Poco famously rose from the ashes of Buffalo Springfield, with that band's Richie Furay and Jim Messina joined by Rusty Young (who had guested on Furay's "Kind Woman" for the final Springfield LP), George Grantham, and briefly, Randy Meisner. The band's 1969 debut Pickin' Up the Pieces was an influential entry in the West Coast country-rock genre, beginning a career that would see the band score over a dozen U.S. Billboard Hot 100 hits and some AC crossovers including "Crazy Love," "Heart of the Night," "Shoot for the Moon," and "Call It Love." Now, Cherry Red's Hear No Evil (HNE) imprint has collected five of the group's Epic albums on the new clamshell box set The Epic Years 1972-1976.
Poco had experienced a revolving door of personnel from its earliest sessions, when Randy Meisner exited the band during sessions for Pickin' Up the Pieces; in fact, the band has had some 23 distinctive line-ups to date. The Epic Years picks up with the band's fourth studio album on the label, A Good Feelin' to Know (1972). By that point, Timothy B. Schmit (later of Eagles fame) had joined the group with his soaring falsetto, while Jim Messina had left and been replaced by Paul Cotton. A Good Feelin' to Know was produced by Guess Who producer Jack Richardson with Jim Mason, and the band had high hopes for the LP and its upbeat Furay-penned title track. But the single failed to chart, and the LP stalled at No. 69. Furay (who had also looked back at his Buffalo Springfield days on the LP with a rocking cover of his old bandmate Stephen Stills' "Go and Say Goodbye") became disillusioned, and hatched plans with David Geffen to join J.D. Souther and Chris Hillman in a CSN-style supergroup.
But first, Furay was contractually obligated to stick around for 1973's Crazy Eyes. Its highlight was his epic title track, a tribute to his fallen friend Gram Parsons given a nearly 10-minute epic treatment by producer Richardson and guest Bob Ezrin. With covers of Parsons' own "Brass Buttons" and J.J. Cale's "Magnolia" plus strong songs from Schmit, Cotton, and Young, Crazy Eyes became Poco's first album to crack the top 40 on the Billboard albums chart - even without a hit single. Pressing on without Furay, the four-piece group recorded Seven (1974), their sixth studio album but seventh overall. For his third consecutive album with Poco, Jack Richardson brought in The Guess Who's Burton Cummings on keyboards, while Bobbye Hall added her spicy congas and co-founder Jim Messina even returned to add mandolin to "Rocky Mountain Breakdown" alongside Al Garth on fiddle. The album wasn't as commercially successful as Crazy Eyes, but inched the group in a more rock-and-roll direction.
Poco parted ways with Jack Richardson for the fourth album in the box set, 1974's Cantamos. Perhaps because of the lack of success for Seven, the album returned squarely to the country-rock sound Poco had pioneered. Cotton, Young, and Schmit all contributed songs and the bandmates produced the album themselves. Young's twangy, harmony-rich, uptempo "High and Dry" was selected as the leadoff single but again failed to gain traction. The band wasn't happy with the label's perceived lack of promotion, which must have been particularly galling as the Eagles were soaring on the charts with a very similar sound. The quartet moved over to ABC Records for 1975's Head Over Heels, but Epic wasn't done with them.
The final album in Hear No Evil's box, Live, was issued by Epic in 1976, purportedly as competition for the band's ABC album Rose of Cimarron. It was culled from three concerts recorded by Epic in November 1974 in support of Cantamos, and while the band wasn't happy to see it released at the time, the taut, seven-song album holds up well with their energetic performances aided by the frisson of an audience's enjoyment.
The first two albums in the box have a handful of bonus tracks (five in total), all of which have been previously issued including four from the 1990 anthology The Forgotten Trail (1969-1974) and the single edit of "A Good Feelin' to Know." The box also has a 16-page booklet with Malcolm Dome's liner notes drawing on a new interview with Rusty Young. (Unfortunately, discographical annotation is missing.) Each album is housed in a standard mini-sleeve, and mastering has been handled by Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham.
Poco's The Epic Years, capturing the band on the cusp of the stardom they would attain at ABC Records, is available now at the links below!
CD 1: A Good Feelin' to Know (Epic KE 31601, 1972)
- And Settlin' Down
- Ride the Country
- I Can See Everything
- Go and Say Goodbye
- Keeper of the Fire
- Early Times
- A Good Feelin' to Know
- Sweet Lovin'
- I Can See Everything (Remix) (from The Forgotten Trail (1969-1974), Epic/Legacy E2K 46162, 1990)
- A Good Feelin' to Know (Single Edit) (Epic single 5-10890, 1972)
CD 2: Crazy Eyes (Epic KE 32354, 1973)
- Blue Water
- Fools Gold
- Here We Go Again
- Brass Buttons
- A Right Along
- Crazy Eyes
- Let's Dance Tonight
Bonus Tracks (from The Forgotten Trail (1969-1974), Epic/Legacy E2K 46162, 1990)
- Nothin's Still the Same
- Get in the Wind
- Believe Me
CD 3: Seven (Epic KE 32895, 1974)
- Drivin' Wheel
- Rocky Mountain Breakdown
- Just Call My Name
- Faith in the Families
- Krikkit's Song (Passing Through)
- You've Got Your Reasons
CD 4: Cantamos (Epic PE 33192, 1974)
- Sagebrush Serenade
- High and Dry
- Western Waterloo
- One Horse Blue
- Bitter Blue
- Another Time Around
- Whatever Happened to Your Smile
- All the Ways
CD 5: Live (Epic PE 33396, 1976)
- Medley: Blue Water/Fools Gold/Rocky Mountain Breakdown
- Bad Weather
- Ride the Country
- High and Dry
- A Good Feelin' to Know