Live at Columbia Studios, Hollywood 9/30/71

Collectors’ Choice Music Live

poco2Paul Cotton’s recent departure from Poco makes this an unintentional tribute to the “wide open space cowboy,” and it couldn’t have been better if it was planned.

It was less than a year before this concert that the former Illinois Speed Press member joined Rusty Young, Richie Furay, George Grantham and Timothy B. Schmit after inheriting lead guitar duties from Jim Messina.

“From the Inside,” Poco’s fourth album and first to feature Cotton, had been released less than a month prior to this show. The band decided to demonstrate their new “more rock, less country” direction for the benefit of about 100 label executives, family and friends at Columbia Studios — an event that also would serve as a warmup for a pivotal two-night stand at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.

By the time of this performance, which was broadcast on KMET-FM, Cotton had settled into the band more than one might expect. As part of the plan to break him in, in 1970 he roomed with Messina before joining so that he could watch shows from the audience and go over licks afterword back in their room.

“He would show me his guitar parts involving the use of finger picks, which I could never get used to, as I felt alienated from the strings while wearing them,” Cotton told Good New Music for this review. “I was a little anxious back then because I never knew what gig it might be that he decided it was time for me to take over his position in the band. It turned out to be at Fillmore West (on Oct. 31, 1970), with Neil Young looking on. That was when I tore the finger picks off and went to one pick for the rest of the night and my career.

“The band wanted to rock and roll a whole lot more, which was one reason I was considered for the position. My singing voice helped to fill in the lower register below those soaring voices above me, as well.”

The bulk of the “Columbia” set list was taken off “From the Inside,” an album chock-full of great songs but also one that some band members had expressed dissatisfaction with.

“From my perspective, we just ‘felt’ there wasn’t the connection with (producer and Southern soul guitarist) Steve (Cropper), who is a great musician, person and talent, but we didn’t feel the connection,” Furay told Good New Music. “Obviously, I like Steve and had him on my ‘I’ve Got a Reason’ project. So I don’t want it misunderstood — it wasn’t personal, it wasn’t musicianship — there was just something missing as far as us ‘connecting’ at the time.”

Cotton, too, offered GNM his take on the album: “Yes, there were record label politics going on and some of the band felt it was a poor choice having Steve involved. But I personally am glad I was there in the middle of it all, because as it turned out, he really liked ‘Bad Weather’ (one of Cotton’s ‘From the Inside’ contributions) enough to have Yvonne Elliman record it on her first LP that Steve produced.

“I met Yvonne not long after when she was singing with Eric Clapton on a tour Poco was on with them, and she got me up on stage with Eric for a guitar battle on ‘Let It Rain.’ Thanks again to Steve Cropper for that connection. He also loved my song ‘Railroad Days’ (another ‘From the Inside’ track), and I believe he was the one responsible for getting it to the SNL (‘Saturday Night Live’) Band to play as the show would lead to a commercial break.” (Cropper, it may be recalled, helped put together the band that backed the Blues Brothers.)

“Columbia” is the first officially released live document with Furay and Cotton. After 1971’s “DeLIVErin’ ” (Messina’s swan song), the group arguably had more than its share of trouble with live recordings: 1976’s post-Furay “Live” was put out by Epic against the band’s wishes when one more record was owed after leaving for ABC; in 1977, the group folded after Schmit and Grantham left — leaving the band-sanctioned “The Last Roundup” in the vaults until 2004.

“Columbia’s” treasure chest is filled with several gems, including:

• “Ol’ Forgiver,” another killer Cotton composition off “From the Inside.” Inexplicably, the song seemingly has been maligned by everyone including its author, who said he hasn’t heard the CD yet but told GNM: “I just hope that ‘Ol’ Forgiver’ got left on the editing-room floor. Great dog, though.”
• “Hurry Up,” from the self-titled second album and featuring Rusty Young’s trademark pedal-steel organ sounds. It’s been slowed down a bit, to great effect.
A three-song acoustic set: “You Are the One,” “Bad Weather” and the medley “Hard Luck/Child’s Claim to Fame/Pickin’ Up the Pieces.”
• “Just for Me and You,” also off “From the Inside” and one of Furay’s finest. Here it brims with even more emotion.
An extended “C’mon,” clocking in at five and a half minutes versus “DeLIVErin’s” three.

It doesn’t get any better than this for Poconuts. But the question remains, “Whose idea was it to put this out?” It wasn’t the band’s — neither Cotton nor Young had a clue. “We’re never contacted regarding new releases, and we’re as surprised as everyone else when something new is released,” Young told Good New Music. And Collectors’ Choice head Gordon Anderson, who liked it enough to include in the inaugural batch of discs on his new live-music imprint,  declined comment.

But “Columbia” producer, engineer and tape researcher Bob Irwin was happy to fill in the blanks for GNM readers.

“The project was originally to be part of an ill-fated Sony/Legacy project that I proposed nearly a decade ago — it was to exhume wonderful, unissued live performances languishing in their vaults,” the remaster king said. “When that proposed project/series folded (or — actually — never got off the ground), the projects that I had completed were then offered to third parties, such as CC. The masters and multi’s were located by me in Sony’s vaults — no record of them existed within their paperwork or archives.

“I spent the better part of two decades combing through Sony’s masters within their various vaults, touching nearly each and every tape (300,000-plus reels?) — I made hundreds of incredible discoveries throughout the years. The Poco masters and multi’s were part of a live cache of tapes that I found back in the early ’90s that had been delivered from Hollywood back in the ’70s.

“(The ‘Columbia’ tapes were in) perfect shape,” Irwin added, “unused since the day they were recorded. I mixed the performances from the original 16-track multi’s to create the master that was issued by CC.”

Kudos also are in order for Irwin engineering compatriot Rob Santos, who earned a “special thanks” on the album and told GNM, “My only involvement was finding a home for it and getting it released. All the credit for finding it, mixing it, and making it sound as great as it does goes to Bob Irwin. It was him 100 percent.”

As for the future of the now Cotton-less Poco, which added a keyboardist rather than a replacement guitarist, Young told Good New Music that he “can’t see recording a new Poco CD. You have to be realistic about your career and your life. People have moved on and there’s a very limited audience for new Poco recordings.”

In other words, get this awesomely remastered, previously unreleased, long-coveted live performance while the getting’s good. There might not be another Poco release for a long time.gnm_end_bug

1. I Guess You Made It
2. A Man Like Me
3. Ol’ Forgiver
4. Hear That Music
5. Hurry Up
6. You Are The One
7. Bad Weather
8. Medley: Hard Luck/Child’s Claim To Fame/Pickin’ Up The Pieces
9. Hoe Down
10. What A Day
11. Railroad Days
12. What If I Should Say I Love You
13. Just For Me And You
14. C’mon

Total time: 1:00:03

External links
artist’s website