Paul Cotton - guitar, vocals; Richie Furay - guitar, vocals; Rusty Young - steel guitar, guitar, vocals; Timothy B. Schmit - bass, vocals; George Grantham - drums, vocals
Following the demise of Buffalo Springfield, Richie Furay and Jim Messina took their vision of blending country and rock elements and formed Poco, along with recruits Rusty Young, Randy Meisner and George Grantham. Poco's debut 1969 album, Pickin' Up The Pieces, along with the first Flying Burrito Brothers album, are now widely considered as two of the most important and influential albums of the country/rock movement. Over the course of the next few years and two additional albums, several personnel changes occurred, but the outstanding songwriting and singing of Richie Furay, along with the gifted musicianship of multi-instrumentalist, Rusty Young, was strong enough to define a sound that remained both original and compelling.
The band's second self-titled 1970 album, which had Timothy B. Schmit replacing Meisner on bass, was more adventurous than the debut, showing the band progressing into more rock-oriented territory while staying true to the original vision. Both albums were critically acclaimed, but neither achieved much radio exposure or commercial success. However, Poco's unique blend translated very well on stage and the band developed a loyal following by taking their music on the road. Not surprisingly, the third album, Deliverin' was recorded live in concert and upon release in 1971, rapidly became their most popular album to date. Jim Messina had departed by the time of the release, replaced by the more aggressive guitarist and songwriter, Paul Cotton. No live performances from this next era have ever been released, but it was a remarkable time to have caught the band live, as they now had a strong live repertoire and musicians who could translate it onstage in a more engaging manner than ever before.
Which brings us to this remarkable performance, which finds Poco hitting the stage at Gannon College in September of 1971. It takes a little while for the group to hit their stride, but even early on in the set, they are quite captivating. The show begins with the same four songs (in the same order) that helped make their current album so popular; Richie Furay's "I Guess You Made It," and "C'mon," followed by Schmit's "Hear That Music" and then a revamped Buffalo Springfield number, "Kind Woman." These will all be familiar to fans of the early Poco sound and although played well, they are just a warm-up for the enticing things to come. "Hurry Up," another irresistible Furay number, follows, displaying the group's sound at its brightest and heading in a more rock oriented direction.
The group then changes the dynamic with a thoroughly engaging diversion into acoustic music. The trademark sweet, high harmonies are in abundance during this sequence, beginning with a three-song medley containing Schmit's "Hard Luck" transitioning into a lovely rendition of "A Child's Claim To Fame" (another Furay song from the Buffalo Springfield era) and concluding with the happy-go-lucky title track off the band's debut album. "Make Me A Smile" follows, another standout song from the debut album, before they wrap up this acoustic portion of the set with "A Man Like Me."
They return to electric instrumentation for the remainder of the set and this is when things really get cooking. From the beginning of "Just In Case It Happens, Yes Indeed," a pure country number, there is a palpable difference in the intensity level. Furay's singing is more forceful and the band sounds more engaged. The following "Don't Let It Pass By" is absolutely beautiful, with Furay's most emotionally expressive vocal of the evening, complete with spot on harmonies that accentuate the heartbreak of Furay's voice.
Without any downtime, they go from this slower intimate number directly into the entire second side of their second album. "Nobody's Fool" certainly kicks the intensity level up another notch, and just when it ends (with an enthusiastic yelp from Furay), they continue on with the vastly experimental "El Tonto de Nadie, Regresa." Almost entirely instrumental, this is a true tour-de-force performance that is thrilling for 15 solid minutes. This monumental jam eventually climaxes with a scorching rave-up led by Young, followed by one final burst of thematic harmony, before they say goodnight. Richie Furay says, "Take a little peace home with you tonight" as they exit the stage amidst rapturous applause.
When they return for the encore, they deliver a little more of the same, beginning with Rusty Young's infectious instrumental, "Grand Junction." A fragment of "Consequently, So Long" caps things off as the master tape unfortunately runs out.
Thinking in terms of the early 1970s, it's not difficult to understand why radio programmers couldn't quite place Poco. The unimaginative thinking at the time was that they were "too country for rock, too rock for country." With radio the primary means of promotion, it was a difficult spot to be in and one that eventually led to Richie Furay's departure not long afterwards. The group would soldier on and even achieve much greater commercial success, but would never have the integrity or the creativity that was in such abundance here. They may indeed have been too country for rock radio and too rock for country radio, but as this performance so clearly shows, Poco was just way ahead of their time.
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