco has been kept alive by the loyalty of its fans and the commitment of its member(and even the ex-members). They released five more albums, which returned them to the high energy country-rock of the earlier days: Under the Gun, Blue and Gray, Cowboys and Englishmen, Ghost Town, and Inamorata. The albums earned critical praise, but commercial success proved elusive. In 2004, reunions started up again, this time with more artistic success than before. 

Keeping the Legend Alive and 2004's The Wildwood Sessions, both live recordings, brought Richie Furay back to cover the songs from the early days. George Grantham would return to the drums as well until he tragically underwent a stroke, which left him unable to play. 

Today, Poco is at a point in their career where all of the former members are showing up at concerts to celebrate this band that wouldn't go away. To be sure, the enduring members - Rusty Young and Paul Cotton - have carried the flame, but today, the fact that the various members can get past any differences of their past to rally around the band that helped define that bit of country music, made for grinnin'.

Recently at Southern California's Stagecoach Country Music Festival, Poco was joined by Richie Furay, Jim Messina, Timothy B. Schmidt for a historic set. It was enjoyed by all who attended. YouTube, of course, has many song clips from that day. The cause of the greatest celebration of the day was original drummer George Grantham, who still hopes one day to sit behind the drums with the band he was raised on and the good times they brought. 

So, if you look through the smoke and fire from the last 40 years, listen through the streams of country-rock standards made famous by bands like the Eagles. Hear beneath the high harmonies, which you might recognize in many contemporary country bands; you catch the sweet sound of country kin, who brought a fresh new sound to country and rock music and influenced so many, have again come out to pick up a few more pieces and bring us home. 

With Richie's departure, the band's direction fell on Rusty Young, whose multi-instrumental skills left room for a new direction for the band. Subsequent releases found Poco with a sound that emphasized the lighter acoustic performances with a focus on their strong harmonies. The 1978 album, five years after Richie Furay's departure, yielded the top ten hit song, "Crazy Love." The album Legend was their first gold album. Ironically, it was the one time in their long journey that the band blunted its harder, energetic country-rock sound for the trendier '70s soft-rock sound of the day. Fortunately for their artistic and musical development, the success was not long-lived. 

Another of the band's landmarks occurred in 1989 when RCA signed Poco's original members for a reunion album, Legacy. The blessing, however, was a mixed one at best. While the album gained commercial success, like the earlier, Legend, the compromises of the times, the music business, and the diverse lives of the members took its toll on the project, leaving the album (to this day) to be a curiosity in their recording history. Opening with Richie Furay's heartfelt tribute to the band he co-founded, "When It All Began," the remainder of the album moves through what sounds like individual studio projects for each lead artist, with the irritating signature over-produced sound that characterized '80s popular music. Furay departed again when he felt his faith was being compromised. Even so, the album yielded two top 40 songs: "Call It Love" and "Nothing to Hide."

In the years since, Poco has been kept alive by the loyalty of its fans and the commitment of its member(and even the ex-members). They released five more albums, which returned them to the high energy country-rock of the earlier days: Under the Gun, Blue and Gray, Cowboys and Englishmen, Ghost Town, and Inamorata. The albums earned critical praise, but commercial success proved elusive. In 2004, reunions started up again, this time with more artistic success than before. Keeping the Legend Alive and 2004's The Wildwood Sessions, both live recordings, brought Richie Furay back to cover the songs from the early days. George Grantham would return to the drums as well until he tragically underwent a stroke, which left him unable to play. 

Today, Poco is at a point in their career where all of the former members are showing up at concerts to celebrate this band that wouldn't go away. To be sure, the enduring members - Rusty Young and Paul Cotton - have carried the flame, but today, the fact that the various members can get past any differences of their past to rally around the band that helped define that bit of country music, made for grinnin'.
 
So, if you look through the smoke and fire over the last 40 years and listen through the streams of country-rock standards made famous by bands like the Eagles and the contemporary Nashville.driven mainstream country radio;  you may hear, beneath all of this, the high harmonies, and the sweet sound of country kin, who brought a fresh new sound to country and rock music and influenced so many. They have returned again to pick up a few more pieces and bring us home. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
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