Thursday, February 25, 2010

Forgotten Music Thursday: Poco - The Last Roundup (2004)

Starting today, on the fourth Thursday of every month a "forgotten" album or band will be featured.

Recorded at a live show for a tentative late 1977 early 1978 release, The Last Roundup was instead shelved upon the departure of all but two members of the band’s line-up. While the concert did find its way into the hands of collectors and bootleggers and floated through the bootleg circuit for nearly thirty years, it remained largely unheard outside a core of those die-hard Poco fans.

It’s unfortunate as this is one of the best live albums I’ve ever heard. It was one of Timothy B. Schmit’s final appearances with Poco before he departed to replace Randy Meisner in the Eagles (ironic considering he joined Poco to replace Meisner). This performance also features a guest appearance of then departed founding member, Richie Furay.

This live set opens with the autobiographical Livin’ In the Band followed by a country arrangement of the Steely Dan song Dallas before it shifts gears with the stirring J.J. Cale (Cale is better known for writing Cocaine and AfterMidnight both of which were made popular by Eric Clapton) ballad, Magnolia. Where Cocaine and After Midnight were upbeat and rollicking songs, Magnolia is a more melancholic piece with a pervasive longing that tugs at the heart strings.

Honky Tonk Downstairs is just a generally fun song with very country lyrics, extremely tight vocal harmonies, and a thoroughly enjoyable melody.

P.N.S. (When You Come Around) is a Paul Cotton penned piece that Cotton brought with him from his days with Kal David in Illinois Speed Press. The Poco arrangement is decidedly more country-tinged than the harder rock/blues tinged ISP version from the early 70s.

Sagebrush Serenade is an upbeat crowd pleaser, the audience can be heard clapping at times. As with most of the songs in this set, the vocal harmonies are very tight, arguably tighter than their contemporaries, the Eagles. But then again where the Eagles walked closer to the rock side of the country-rock tightrope, Poco was planted more firmly on the country side of that tightrope.

Indian Summer is another gentle ballad that gives off a similar vibe to America’s Ventura Highway From the opening lyrics: “There’s a fool moon in the sky, it’s got a hold on me, I’m hypnotized, like your love it’s getting stronger, just give my heart a little longer, Indian summer is on its way, it’s cool at night, and hot all day” the song draws in the listener. I can almost picture people sitting on blankets on the lawn, wearing sweatshirts or sweaters and singing along with the band.

Other stand out tracks include Starin’ At the Sky and the Timothy B. Schmit penned Keep On Tryin’ his first hit with Poco. The vocal harmonies are arguably the tightest of this whole live set making it one of the most enjoyable 2 minutes and 43 seconds of music on any album. The only flaw is the song’s brevity as it leaves the listener wanting more.

The Dance is a trilogy of songs from the Indian Summer album. Given the personnel changes in Poco over the years, I believe this is one of the only live performances of this excellent song, it’s certainly one of the best as well. The lyrics are enjoyable, and it can’t be stressed enough how tight the vocal harmonies are. The melody hooks into the listener and doesn’t let go for the nine plus minutes of the song.

Following the Indian Summer tour Timothy B. Schmit left to join the Eagles and most of the band opted to call it quits leaving Paul Cotton and Rusty Young to soldier on. Ironically Poco would go on to score one of their biggest hits in this era with Crazy Love off the Legend album (another fun bit of trivia, the artwork on Legend was designed by late Saturday Night Live alum, Phil Hartman, prior to his career as a comedian/actor). As such, The Last Roundup is a time capsule marking the end of an era for this often overlooked and very underrated band that has often gotten lost in the shadows of the considerably more famous band that spawned them, Buffalo Springfield, and the hugely popular band that poached two of their members (Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit), The Eagles.

As far as live albums go, few match the energy and pure chemistry exhibited by Poco on this set. Everyone in the band was “on” for this performance, it was one of those perfect concerts where everything came together just right… and luckily for us, over 30 years later, it was recorded for posterity and luckily it finally saw release in 2004.

Related Links
Poco (official site)
Poco The Last Roundup (Wikipedia)
Poco (Wikipedia)

7 comments:

Todd Mason said...

I haven't given Poco enough of a chance, I suspect...I might seek this one out.

Charlie said...

WOW! I've followed Poco fairly closely over the years but this CD somehow eluded my brain. Thanks for writing about it. This CD featured their classic lineup that built their reputation on being a great live band. No wonder it you like it. I'm heading over to Amazon now for a purchase.

Perplexio said...

Todd: As Charlie has stated in his comments Poco was a great live band back in the mid seventies. This is a fantastic live album with tremendous energy. It's a great place to start. Incidentally, the album is available from Amazon.com's mp3 store for $6.99. Not bad at all.

Charlie: It's my understanding that Poco switched labels and their former label released a live album against their wishes that they received little or no compensation on. This concert was going to be their first live album on their new label to compete with and off-set the effects of their former label's release. Unfortunately, when Timothy B. Schmit left to join the Eagles the label decided to shelve the album so it sat gathering dust from 1977 until 2004 when it was finally released. And upon listening to it, Thank God it was!

Evan Lewis said...

Good stuff. Never paid them much attention at the time, but it sounds like they were in the same bag with the Notorious Byrd Brothers and Mason Proffit.

George said...

Most live albums hold little attraction to me--bad sonics, bad singing, etc.--but you're convinced me I should look for THE LAST ROUNDUP.

Scott Parker said...

Didn't know a thing about Poco...until today. Interesting about Schmit.

Re: Live Albums - I love them. KISS Alive! (while not truly live) was my first taste of live renditions of studio songs. I was hooked. Later, I grew to love live albums (and concerts) where the artists change up the style of the songs. I'm thinking Springsteen here, among others. Then, there are recordings like Chicago's Carnegie Hall collection as a snapshot to a lost time. There, there are bootlegs...

Perplexio said...

Evan: The Last Roundup was my first Poco album and what a great introduction to them it was!

George: There's a chemistry and an electricity in the performances that makes me wish I'd been there to enjoy the show firsthand.

Scott: I actually got into Poco via Chicago, rather indirectly... Poco member, Paul Cotton got his start in Illinois Speed Press with Kal David. ISP were produced by then Chicago manager, Jimmy Guercio. Cotton's bandmate in ISP, Kal David was the leader of The Exceptions, the band Peter was in before Chicago... and the song Take Me Back to Chicago was written by Danny Seraphine for his friend Freddy Page, the drummer of Illinois Speed Press.

When Jim Messina left Poco to partner up with Kenny Loggins Peter Cetera recommended Paul Cotton as Messina's replacement.

Peter also appears on one of Cotton's solo albums performing a duet of the Poco song Barbados.