The self-titled second album gets the belated appreciation it deserves
The second in an initial trilogy of landmark albums by the newly-formed country rock pioneers Poco, the self-titled Poco maintained the energy and enthusiasm of the band’s sparkling debut Pickin’ Up the Pieces and capably foretold Deliverin’, a bold if somewhat premature live set informed by confidence and clarity.
An offshoot of the Buffalo Springfield — Richie Furay had been a constant in that band, holding his own against the formidable twosome Neil Young and Stephen Stills, while Jim Messina and Rusty Young each played a role in Springfield’s fractious final album Last Time Around — Poco helped spur the advent of Americana decades before the term became popular. It was also the first Poco album to feature Timothy B. Schmit, who replaced founding member Randy Meisner after he was drafted to play a role during the early stages of the Eagles. (Ironically, Schmit would later be recruited by the Eagles as well, a clear sign that Henley, Frey and company were keenly aware of the inroads Poco was making even early on.)
Nevertheless, Poco was significant in other ways as well. Aside from the fact it boasted any number of signature songs that would remain essential to their repertoire throughout the band’s ever-evolving career — “You Better Think Twice” and “Keep On Believin’ chief among them — it was also an innovative effort in that it featured the side-long medley “Nobody’s Fool/El Tonto de Nadie, Regresa,” a decidedly risky move for any emerging band, particularly one claiming a roots rock regimen.
Indeed, that was one of the difficulties that hindered the band early on and continues to plague the group even in a current incarnation that finds pedal steel player Rusty Young the sole survivor of the original classic line-up. While their contemporaries — the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band et. al. — leaned more towards rural realms and won a loyal following as a result, Poco continued to nourish more contemporary conceits. Thus, they found themselves attempting to balance a perilous divide, one that found them too rock for country and too country for rock.
In a sense, Poco confused matters even more. The fact that it was given an eponymous title showed that the band were pleased to assert their independence, and also provided a breakthrough in terms of shoring up a fan following. However it did nothing to gain the broader success the band had hoped for. Deliverin’ did better in that regard, but even now, 50 years on, that wider recognition still remains elusive at best. Sadly, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honors have yet to be bestowed.
Even so, Poco still stands up well today, an energetic offering that’s flush with both sweet sentiment and decisive determination. Belated appreciation is definitely deserved.