Classic Americana Albums : Poco “Rose Of Cimarron”

ABC Records 1976

Cast in the shade by contemporaries like the Eagles, Poco shine brightly on this gem from 1976.

Poco, formed in 1968 from the ashes of Buffalo Springfield, were pioneers of country rock, an early form of what we now call Americana. Richie Furay and Jim Messina from the Springfield (whatever happened to the other members?) joined up with pedal steel player Rusty Young, bassist Randy Meisner, and drummer George Grantham for their debut album, ‘Picking Up The Pieces’. Initially they were to be called Pogo, after a popular American comic strip, but that was nixed when the artist threatened to sue them, so Poco it was.

It was a portent of the bad luck which was to bedevil Poco throughout their career. Nothing earth-shattering – no scandal – but constant lineup changes and poor sales came to be their trademark despite a great run of albums in their first decade together. Meisner and Messina jumped ship almost immediately and Furay left after the fourth album, ‘Crazy Eyes’ but Young and Grantham carried on with Timothy B. Schmit and Paul Cotton in their ranks by now, the quartet releasing four albums between 1974 and 1976, a fine run which culminated with ‘Rose Of Cimarron’.

Consider this. By 1976, LA musicians, especially those on Asylum Records and, in particular, the Eagles, were shifting albums by the shitload, although the recordings were becoming increasingly glossier. Whether ‘Rose Of Cimarron’ was a calculated attempt to join the gravy train is beyond this article but, in essence, it’s a cracking collection of country-influenced rock songs that remain pretty much close to their roots while providing a thrilling (and radio-friendly listen). Nevertheless, and despite the title song going on to be a regular feature on radio, the album only hit #87 on the US charts.

The disc opens with the title song, written by Rusty Young. Almost seven minutes of cool west coast harmonies, shimmering guitars and dusty Dobro and banjo, it ends with a climactic guitar solo and a sweet string instrument arrangement, both of which are quite tremendous. It pretty much knocks the Eagles into a hat (as does much of the album). ‘Company’s Comin’/Slow Poke’ is a roustabout acoustic medley which comes across as a kind of amped-up bluegrass showcase, much in the manner of contemporaries such as The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, while ‘Tulsa Turnaround’ shows that writer, Paul Cotton, has perhaps been listening to the likes of Leon Russell and J.J. Cale. Cotton also cottons on to border music on the impressive ‘Too Many Nights Too Long’, a jailbreak song which is somewhat akin to some of the songs on the Eagles’ ‘Desperado’ but is just so much more textured and vivid. He’s also the writer on a pair of Burritos’ like cosmic country rock numbers, ‘When You Come Around’ and the honky-tonked ‘All Alone Together’.

With Timothy B. Schmit, Poco had an ace up their sleeve. A wonderful singer and songwriter, he had provided a unique hit for them previously with ‘Keep On Tryin’’ (from the previous years ‘Head Over Heels’ album – highly recommended) and his contributions here equal it. ‘Just Like Me’ is classic L.A. country-rock – think of Linda Ronstadt- as is ‘Staring At The Sky’, although the latter sails perilously close to yacht rock at times with its sax solo. Schmit quit the band soon after to replace his Poco predecessor, Randy Meisner, as bass player for the Eagles. Poco carried on with ever decreasing rewards and, for this writer, never again achieved the heights of their early career. Various line-ups and reunions over the years can now be considered to be at an end given that both Rusty Young and Paul Cotton have passed away recently. ‘Rose Of Cimarron’ stands as a fitting tribute to both of them and stands tall in its own right.


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About Paul Kerr 274 Articles
Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.

8 Comments

  1. As you say Paul, it is a mystery as to why Poco weren’t more popular. As you mention, I suspect their loss early on of leading members meant that record company support was not all it could have been, despite some of their early albums being as good as any West Coast country rock committed to vinyl, and better than most.

  2. Thanks for the article Paul. I agree with you, I never understood why Poco didn’t achieve the success of their contemporaries. Rose of Cimmarron as a track remains in my top 20 of all time favourites.

  3. Nice to see one of the best bands of the 70s getting some overdue recognition, and certainly ROSE is one of the best of the later records, though I personally have a soft spot for Indian Summer, which came directly after. I had no idea that Paul Cotton had died as well as Rusty – really sad to hear it. He was an excellent guitarist and singer and fine songwriter – his early song
    Bad Weather is one of my favourites of all time. RIP.

  4. Ah, I remember my delight in finding it in a tiny secondhand record shop I nipped into “for 5 minutes” when visiting my daughter in Sheffield many years ago. Still sounds as good today.

  5. First Rusty and now Paul: this has been a bummer of a year for Poco fans and I too was previously unware of the latter’s demise. I’ve commented before on what a great live band they were in addition to all their albums (of which ‘Crazy Eyes’ was the 6th not the 4th as stated). For me all of their line-ups had their merits, and although not a founder member Paul was a definitely a core member contributing many great songs and much great playing and singing during his lengthy tenure. I was fortunate enough to have shared a couple of conversations with him over the years and he was both charming and generous with his time.
    My specific memory of ‘Rose of Cimarron’ is that, despite being a committed Poconut already, I discovered it by chance in Virgin, Marble Arch (anyone remember that ?) it’s release having passed me by. Although I like all of Poco’s albums and ‘Rose…’ is very good, I personally wouldn’t rate it as their best. I’m with Adrian in having a soft spot for ‘Indian Summer’ which contains some very strong work from Paul in the shape of his songs ‘Twenty Years’, ‘Living in the Band’ and the title track as well as his customary vocal and guitar work.
    Time to go and listen again.
    Thanks for the article Paul.

  6. Looked upon as the ‘poor man’s’ Eagles which was never the case, stayed closer to their roots. They did compromise the sound in the 80s – my favourite song is ‘Brass Buttons’ with Chris Hillman. Great band.

  7. They were better than the Eagles as far as I was concerned, They didn’t have the EGO problems of the Eagles & so many members of POCO became members of that band. They were the reason the Eagles did so well, I agree the record company did nothing to promote POCO. I have many POCO albums, and NONE of the Eagles. I was hoping to see them again on the Tour they had scheduled (late Summer early Fall of this year), but it wasn’t to be.

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