The Essential Poco, by Poco
Poco is a band that has a complicated history that extends over more than twenty years of making music on four different music labels. To get their singles and a general gist of their material in a best-of collection that includes their entire career is by no means an easy task. One thing that makes this collection a worthwhile one to listen to is that it includes so many tracks–17 songs is far more than the casual listener will likely know–I myself had only heard three songs by the group before listening to this album so it was a great help in familiarizing myself with the group’s material. The songs are organized in chronological fashion, and so this album helps out a lot in allowing the listener to recognize the transition between the rather rootsy country rock that the group began with in the aftermath of Buffalo Springfield and in the period before the founding of the Eagles and in the way that the group became more closely aligned with a musically proficient sound that was compatible with the adult contemporary of the late 1970’s and 1980’s where they achieved their greatest popular success.
This particular album contains 17 tracks and it is rather telling and interesting that most of the tracks do not happen to be singles. It is interesting that the songs that the group released–most of which were not hits–are not the songs that this compilation tends to deem as essential, except for the band’s three biggest hits (which I already knew), and another top 50 song from the early 80’s. The first seven or so songs here are pretty spare country-rock songs with a definite acoustic tendency, two of which are live tracks, and which demonstrate the foundation of the southern Californian country rock sound that would be carried by the Eagles into the mainstream. While “Pickin’ Up The Pieces” is an early standout track, for me the collection starts getting noticeably better around “A Good Feelin’ To Know” and “Go And Say Goodbye,” when the instrumentation starts becoming notably improved over the rather rudimentary grooves that are in most of the early songs. Aside from the band’s biggest hits, songs like “Shoot For The Moon” and “When It All Began” are both excellent ones as well that demonstrate the group was more than just a few songs.
In listening to this album, I get the feeling that there is a large an appreciative fanbase of Poco that would probably not consider me a real fan because I prefer their more melodic adult contemporary period that was the most commercial successful of their eras. Be that is it may, it is fascinating to see the group maintain their themes of love and relationships and the ups and downs resulting in them as well as maintaining their understanding of their own place in music from beginning to end. It is probably best to approach this album with the understanding that this band is far more significant than it may seem from looking at the chart records alone. However it is you prefer your Poco, they deserved a lot more success than they got, and there is little disagreement that one can sensibly make about that.