POCO - Crazy Loving: The Best Of Poco 1975-1982 (1989) & Live at Columbia Studios, Hollywood, September 30, 1971 (2010)
Known for their country-rock ease and light harmonies, Poco netted two of the finest soft rock tunes of the late '70s in "Crazy Love" and "Heart of the Night," which highlight Crazy Loving, one of the more accessible compilations from this California band. After these tracks, the rest of this package takes minor hits from rather lackluster albums such as Blue and Gray, Under the Gun, and Cowboys and Englishmen, gradually losing interest along the way. Although the group's countrified feel wraps itself tightly around songs like "Too Many Nights Too Long," "Indian Summer," and the instrumental "Ashes/Feudin," Poco's occasional knack for a catchy hook or a sincere lyric fails to rise to the top on most of these cuts. "Midnight Rain" and "Keep on Tryin'" are almost there, but the departure of Richie Furay in 1973 dealt somewhat of a blow to the band's material, and their laid-back sound pales in comparison to what the Eagles were putting out at the same time. This set makes for a better buy than any of the albums that these tracks originate from, but heartier collections contain material from earlier recordings, like Pickin' up the Pieces or A Good Feeling to Know, right up to 1989's Legacy, the album that gave them their last two Top 40 hits in "Call It Love" and "Nothin' to Hide."
Combining the natural excitement and added vibrancy that a live performance provides, while recording in a studio environment with better acoustics, proves the best of both worlds for a recorded concert. The small invited audience to this label showcase consisted mostly of family, friends, and music company executives from the Columbia/Epic imprints, giving the proceedings a homey, more comfortable vibe. Poco's live album of predominantly new material, Deliverin', which came out earlier in the year, was a big seller and the band had just released the studio follow-up, From the Inside, which introduced Paul Cotton into the outfit, replacing Jim Messina. This was Cotton's first tour with the existing members, and although his contributions on electric guitar and soon-to-be primary songwriter are still on low boil, it's clear that Poco is headed in a more commercially rock-oriented direction. Not surprisingly, half the 14-song set consists of material from their new album, with four more from Deliverin', and Furay even diving back to his Buffalo Springfield days to resurrect "A Child's Claim to Fame" as part of a medley that also includes "Pickin' Up the Pieces." It's a spirited performance with the quintet's distinctive three- and four-part harmonies a clear blueprint for what the Eagles would take to the bank just a year later sounding particularly vibrant. The more intimate atmosphere is evident on a three-song acoustic mini-set where the unpled songs take on a rootsy flair somewhat at odds with the harder-edged electrified approach the band was leaning towards. Rusty Young's inimitable and inventive pedal steel consistently stands out, especially when he makes his instrument sound like a B-3 organ on a rollicking, soulful version of "Hurry Up," a tune from the group's second album that acquires new life in this setting. Cotton's three contributions include "Bad Weather," one of his finest compositions that would later be a staple of their early catalog. Furay's lovely "What If I Should Say I Love You" is another standout, with this version even more soulful and slightly slower than the studio take. These guys could play and sing with a taut professionalism that always seemed a little ragged but was never sloppy. With sparks fueled by the live experience, this long-lost professionally recorded show is a necessary addition to any country-rock-loving listener's collection.
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