Richie Furay - guitar, lead vocals; Paul Cotton - 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 equally impressive follow-up albums, 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 both original and compelling.
Poco's self-titled sophomore album, which had Timothy B. Schmit replacing Meisner on bass, was more adventurous than the debut, progressing further into 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 its release in 1971 rapidly became their most popular album to date.
Although he played on it and produced it, Jim Messina had departed by the time of release, but not before securing the services of a more aggressive guitarist and songwriter, Paul Cotton. The Messina/Cotton transition took place during a three-night engagement at Fillmore West (October 30, 31 and November 1, 1970), when Poco played second on a triple bill between openers Mungo Jerry and headliners Procol Harum. On the first two nights, Messina played while Cotton studied. On the final night, Cotton took over with Messina observing from the audience, and with that set, the second most successful phase of Poco officially began.
Here we present the first 46 minutes of Poco's set that final night of the run, featuring Paul Cotton's debut performance as lead guitarist. Not surprisingly, Cotton focuses on lead guitar duties here and is yet to contribute material. This leaves the bulk of lead vocal duties to Richie Furay, who leads the group through a tantalizing list of choice material from Poco's first three albums, including a mid-set acoustic sequence.
The show begins with the same four songs, in the same order, that helped make the live Deliverin' album so popular; Richie Furay's "I Guess You Made It" and "C'mon," followed by Schmit's "Hear That Music" capped off with Furay's achingly beautiful "Anyway Bye Bye." The first three numbers, the first of which begins in progress, draw the audience in with the band's inviting blend of melodic country rock, but it is the often overlooked "Anyway Bye Bye" that immediately stands out. One of Furay's greatest vocals on record, this version doesn't disappoint and finds the entire band hitting their stride. Clocking in at almost nine minutes, this features plenty of superb musicianship as well as deeply resonating vocals. An extended jam allows the band to show off its versatility, with Tim Schmit's jazzy bass leading the way. Rusty Young kicks in with his steel guitar sounding like an organ, while Grantham and Cotton help fire up this tasty blend. Conveying the group's sound at it's brightest and heading in a more rock-oriented direction, the band continues with "Hurry Up," another irresistible Furay number, which opened the band's second album.
Poco then changes the dynamic with an engaging diversion into acoustic music. The trademark sweet, high harmonies of Furay and Messina are lacking here, but Furay, Schmitt, and Cotton hold there own, beginning with a three-song medley containing Schmit's "Hard Luck," which transitions directly into a lovely rendition of "A Child's Claim To Fame" (a classic Furay song from his Buffalo Springfield era) and then "Pickin Up The Pieces, the happy-go-lucky title track off the band's debut album. "Make Me A Smile" follows, another standout song from the debut, with the acoustic portion wrapping up with a fine reading of "You Better Think Twice."
They return to electric instrumentation for the remainder of the set and a whole new energy level kicks right in on "Just In Case It Happens, Yes Indeed," one of their most engaging pure country numbers. Furay's singing is more forceful and the band sounds fully re-engaged. It all kicks up another notch for Rusty Young's infectious instrumental, "Grand Junction," which percolates directly into "Consequently, So Long," which caps off this medley in fine style.
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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