What does it sound like?:
This 5 disc set covers the career of the band whilst signed to Epic Records, 1972 to 1976. So it starts with their 4th album, “A Good Feelin’ To Know” and goes through “Crazy Eyes,” “Seven” and “Cantamos” before ending with their “Live” album which Epic put out when the band moved to ABC Records. The set also contains a 16-page booklet with some good notes and a list of the 5 bonus tracks (2 from the first and 3 from the second albums featured here.)
It does seem a bit odd arriving at a retrospective at the 4th album (especially if you’re a Poco purist who thinks that the first 3 albums are the cream) but there is plenty here to satisfy any fan of Americana or Country Rock. The first 2 albums here still feature Richie Furay before he jumped ship for The Souther, Hillman, Furay Band and these albums have a richer vocal sound than some of the later stuff. Rose of Cimarron is still 2 albums away and 1978’s Legend (my personal favourite) another 2 further on still.
The 4 studio albums are just a bit inconsistent – I could probably make a great 10 song playlist from the 35 tracks here – and most of that comes down to the song writing. When I was a teenager in the early 1970’s Poco were seen as ‘the poor man’s Eagles,’ which was just because the two bands sounded similar (country flavoured, harmony vocals, guitar driven.) But the Eagles always had better songs, better production and a swagger that Poco never had. That’s not to say that Poco couldn’t write a classic; there are standout songs here like the sublime All The Ways, Here We Go Again, the orchestral epic, Crazy Eyes, High & Dry and Magnolia – they just don’t do it often enough. Cantamos is the strongest of the 4 studio albums here and has some really strong songs on it. However, the CD pressing has almost no bass on it, which is disappointing. Having said all that, there is enough here to keep any fan of Country/Americana happy.
However, it is the 5th album in this collection which shows Poco at their best.
The album, ‘Live,’ was put out after they jumped labels, to ABC. It floundered at No. 169 in the American charts, probably because it had zero promotion, but it is the best album of the 5 here. Recorded over 3 nights in 1974 it has a much chunkier, meatier sound, great vocals and harmonies and an energy which is missing from the studio albums. Here is the swagger, here is a great live band, here is the confident stage performers having fun and sounding like a terrific band.
What does it all *mean*?
The fact that I always think of Poco as ‘the poor man’s Eagles’ is more my problem than theirs. They have more of a heritage behind them than the Eagles, certainly. This is a good entry-point for the curious and a great refresher for the casual fan.
Goes well with…
Sunny days, wind in what little hair you have, flies in your teeth and the open road.
30th August 2019
Might suit people who like…
The Eagles, Gram Parsons, Buffalo Springfield, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Americana