Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Recommendation for the Month (10-07)

Category: Review

It is rare to see bands stay together for decades. Bands as varied as the Beatles, the Eagles, and the Clash could not stay together for a decade; and the Sex Pistols could barely stay together for one tour. So when a band comes along, and stays, it's something to be celebrated.

ALBUM: Legend

SONGS: Boomerang / Spellbound / Barbados / Little Darling / Love Comes, Love Goes / Heart of the Night / Crazy Love / The Last Goodbye / Legend

Even though they have been compared in the "country-rock" discussion, Poco and the Eagles basically have only one thing in common. Two things, actually: Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit. Meisner played bass on the first Poco album, Pickin' Up the Pieces, but quit the band before the album was released. He was replaced by Schmit, who remained in Poco for a decade before replacing Randy Meisner in the Eagles.

Other than that, the two bands could not be further apart. While the Eagles are considered by many a "country-rock" act, in truth very little (about 13-15% of their songs, based on what some songs are labeled) of their music was "country." Poco's music, in contrast, could not get airplay on modern country radio because it would be dismissed as TC (Too Country). It would be hard to find a modern country performer labelling Poco as an influence (as opposed to all the Eagles fans you can find) for that very reason.

When Schmit jumped ship drummer George Grantham left as well, leaving one original member in Poco. Rusty Young and longtime (but not founding) member Paul Cotton recruited two British session men (Steve Chapman and Charlie Harrison, who worked with Al Stewart) and added keyboards for the first time. A band having lost all but one of its original members should have fallen apart; or, at the very least, resorted to third-rate material. Instead, Poco created a gem.

After languishing for years in the background (two songs, "Keep On Tryin'" and "Indian Summer," made it as high as #50 on the Billboard singles chart), Poco finally scored a breakthrough hit with "Crazy Love." Tim Schmit may have departed, but he definitely left his "Keep On Tryin'" spirit behind for this great song. Lyrically short and simple ("Tonight I'm gonna break away, just you wait and see"), "Crazy Love" shines on this album and in Poco's collection. The other hit from the album was their joyous ode to New Orleans, "Heart of the Night." The lyrics paint a lovely portrait of the Crescent City ("In the heart of the night in the cool falling rain / There's a full moon in sight shining down on the Pontchartrain") with a saxophone solo that highlights the feeling.

Legend is far from a two-song album, however. "Spellbound" will do exactly what the name says. "Barbados" is good enough to make you book passage on a cruise. The title song is about a horse, and it's one of the few good songs about a horse. Forget "Wildfire" or "A Horse with No Name," "Legend" is a masterpiece. The tale about "the horse that's known as only Thunder Road" gallops along as though the music is trying to catch the colt. "The Last Goodbye" is a haunting ballad, something that Poco does very well even though they are not necessarily known for slower songs.

While Legend was a departure in terms of Poco's country-rock, the album at least let the rest of the world know what their fans knew for years before (and in the years since): Poco is far more in music history than just the band that lost bass players to the Eagles.

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