I have always felt that Poco deserved better. The group formed in 1969 and was among the earliest proponents of the fusion between country and rock music. Poco’s commercial problem was they were just a little too country for the rock market and a little too rock ‘n’ roll for a country audience. It would be the Eagles who would take this sound and find worldwide acceptance. Still, Poco would produce a number of creative and unique albums during the course of their 40-year career.
Poco was formed from the remnants of the Buffalo Springfield. While Neil Young and Stephen Stills would go on to superstardom, Richie Furay and Jim Messina would follow their own musical vision and form Poco. Their first recruit was multi-talented instrumentalist Rusty Young who played the pedal steel guitar, dobro and banjo. Drummer Grant Grantham quickly followed and he would become a key component to their vocal harmonies. Randy Meisner was the original bass player but would leave before the release of their fist album. He would be replaced by Timothy B. Schmit who would oddly replace Meisner again as a member of the Eagles.
Poco’s debut album, Pickin’ Up The Pieces, would be a masterpiece and would begin to establish a new musical genre. Young’s pedal steel and dobro would combine with Furay’s and Messina’s rock sensibilities to create a brand new sound for their tight harmonies.
“Just In Case It Happens, Yes Indeed” is a good introduction to the Poco sound. The interplay between Messina’s electric guitar and Young’s dobro was unique in 1969 and remains creative today. The instruments strain against each other yet ultimately merge into a unique sound. “Nobody’s Fool” takes the group in the same direction. Richie Furay’s plaintive vocal plus the harmonies soar above more interplay between Messina and Young.
There are a number of other highlights contained on Pickin’ Up The Pieces. George Grantham may have been the drummer but it was his voice that was the underpinning of the group’s harmonies. “Tomorrow” finds Grantham providing a rare lead vocal which is just superb and makes the listener yearn for more. “Short Changed” is about as rockish as Poco would get. Young and Messina provide a dual guitar backing for the combined vocals of Furay and Grantham. “First Love” is just wonderful vocal harmonies.
Pickin’ Up The Pieces remains a must listen nearly 40 years after its birth. The gentle vocals, the competent musicianship and the explorations of country and rock music which ultimately meld together are an important artifact in the evolution of popular American music.