Poco: Legacy (1989)

Released in 1989, the original Poco reformed for an album.  This configuration of the band had not played together for nearly 20 years.

Jim Messina, Randy Meisner, Richie Furay, George Grantham and Rusty Young accept the offer, recorded an album and went on tour.  Then the wheels came off.

Poco was formed in 1969 by Jim Messina and Richie Furay, who had been with Buffalo Springfield when it imploded in 1968.  Together with steel guitar player Rusty Young, drummer George Grantham and bass player Randy Meisner, the formed one of the first country-rock bands.

Randy Meisner was the first to leave, departing before the first album was recorded, joining Rick Nelson’s band before hooking up with what would become the Eagles.  Timothy B. Schmidt replaced him.  Messina then left, he formed Loggins & Messina.  Paul Cotton was recruited to place Messina and would stay with the band for the next 40 years.  Furay then left to go solo and eventually join with John David Souther and Chris Hillman in The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band.  For most of the 1970s, it was Young-Cotton-Schmidt-Grantham.  Schmidt left to replace Meisner in the Eagles, and Grantham departed.

Young and Cotton soldiered on, and by a quirk of fate, delivered the best selling album of the group’s history, Legend.  Lasting commercial success would escape them, as they continued to release albums but to declining sales.  Changing record companies didn’t help and by the late 1980s, Poco was without a recording contract.

Then the offer of a reunion, but with a chosen producer and the assistance of outside writing, including Richard Marx.  The idea was to update their sound and watch the money roll in.

Most of the songs on Legacy were written by members of the band, and the result is mostly what you would expect to hear in the late in the slick production 1980s.  It sort of sounds like Poco, but this isn’t your father’s Poco.

“When it All Began” leads off the album, a group biographical song with steel guitar, picked guitar, soft harmony vocals and a banjo.  The 1980s drum sound keeps your head in the proper decade.  It’s a great song to start with.

“Call it Love” written by an outside team fortunately works, it broke the top forty.  The album was sweetened by some outsider players like Lee Sklar (bass), Jeff Porcaro and Gary Mallabar (drums), and Billy Payne (keyboards).  These are top-rate session players.

“The Nature of Love” was another top forty single, sung by Meisner but written by an outside team.  It’s a good song, but was it better than what Young, Furay, Messina or Meisner could have written?  In all, there were three non-group songs and others co-written by others, most likely to boost the writing.

The best songs are ones written and form-fitted to the band, not the overblown, bombastic produced ones.  Somehow, Jim Messina was able to several of his down-home, bluesy songs with a minimum of 1980s bombast, although “Lovin’ You Every Minute of the Day” pushes the limit. Messina is the conscionous of the group, he brings the mood back to the acoustic guitar and blended harmonies.  The album ends with “Follow Your Dream”, a decidedly un-1980s song.

Randy Meisner ends up singing more songs than anyone.  The producers do tend to embrace the growing mainstream country popularity with songs like “Rough Edges”, though a pretty generic song that sounds like it was written by committee for the album.

“Who Else” written and sung by Rusty Young, has that mid-tempo ballad with shimmering guitars and soft vocals, that he perfected on Legend.  Even the echo rich production can’t ruin this gorgeous song.

Richie scores the best songs, “If it Wasn’t for You” sounds the most like Poco, a gentle mid-tempo ballad with great ringing guitars and harmonies. Not even the sythn fills and heavy percussion can dim the impact of this lovely song.

While the album has some bright spots, it feels very manufactured, designed for demographics rather than a project that feels organic, and utilizes the best of those of involved.

The band went on tour, but Furay was unhappy and left the tour.  Other musicians were brought in; then Young, Messina and Meisner carried on a trio.  Then in 1991, Young was by himself.

Paul Cotton joined back up with Young, and the group reformed.  Several albums were released and then in the late 2000s, Cotton left.  Young, bass player Jack Sundrud and a changing cast of drummers and guitarists have carried on.  Occasionally, Furay, Grantham and even Cotton have appeared at select venues as Poco is now past age 50 and still making appearances.

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