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.
Poco (official site)
Poco The Last Roundup (Wikipedia)