Venerable country rock band Poco has been
recording for over 40 years, and together with bands like The Buffalo
Springfield, Jackson Browne, The Flying Burrito Brothers and the Eagles are
responsible for an entire musical genre. Originally formed in 1969 out
of the ashes of the Springfield (original members Richie Furay and Jim
Messina came from that group). While Poco never became quite as big as
some of those groups, they were highly influential and had several big hits
over the years, including "Crazy Love," "Heart of the Night" and "Call It
All Fired Up is the band's first
new album in over a decade.
The problem with long-running bands is
turnover and the fact that it is usually down to one or two original members
by the time they reappear. On All Fired Up, only
singer/guitarist Rusty Young is still a regular member of the group, though
original drummer George Grantham guests on the title track. Of course,
Poco was a band that has weathered personnel changes often and consistently.
Original members left very early on: Jim Messina left for Loggins and
Messina in 1970, Richie Furay joined the supergroup Souther-Furay-Hillman
Band in the mid-70s, Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit both ended up
joining the Eagles during the 70s.
The original guys stuck together for a few years, but eventually splintered
back into their own projects. Since then Furay, Meisner and Messina
have often joined the group in concert performances, but have not been
recording with the band. Many of the original band members had
reunited in 1989 for the band's last real hit album,
Still, Young's voice and songwriting is
still immediately memorable and recognizable. And while All Fired
Up does not necessarily eclipse early Poco albums like Legend, Crazy Eyes
or Pickin' Up the Pieces,
it is a surprisingly sturdy addition to their catalogue.
The album, somewhat appropriately, opens
with a brief snatch of bar chatter, because this album returns Poco to their
bar band roots. Skewing a little more country than rock these days,
the catchy bluegrass of the title track and the celebratory Nashville ballad
"Drink It In" set up the down home mood. Still, the band still can
rock out with stuff like the squealing guitar backing of "That's What Rock
and Roll Will Do."
Every once in a while, it gets too cutesy.
The "comic" song "Neil Young," in which Rusty Young playfully riffs on the
fact that he is always confused as being the brother of the legendary Crazy
Horse rocker (hmm, wonder if that happens to Neil, too?) seems a little too
quirky and insubstantial, eventually reminding me of Rick Springfield's
similarly-themed single "Bruce." And that's not a good thing.
Also, to Springfield's credit, he never wanted his song released, it was
done against his will by a former record label. This album is on Poco's own label, they have no such excuse.
But then Poco will erase the years with a
stunner like the gorgeous love song "Regret," which could have easily been a
hit for the band in the glory days. Or the old-school story song "Hard
Country," which could teach those country upstarts like Brad Paisley, Kenny
Chesney and Keith Urban a thing or two about their chosen genre.
All Fired Up is not likely to
return Poco to the charts, but honestly that is kind of a shame. Radio
may have passed Poco by, but this new album shows that they still have
something interesting to say.
Jay S. Jacobs
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Posted: April 12, 2013.