Poco: Pickin’ Up the Pieces

ON THIS DATE (43 YEARS AGO)
May 19, 1969 – Poco: Pickin’ Up the Pieces is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 4.5/5
# Allmusic 4.5/5 stars
Pickin’ Up the Pieces is the debut album by Poco, released on this date in May, 1969. It was one of the earliest examples of the emerging genre of country-rock. Several of the songs here date back to Richie Furay’s days in Buffalo Springfield. An early version of “What a Day” was included on the Springfield’s eponymous box set in 1996.
Pickin’ Up the Pieces is the bridge between early country-rock hybrids and the more commercially successful sound of the Eagles and similar bands. Formed by ex-Buffalo Springfielders Richie Furay and Jim Messina with steel guitarist Rusty Young and drummer George Grantham, Poco didn’t have the ego squabbles and differing artistic visions that sank Springfield or the Byrds. As a result, Pickin’ Up the Pieces is a far more cohesive and self-assured blend of folk, country, bluegrass, Beatlesque pop, and rock than those more explosive bands could ever manage. Furay is in strict control here, writing or co-writing every song, except for Young’s acid-bluegrass instrumental “Grand Junction,” and taking a good chunk of the vocals. The country feel is more implicit than on later albums, though “Nobody’s Fool” and “Consequently, So Long” sound as much like Crosby Stills and Nash as they do Gram Parsons.
All was not perfect though, Randy Meisner appears on this album but was asked to leave the band shortly before the record was released. Meisner’s exit was a result of his anger from being excluded (at Furay’s insistence) from participation in the final mix playback sessions for the record, as only Messina and Furay were to complete the production. His image was removed from the painting on the album’s cover, and replaced with the dog seen at the far left. His bass parts and backing vocals were left in the mix, but his lead vocals were removed, and new versions were sung by George Grantham.
REVIEW
by Bruce Eder, allmusic
Poco dealt with a lot during the recording of their debut album — the sudden departure of bassist Randy Meisner, the frustration of working with an engineer who didn’t quite get what they were trying for, and a lot of pressure to deliver a solid collection of country-rock songs — and came up with this startlingly great record, as accomplished as any of Buffalo Springfield’s releases, and also reminiscent of the Beatles and the Byrds. Pickin’ Up the Pieces is all the more amazing when one considers that Jim Messina and George Grantham were both covering for the departed Meisner in hastily learned capacities on bass and vocals, respectively. The title track is practically an anthem for the virtues of country-rock, with the kind of sweet harmonizing and tight interplay between the guitars that the Byrds, the Burritos, and others had to work awhile to achieve. The mix of good-time songs (“Consequently So Long,” “Calico Lady”), fast-paced instrumentals (“Grand Junction”), and overall rosy feelings makes this a great introduction to the band, as well as a landmark in country-rock only slightly less important (but arguably more enjoyable than) Sweetheart of the Rodeo.
TRACKS:
“Foreword” (Richie Furay) – 0:48
“What a Day” (Richie Furay) – 2:28
“Nobody’s Fool” (Richie Furay) – 3:26
“Calico Lady” (Richie Furay/Jim Messina/Skip Goodwin) – 3:03
“First Love” (Richie Furay) – 3:08
“Make Me a Smile (Richie Furay/Jim Messina) – 3:18
“Short Changed” (Richie Furay) – 3:17
“Pickin’ Up the Pieces” (Richie Furay) – 3:20
“Grand Junction” (Rusty Young) – 2:58
“Oh Yeah” (Richie Furay/Jim Messina) – 4:06
“Just in Case It Happens, Yes Indeed” (Richie Furay) – 2:45
“Tomorrow (Richie Furay/Skip Goodwin) – 3:11
“Consequently, So Long” (Richie Furay/Skip Goodwin) – 3:50
“Do You Feel It Too” (Richie Furay) – 3:05 (CD bonus track)

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Filed under George Grantham, Jim Messina, Pickin' Up the Pieces, Poco, Randy Meisner, Richie Furay, Rusty Young

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