Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Big Sister's Influence Never Goes Away

One of the advantages of growing up with a big sister is that she helps turn you on to music that you might not have otherwise discovered.

Some of my favorite artists to this day--Elton John, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Guess Who, Three Dog Night, Cat Stevens, Rod Stewart--I learned about from sorting through my sister's collection of 45s.

(It helps to have an understanding big sister, who doesn't mind a little brother pawing through her stuff.)

One band I can recall my sister telling me about was Poco, which never enjoyed huge chart success but is considered by many experts to be the first true country-rock band--a forerunner to groups like the Eagles, America, Pure Prairie League, and many more.

For some reason, I pulled out a couple of my old Poco albums a few weeks back, and I've been giving them regular spins--yes, we still have records and turntables in SchnauzerLand. I quickly remembered why Poco's music first captivated me (and my sister) 35-plus years ago.

I've got to give my sister credit. She had much better musical taste than I did when we were growing up. Any goofy bands that I like are probably ones I discovered on my own.

Always a bit of a contrarian, I declared (somewhere around 1966) that the Dave Clark Five were better than the Beatles and would be around long after McCartney, Lennon & Co. had been forgotten. My sister adamantly disagreed and said I was a stupid little brother--or words to that effect. We all know how that debate turned out.

(In my defense, the Dave Clark Five were quite cool, and their music has aged well, as you can tell by checking out this Web site. Click on "enter jukebox," and you can treat yourself to all of the DC5's biggest hits, and they had a bunch--maybe not "Hey, Jude" or "Let It Be," but still good stuff. To establish my DC5 bonafides, here's a little trivia: Was Dave Clark the lead singer for the Dave Clark Five? Nope, Dave Clark played the drums. The lead singer was keyboardist Mike Smith.)

As for Poco, they've become like the Triple A farm team of rock and roll--a band perhaps best known for its alumni than anything else. Both Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit left Poco and wound up with the Eagles. Founding father Richie Furay moved on to the Souther Hillman Furay Band. And another founder, Jim Messina, found fame and numerous hits with Loggins & Messina.

But Poco has soldiered on through regular lineup changes, and still tours today behind long-standing members Rusty Young and one-time Alabama resident Paul Cotton. Why has Poco remained an iconic band to many, even though it never achieved massive record sales? I think it's because, since its founding in 1968, Poco has consistently turned out good songs.

As I recall, the song that captured my sister's attention was "Good Feelin to Know," from 1972. If you can get past the really bad '70s hair, here is an outstanding performance of one of Poco's best known tunes:

When it comes to harmonies, the Eagles deserve their reputation as one of the best vocal groups of all time. But Poco was turning out sweet harmonies long before "Take It Easy" hit the airwaves. Here is a 2009 performance of "Keep on Tryin'," an early Poco classic. That's Richie Furay, Rusty Young, Timothy B. Schmit, and Paul Cotton (left to right):

Want a great country-rock tune? It's hard to beat "Rose of Cimarron" from 1976:

Poco did have a few songs that became hits. Here is Rusty Young singing one of the band's biggest sellers, "Crazy Love" from 1978:

Finally, here is "Follow Your Dreams," a Poco nugget from 1989 that should have been a big hit. It's a song with a universal message and lyrics that are well worth pondering:

There are images around us, in everything we see
Some are real and some are fantasy
To the one who sees his vision, to the child who lives his dreams
You're the one to decide what you're gonna be

So give it your best, and don't worry about what some may say
Follow your dreams, it's really all that you can do
Give it your best, and remember that life is what you choose
Follow your dreams, and do what you love to do

There are places you'll remember, and times you may recall
Faces that refresh your memory
May the thoughts that you will picture, help you come to see
That you're the one to decide what you're gonna be

So give it your best, and don't worry about what some may say
Follow your dreams, it's really all that you can do
And give it your best, and remember that life is what you choose
Go on, follow your dreams and do it, follow your dreams and do it
Follow your dreams, and do what you love to do, what you love to do

Jim Messina wrote "Follow Your Dreams," and that's him on lead vocals. Enjoy.

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