Monday 19 January 2015

Pentangle "Cruel Sister" (1970)

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Pentangle "Cruel Sister" (1970)

A Maid That's Deep In Love/When I Was In My Prime/Lord Franklin/Cruel Sister//Jack Orion

What do you do when you've just scored an unexpected hit album without even trying? Sell out? Repeat the formula? Plough on with where you were going regardless? Or pay not the slightest bit of attention in the hope that it will all go away? Well, if we were discussing U2 or The Spice Girls the answer would be obvious - but as we've seen already, Pentangle were not your typical band and their first response to their new found success wasn't 'great - here comes the money and the fame and the two ferraris sitting in the garage' but 'great - now we can really educate the public about our favourite music because whatever we release now is going to sell!' 'Cruel Sister' is as challenging as 'Basket' was accessible, stubbornly one-note in contrast to it's predecessor's rainbow colours and as unremittingly olde worlde as Pentangle ever were (compared to 'Basket', which features shades of just about every 60s genre in there somewhere). Confused, most of the Pentangle fanbase they'd spent so long building up disappeared again, but you doubt whether the band actually cared that much - or even noticed, probably. Pentangle just weren't that sort of a band, despite prestigious gigs at the Albert Hall and two bona fide hit singles and for all the brilliance of 'Basket Of Light' you sense that the tortured, twisted tales of terror and times of long ago is much closer to the 'real' heart of this band. After all, fame is nice for short periods but if you're really in it for the music (and care nothing for the money as Pentangle did) over time it erodes away at your time, your attention span, your direction and your confidence and Pentangle simply had too much to say still to be bothered with any of that. As early as the end of 1969, a few months after the spotlight was shone on them, the band had already had enough of the glare and were preparing to move away into the shadows, slowing down their touring schedule, playing to smaller and smaller clubs and rehearsing ever more complex and challenging music.

In short, 'Basket Of Light' was, more by accident than design, a record that perfectly captured it's times in 1969, with the end of the most important decade in musical history greeted with a mixture of optimism and hope mingled with nervy fear and disarray. 'Cruel Sister' certainly carries on that theme, with five songs reflecting the worry, woe and wonder (alright, I'll quite the alliteration now I promise, positively and profoundly and in perpetuity...) of an era - but of the 1760s, not the 1960s. The band don't write anything on this record, which is all taken from traditional folk tunes - none of them common unless you really knew your folk music inside out back in 1970. In retrospect that seems like the most daring move of their short and daring career, not just because the band are taking a chance on material their audience would have been expected but because they did absolutely the opposite of what every other band in their position would have done: cash in on their fame with an attempt to gain extra royalties. After all, it's not as if 'Cruel Sister' is full of humalong standards like 'Scarborough Fair' or 'Girl From The North Country': 'When I Was In My Prime' features Jacqui McShee singing a capella throughout  (a first for a 'mainstream' band!), the title track lasts for seven full minutes and 'Jack Orion' for a full eighteen, complete with turbulent twist after turbulent twist. You have to work to get the most out of this album and, predictably, many a fan and critic have turned round and declared that it just isn't worth the effort. But sometimes, like a cruel sister, you have to be harsh to be kind and ultimately 'Cruel Sister' is more rewarding than a second slightly less interesting repeat of 'Basket Of Light' would have been.

Even the folk direction of this album, whilst always an integral part of the Pentangle sound, was a deliberate move against the current at the time. The early 1970s was all about 'electric folk', the antics of lesser bands like Fairport Convention who did what Pentangle had always done: make the folk more accessible by adding a little rock here, a little jazz here and a touch of blues everywhere. Pentangle started as a similar mixture of styles, but few people listening to this record would have guessed just how many and that conscious move back towards pure folk, then seen as passe' and all rather early 60s, is another example of Pentangle deliberately trying to reduce their following to just a few of their faithful followers. The fact that we only get five songs on this record is also an issue for some, with this album 11th in our 'longest average running time per song of every AAA album' back in News, Views and Music issue 219 (at an impressive seven and a half minutes per track!) and not giving you much choice if you don't happen to like something. As the CD sleevenotes for the album puts it 'Cruel Sister was both old school and outrageously new' - Pentangle being as wickedly adventurous and rule-breaking as they possibly could be, whilst being as overtly traditional  as they had ever been.

 Thankfully Transatlantic have by now ironed out the problems of the early Pentangle albums (well, certainly the first one - having never owned the second on CD I'm still not sure if things improved on the original or whether there was just some really good digital re-mastering going on) so that, heavy going as it can be, when you're in the right mood there's no better album on which to hear Pentangle at their telepathic best, jamming away as if they're all heading to the same destination despite the map to get there being sketchy at best. Just look at 'Jack Orion', a song done as-live the entire way through, with solos that come from nowhere, shaking the song out of whatever groove it's landed in and taking it somewhere new without a second's pause. Bill Leader has now stepped into the Pentangle Producer's shoes, after a career spent with Shel Talmy, and his natural love of folk as opposed to pop undoubtedly had an influence, although conversely there's also a touch of the jazz from the first album on this record, which was the factor largely missing from 'Basket Of Light'. Most jazz bands would kill to be as polished-yet-raw as Pentangle are here and few of their records are quite as exciting as 'Cruel Sister' to listen to - even if  song-per-song this probably their weakest album (in other words, this record is an acrobat with a tatty launching pad and costume - but the aerial display is so great you just don't care!) On paper that should be a problem because the debut album tried a similar tactic and, while many fans do love it, I've always found it a slight bit of a mess (with promising songs ruined by jamming sessions that simply don't move out of their groove), but thankfully this time Pentangle have all sorts of ideas and are much more creative with their arrangements.

The fact that Pentangle are going for five extended songs really allows the band to show off their many great assets in turn, without worrying about the 'songs'. Everyone gets a starring role on this record, which features even more of a 'band' performance than on 'Basket Of Light', with guitar, double bass, drum and even a capella vocal solos scattered throughout this record, like gorgeous patches of block colour weaved cleverly into a much bigger tapestry. When the band try this later the results aren't always so good: one or other of them tends to end up in charge, usually one of the two guitarists. But if this album was a CV it would most definitely read 'works well alone or in a team' for everyone here, with all five Pentanglers at the top of their game. Ordinarily albums full of jamming tend to be difficult periods for a band's main vocalist, but Jacqui probably has more to do here than normal, her gorgeous alto dominating 'A Maid That's Deep In Love' and 'Cruel Sister', while Jacqui's note-perfect solo performance on 'When I Was In My Prime' is a great opportunity for fans to hear just how beautiful that voice is without any of the distractions. The guitars really shine on this record too, especially when old friends Bert and John are playing against each other, while Danny and Terry's rhythm section gets ever more outrageous when called upon for a solo.

The weakest link on this record, as we've discussed, is certainly the songs. There's nothing on this album with the same ear-catching wave of emotion as 'Once I Had A Sweetheart', nothing with the spooky majesty of 'Lyke Wake Dirge' and nothing with the same modern resonance as 'Hour Carpenter'. However there is a mood about this record that ties these five very separate songs together quite nicely. This time around it's of over-reaching yourself; trying hard to get something - and then finding out that you don't really need it and that you're in danger of losing out on what you always had. The album starts with a maid, deep in love by her own admission after many years alone, but the sad truth is she feels worse than she's ever felt. The only way she can ever get close to her beau 'Jimmy', though, is to dress up as a boy and stow away on his ship as one of the crew - which all falls apart the minute the crew get home and she returns to her house alone. 'When I Was In My Prime', Jacqui's jaw-dropping solo, has a maiden who longs to lose her virginity, only to later curse losing it so easily to a 'false man', 'weeping a bowl of crystal tears' on his shoulder. 'Lord Franklin' sounds like a peaceful, restful sort of a song with the title character asleep in his hammock, but it's derived from a folk tale initially about explorer Sir John Franklin who disappeared while exploring a sea passage between Canada and the Arctic in 1847 (the ships were later recovered with the skeletons of the crew onboard, all dead from starvation, hypothermia and scurvy). Alive in the first verse but dead by the third, the song contrasts the peaceful rest of the 'easy' life he 'should' have had (he was 61 when he died - ancient for a Victorian era explorer) with the icy bleak ending, as if that cosy morning in his hammock was particularly inviting because it was his last chance to change his mind and stay at home. 'Cruel Sister' itself is another Pentangle duel, this time between two sisters who both love a knight - you just know that a sad ending is coming up and so it proves, one of them dead and the other scared out of her wits; this pair too must surely have been regretting what they ever started. As for fiddle player 'Jack Orion', he starts the song having everything (women, money and talent) but loses everything across 27 whole verses (that must be another AAA record!) which ends in a duel with his footpage over his beloved and ends with all three dead.

One song on this theme could have been coincidence, but all five is surely a 'message', dear listeners. Pentangle are making it quite clear that, despite longing for fame and recognition, they didn't actually like it much and wish they'd stayed the way they always were - a cult band who didn't often play their singles on stage or indeed release singles at all and could jam away to their heart's content in front of a couple of rows of hardened music lovers rather than putting up with the sighing and boredom of casual music lovers when they launch into yet another endless solo. Pentangle were leading quite a nice life, thankyou, before all of this disruption came along - and they're frightened that this disruption will never go and leave them the way before. If this album has a moral it's 'be careful what you wish for' - and there couldn't be a better motto for the state of Pentangle in 1970. Many fans scratch their head over this record, how challenging it is, how repetitive it is, how remarkably traditional it is. However in context 'Cruel Sister' makes perfect sense: it's the sound of a band who've bitten off more than they can chew and are kicking themselves for their carelessness of actually scoring a 'hit' single and album.

The sad fact is, though, Pentangle did too good a job. So many of their audience were scared away for good that the band will be forced to bounce back the following year with 'Reflection', an album that's effectively 'Basket Of Light Part Two', full of the many varied flavours of their repertoire. However to dismiss this record as simply the thorn between two roses would be to do it a disservice: Pentangle formed for precisely the reasons given over in this record: turning modern audiences onto traditional music and proving that, despite the changing of fashions and social liberties, we are all very much the same human beings our ancestors were. For all of its traditions and unrelenting acoustic sound, 'Cruel Sister' still sounds like a 'modern' album (if you count 'modern' as 1970 anyway, which heck is pretty modern for me and my musical tastes). We might not fight duels anymore or go to sea, but so many of these songs 'ring' true. 'A Maid That's Deep In Love' must have been deeply daring for 1853 (the first known version of it): after all, a girl dresses up in boy's clothing and does the job as good as any of the men! There's more pressure than ever on 'fair maidens' to lose their virginity before they're ready and the mixture of glee and regret shown on 'When I Was In My Prime' could be a pilot for a 'yoof' programme on BBC3. Had 'Lord Franklin' lived today he would be a space explorer, recognisably experiencing the 'cruel hardships' of the moon or Mars, still cut from the rest of the world. 'Cruel Sister' and 'Jack Orion' are soap operas for the Middle Ages, full of lines about who fancies whom, whose going out with who and  with everybody's behaviour restricted by convention (we may have less strict conventions now, but if there were truly no taboos or shock value left in certain activities Eastenders would have run out of 'dum-dum-dum' cliffhangers several decades ago). 'Cruel Sister' is somehow like all other Pentangle albums, but more so, with the past coming back even more vividly to life without the new-songs-masquerading-as-traditional-ones to interrupt our focus.

A quick word about the album cover. While I feel I've got a vague understanding of what this album is all about, I have no idea what's going on as part of either the front sleeve or the back (while both pictures are so small when seen CD -size that they might as well be of anything!) The front cover is a drawing titled 'The Men's Bath' by engraver Albrecht Durer and features, funnily enough, men bathing. Knowing Pentangle they probably came to him through his writings rather than his drawings - one of the Jacks of all Trades that gave the Renaissance a good name, Durer left a whole sea of works discussing science, mathematics and philosophy (so he'd have been thrilled at the neatness and simplicity of the Pentangle five-star logo!), being one of the first artists to properly study anatomy. That in itself fits: Durer is a strong candidate for the 'first' 'modern' human being, who understood human beings in all their glory and faults and could draw them with both scientific and artistic principles in mind - no wonder the band reached out to him in their quest to make the ancient world seem all the closer to us. But why men bathing?! It's true that the first song is set at sea, but that involves a woman not a man and no in the song gets so much as a hair wet. The band may simply have plumped for it because it looked good - but if so why re-inforce the 'sea' motif on the back sleeve, with a drawing of a 'Sea Monster' (who looks more like a mermaid to me!) Are we returning to the theme of 'Lord Franklin' again, that what once seemed destructive to man (the signs saying 'Here be dragons!' on maps) will soon become conquered and adapted to the cosy home surroundings (with water on tap, as per the front cover, rather in raging oceans)? Is this a 'before' and 'after' image of man as cosy homelover and adventurer? Or have I just been listening to 'Jack Orion' on repeat more times than is good for me?!

Whatever the cover is all about, at least we sort of know where the music was coming from. You really wouldn't want 'Cruel Sister' to be your first Pentangle LP or you might have ended up running for a life at sea yourself, but if you can 'get' into the band through one of their more accessible records first then this fourth LP is a welcome attempt to expand the band's sound and push the traditional, folk aspect of it up to (and arguably a little past) it's limits. Pentangle come up with an album that is actually even more consistent throughout than 'Basket Of Light', without a single lesser track to be found. The trouble is, though, that by keeping to just one aspect of their sound and cutting down on the original material there is simply less to this album than the others, even though ironically enough it's actually more complex and harder to follow most of the time. 'Cruel Sister' is like one of those history teachers who've stopped trying to pull your interest in by being 'trendy' and letting you understand your 'sources' by lots of TV programmes. This is a 'real' historical work, the equivalent of sifting through millions of boxes in a record's office for one nugget of information that will make your essay sour or wasting hours on a cold wet muddy field in the hope of the one historical artefact that will suddenly transform your archaeological dig from the most miserable experience of your life to the most thrilling in one fell swoop (and yes I was a history student once upon a time - does it show?!) If you can stick with your five teachers on this record long enough to really get to grips with 'another world that's also the same' as Pentangle implore on this LP the hard way, connect with the characters and their decisions which could easily have been yours had you been born in a different time and study your source material and connect all the dots then, my friend, 'Cruel Sister' is as worthy as any LP in your collection, full of pathos imagination and resonance even by Pentangle standards. However there's no getting away from it: reaching that point is blooming hard work - sometimes it's just easier to watch a DVD (or listen to 'Basket Of Light').

'A Maid That's Deep In Love' is an evocative opening, with Danny's busy bass and John's chunky rhythmic guitar doing their utmost best to distract a focussed Jacqui away from her quest. That's an apt backing for a song where McShee's narrator is so obsessed with her one true love that she stows away to sea rather than be away from him for any length of time, where her boyfriend falls in love with her all over again ('I wish you were a maid' he sighs after 'meeting' her on board the first time - heh heh has he got a shock coming...) The first known version of this charming folk tale was titled 'Short Jacket and White Trousers'. Pentangle no doubt had Maddy Prior's 1968 version in mind when they recorded their version, who learnt it from folk historian A L Lloyd (whose 1966 rendering is the earliest I can find). I'm surprised actually that this folk song wasn't more popular or covered more because it has everything: a suspenseful story, a clever ending (with the maiden pining for her lover, cursing the treasure she walks away with because it means she has to leave her 'treasure' back on board the ship) and a very proactive role for the female protagonist (perfectly acted as ever by Jacqui). The only trouble is that, like a lot of folk songs, there's an awful lot of very similar sounding verses without much in the way of variety. Usually with Pentangle this isn't a problem - they'll weave around the original with lots of solo-ing and add in a few stop-start sections to keep up the excitement levels. But this rendition is the same throughout, with even the Renbourn guitar solo sounding just like the rest of the song, just without Jacqui's vocals. In fact the guitar sound is the 'biggest' change of the whole song, Renbourn playing an electric guitar for the first time - how typical of Pentangle that it appears on their otherwise most acoustic album (with very little bass and drums!) John plays both acoustic and electric here, with Bert's playing on the dulcimer this time around, giving the song an exotic and other-worldly feel. The band are on good form, though, and this is one of their more successful attempts to weave a distinctive 'new' sound from five very different styles all going at once.

Jacqui's solo performance 'When I Was In My Prime' is both the highlight of the album - and the song I skip the most. More usually titled 'When I Was Young And In My Prime', this is another fairly obscure choice of folk song. Jacqui's vocal is exquisite, sounding all the more remarkable for being able to conjure up atmosphere and character without any backing whatsoever. The song is a good choice for her talents too, harking back to the Pentangle debut 'Let No Man Steal Your Thyme', with a maiden looking back sadly over the fact that she was so keen to lose her 'innocence'. She knows the man she 'chose' is unsuitable and longs to be 'in the young man's arms that won the heart of mine', but her 'real' soulmate is too prim and proper to offer her what she wants. Jacqui's sad tale veers from defiance to sorrow in the blink of an eye, even turning sarcastic for a while as her lover offers her three flowers as a token of his affections, all of which she rejects for a variety of reasons (the 'pink' simply 'fades', the 'violet' is too 'blue' and the 'rose that blooms' is 'not for me' - the narratress simply tears it out of the ground to plant a 'willow tree' instead. As per 'Thyme' the herbs and flowers are clearly metaphors for her feelings: this is a love that's impermanent, will bring her sorrow and might end up in unwanted pregnancy). The result is a lovely first-class recording - but I'll be the first to admit it doesn't bear repeated listening. The lack of a beat, the repetitiveness of yet another unvarying arrangement, the absence of the usual Pentangle ability to divert your ear to several directions all at once - all of this makes the song rather heavy going for all but the staunchest folk music fan, with Pentangle as starkly traditional as they ever were. Interestingly, all five band members get a credit for the arrangement of the song, even though only Jacqui appears on it.

'Lord Franklin' is the other album highlight, a sleepy ballad that had been one of John Renbourn's favourites and originally titled 'Lady Franklin's Dream'. A sailor, drifting to sleep warm and cosy in his hammock suddenly has a dream or a vision of the doomed arctic explorer sailing 'through cruel hardships'. This version too is almost a Renbourn solo, joined by Bert's concertina and some extra vocals from Jacqui which given the context sound like ghostly angels or sirens rising up to tell tales of the deep. The song dates back to 1850, remarkably quickly after Lord Franklin and his crew disappeared sometimes around 1845 (incidentally how come Wikipedia give a specific date for his death - his skeleton wasn't found for a year and didn't keep a diary!)  Most versions of the song go on to feature a few more verses about Lady Franklin fretting at home and wanting to know what has happened, paying for seven separate expeditions to go and bring her back news, but Pentangle's version almost skips her role in the song altogether, ending with the thought that 'the fate of Franklin no tongue may tell'. All that cold and human deprivation seems at odds with the haunting melody and low-key Pentangle performance, Renbourn barely singing above a whisper while Bert's accordion adds a nice sea shanty style feeling to the performance.

Title track 'Cruel Sister' derives from a folk song named 'The Twa Sisters' and - like the later 'Lady Of Carlisle' - is about a love triangle that doesn't end happily for anyone. The oldest song on the album - and one of the oldest AAA songs of all - it dates back to 1656 and is as low as number ten in the 'Childs' index of traditional English folk songs, hinting at it's great age. The song is given the most up-to-date arrangement on the album, though, mixing Renbourn's sitar and Cox's dulcitone (a sort of keyboard made out of tuning forks!) In typical Pentangle style the band barely break a sweat as an evil murder takes place, the band distantly chanting 'fa la la la la la le la' as one 'coal black' sister drowns the other who 'grew bright'. The poor knight caught up in the middle of all this is just a hapless onlooker - again note how strong the female characters are on this song, quite at odds with their normal portrayal in Medieval music. For some odd reason never quite explained passing salvagers find the dead sister's skeleton and instead of doing the sensible thing (reporting it to the authorities), they decide to make a 'harp' out of her 'breast bone' - inevitably when played it tells a tale of the cruel murder and the hint is that the evil sister dies of fear at the end of the song once the 'third string' is played. While not the greatest thing Pentangle ever did, and in truth a little drawn out at seven minutes (with barely a pause for breath between verses throughout), it's nice enough with Pentangle merely hinting at the true angst in the lyrics thanks to another stately performance and with Terry's lovely harmonies especially prominent.

The album's tour de force is 'Jack Orion', which takes up the whole of the second side of the album. The song choice is Bert's, who'd recorded a much shorter version of the song (effectively the middle section) as the title track of his third solo LP back in 1966 (and on which Renbourn appeared). Chances are the pair first heard it from A L Lloyd again, whose version in 1966 revived the song after something like a 'hundred year' gap! (Though popular in the 1960s and 70s, this was a rare song even at the time it was written, with few records of it being performed surviving - perhaps nobody could remember all the many words to it back in the day!) No one is quite sure how old the song is, but the fact that it's another fairly low numbered entry in the 'hild Ballads' collection (number 67) suggests that it's the second half of the 18th century at the latest. Bert takes the lead vocal here again (with a few verses handled by Jacqui), breaking off after a handful of verses to turn in a snarling acoustic guitar attack, joined by Renbroun's more polished electric lead. Jack Orion is a fiddler as well as a Prince (back in the days when the Royal Family actually used to do something...), most likely heir to a Scottish throne in the original. Falling in love with a princess from another kingdom he arranges a secret 'tryst' and tries to ensure his page boy Tom wakes him up in plenty of time. However the servant goes in his place and 'pretends' to be the prince, whom she has never seen. When the dark deed is uncovered everyone is in deep trouble to say the least - Jack Orion kills the servant, the princess kills herself and when the news is spread Orion then kills himself in mourning, a scary final verse slowing down to a crawl with the ominous words 'then all three lives were gone'.

Musically this epic twists and turns, in contrast to much of the rest of the album where the songs tend to stay rigidly the same throughout, a clever variation on the original which most likely used the same tune throughout. Things get really moving about the six minute mark when the servant creeps into the princess' bedroom, thanks to a fiery guitar solo and a definite jazzy twang about the vocals, the band briefly returning to the sound of their first album as Danny's bass growls and Terry's drums wake up and clatter about. This musical 'invasion' of what till now has been a rather 'safe' and stately typically Pentangle traditional tune is very ear-catching. Even when the deed is done and we're back at court, signalled by some clever recorder playing from Bert and John whose gentlemanliness is clawed at by Danny's see-sawing double bass. A quick break out of the solo-ists at the eleven minutes is the highlight of the song, Bert's acoustic in a quiet hurry and off-set by John's laidback see-sawing, both urged to hurry by Danny's restless bass. All in all this section lasts some three minutes before the guitarists suddenly 'wake up' to the reality of what's been going on and get gradually louder and angrier. Renbourn's stinging solo around the 14:30 mark is one of his greatest, gradually leaping around the song's central riff and sounding as if he's slowly growing madder and madder as his rage takes over him. Somehow though, he finds his energy spent around the 16:00 mark and the song slowly sinks back to the same melody where we began. Jack Orion suddenly pulls himself together and decides to take revenge, pretending to his servant that he has no idea what has gone on and that he's greeting him as a friend - only to chop the boy's head off, suddenly and without warning. A last pearl from Bert's guitar then winds up the tale as, staggered by what he's become, Jack Orion slays himself, Jacqui's voice 'ghosting' Bert's as if being greeted by the ghost of his lover. Despite being one of the longest songs in the AAA canon, 'Jack Orion' ends hanging in mid-air, a last ghastly note unresolved as if pausing just at the point where Orion's life is being taken from him (and perhaps a reminder that three lives were cut short all because of one wicked deed). A staggering tour de force of playing, this is one of Pentangle's best performances of their career - although for all the hard work the shorter, bleaker more austere Jansch original is still arguably the keeper, the story all the better for its brevity and sudden shocks.

Overall, then, is a fascinating though not always accessible album. Running to just under 37 minutes and with only five songs (none of them original) it's arguably a song or two short of ever being a classic album and the lack of band interplay on two of the three songs is a worrying sign of things to come. However it's nice to hear Pentangle at their most traditional, reviving far more obscure traditional songs than their usual song selection and adding very little accompaniment by their usual standards, allowing the songs to rise and fall on their merits. Of course there's still some excellent singing from Jacqui, some fantastic guitar interplay and 'Jack Orion' provides more intense jamming than almost any other band, but somehow 'Cruel Sister' lacks the sheer verve and passion of at least two of its three predecessors. 'Cruel Sister' is undeniably a harder album to fall in love with than any of the other five original Pentangle LPs, but the very fact that it tries so hard to break out of the 'successful' commercial sound of 'Basket Of Light' also makes it an album that's easy to be impressed by. Our solution is clear: buy this record after you've bought the others so you can admire how different it sounds - but don't buy it first and expect to fall in love with Pentangle on first hearing. After all, however well the band dress it up, this is a very bleak album involving one rape, one murder, one unhappy marriage and an unfortunate excursion that ended in starvation. By comparison every other Pentangle album sounds like a collection of joy, a 'basket of light' if you will. But that's not to say 'Cruel Sister' is bad - just different, capturing the band in the first flush of an unhappy mood that will eventually break up the band in three years' time. You need to be patient with 'Cruel Sister', just as you do with real-life 'cruel sisters', because only in time and with distance can you appreciate how warm this record's heart really is despite the cold aloof sounds and how beautiful and varied it really is despite all appearances to the contrary. Like the cruel sister of the title track, it's often overlooked and ignored for brighter, prettier maidens, but there's much to delight and revel in if your patient enough to discover this record's good points for yourself. 

A Now Complete List Of Pentangle Related Articles At Alan’s Album Archives:

Surviving TV Appearances 1968-2000 and The Best Unreleased Recordings

Buffalo Springfield: Live Albums/Solo Albums/Poco/Compilations/etc

The Alan's Album Archives Guide To Buffalo Springfield Titled 'Flying On The Ground Is Wrong' is now available in e-book format by clicking  here!

The Au Go Go Singers (featuring Stills and Furay):
 "They Call Us The Au Go Go Singers"
(Roulette Records,  'Late' 1964)
San Francisco Bay Blues/What If?/Gotta Travel On/Pink Polemoniums/You Are There/Oh Joe Hannah/Miss Nellie/High Flying Bird (S*)/What Have They Done To The Rain?/Lonesome Traveller/Where I'm Bound (F*)/This Train
S* = Stephen Stills vocal showcase
F* = Richie Furay vocal showcase
"Lord, look at me - I'm rooted like a tree!"
Remember that feeling of dread when someone you love is about to get out the family photo-album and share your happy childhood memories with a bunch of perfect strangers? That's how Stephen Stills and Richie Furay must feel about this album, which has been long deleted and is now ridiculously rare (alas I'm having to base this review on a mere three songs, which are all I've ever heard to date; expecting a fuller update when/if this album ever gets a full re-issue and if I ever win the lottery - which is unlikely, not just because it's statistically near-impossible but because I never enter it). Very much in the 'Peter, Paul and Mary' folky vein, The Au Go Go Singers are effectively a phone-book: a nine-piece band of earnest folkies who play traditional folks songs acoustically. They were named after The Whiskey-A-Go-Go, a famous Californian nightclub where the band formed and will also play major roles in the Springfield's and even more so The Byrds' histories. Like many similar records by The New Christy Minstrels (Byrd Gene Clark's first band) and the Serendipity Singers An interesting snapshot into what most bands started out like in the few months before The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 and the world went electric overnight, the odd thing about this album is how late in the folk era it comes: somewhere in the Autumn, by which time folk is almost over (until a slight revival when The Byrds and Simon and Garfunkel come along in 1965). You sense that the band already know that, too, from the sheer weariness with which the parts of this album I've heard are sung and sounds like the tail end of the prog rock era when the punks have come along to claim all the fun - or perhaps what the dinosaurs sounded like when they discovered the first mammal with a record deal.
Given that they're very much the junior wannabes (still in their teens at this stage) Stephen Stills and Richie Furay get very little to do; inaudible amongst the nine-voice chorus and with just one lead vocal apiece. I still haven't heard Richie's but the few who have consider it the highlight of the set - the anthem of confused and lost teens everywhere 'I Don't Know Where I'm Bound', which already showcases Richie's delicate fragile melodic tones. Stephen Stills' vocal on 'High Flying Bird' (sensibly used to kick-off the Stills box set 'Carry On' in 2012) is much rougher and raucous and Stills - aged 19 - already sounds like a wizened blues singer, packing a real emotional punch the rest of the rather bland material can't compete with. To be honest this record isn't that essential a purchase and bears no real links with the Springfield sound (the 'folk' element of which is mainly brought by Young). However this is a key move -the first time either man had been inside a professional recording studio - and even on a small independent label like 'Roulette Records' (biggest star: Tommy James and the Shondells) it gave the pair a clout that will be useful in their futures with the band. Just physically, it's worth noting that without this step it's probably fair to say the Springfield would never have formed. Sensing that he's jumped aboard the wrong boat, Furay left soon after the band's one and only recording, but Stills continued with the band playing to smaller audiences and taking every gig they could find. Canada was a little behind America and hadn't yet caught on to The Beatles in such a big way, so Stills rejoined the 'new-look' Au Go Go Singers (christened 'The Company') who played all of Canada's big coffee houses with local support acts opening for them. One of these just happened to be The Squires, a Shadows-style band with Neil Young on lead guitar and the start of a love-hate brotherly relationship that's going to last through two of these Ebooks and counting...

"The Huntingdon Tapes"
 (Not Released,  1967)
Pay The Price/Nobody's Fool/Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing/Rock and Roll Woman/My Kind Of Love/For What It's Worth/Bluebird/Mr Soul/Go And Say Goodbye/Hung Upside Down/In The Midnight Hour/Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It?/Leave
"A big Huntingdon welcome for the Buffalo Springfield!"
Sadly no one ever thought to record the Buffalo Springfield's already legendary concerts professionally while the band were still together. With only three albums under their belt (a mere two actually released at the time of their last concert) the band probably felt they didn't have enough material or that they had plenty of time to make one - but alas the recording industry's grim reaper had other ideas. That's a real shame given the three ragged but remarkable concerts that have survived after being taped unprofessionally. This first one - a full 80 minute concert - sadly like the others captures the Springfield a little past their prime. Recorded sometime in the first half of 1967 (the dating comes because the band mention that they've been in the recording studio all day taping their newest song 'Rock and Roll Woman'). Sadly no recordings of the full original five-man line up exists and here as well as missing Bruce (replaced at this gig by persons unknown) the band are trying to cope without Neil, whose left the band for the second time, to be replaced by temporary stand-in Doug Hastings. Given that the only studio part Hastings made was wiped (on 'Rock and Roll Woman' funnily enough), that's reason enough to make this tape fascinating, although to be honest he's largely inaudible, Stills clearly enjoying the chance to play lead all on his own (with Richie an even better foil for him live on the rhythm guitar than he is on the records). Interestingly though Neil's songs are very much still a part of the setlist, with three of just 13 songs his, suggesting either that the band were desperate for material or that they were expecting him back in the band any day.
The next thing to note his how rough and raw everything is. We're used to hearing the more polished Springfield records and tales of the legendary gigs have transformed these early gigs into something approaching colossal status in musical folklore. The tapes don't fully bear this out (possibly because Stills has no Young to bounce off), being slapdash and amateurish at times, with the band talking over each other in their song introductions, coming up with copious in-joke wisecracks ('There we were surrounded by 10,000 screaming armadillos and Dewey Martin said 'I'm nobody's fool!') and trying to get round some badly disintegrating equipment (Stills, whose on great form this day, quips that he'd like his amplifier to introduce the next song - followed by repeated amplifier distortion as he plugs his guitar in and out!) The Springfield weren't exactly riding high after two flop singles in 'Mr Soul' and 'Bluebird' but as top ten stars with 'For What It's Worth' you'd expect them to be enjoying better surroundings than this. Heard back to back with the CSNY tapes of 1974 - when they played to the them-biggest audiences in the world - and the difference is striking, with only a handful of passionate shrieking fans amongst a mainly polite crowd.
Don't get me wrong though: slapdash and raw these tapes may be but they're far from disappointing. The band's slightly tweaked post-first album setlist includes many songs recorded for an eventually aborted second album (hopefully titled 'Stampede' by a record label hoping for product) including Richie's 'My Kind Of Love' (a revelation here played a heavy rocker rather than the slightly timid acoustic demo heard on the box set and indeed by Poco) and Richie's 'Nobody's Fool' - the only place sadly where you can hear the song as it was meant to be sung, by soul fan Dewey. The drummer also gets in a quick cover version of soul standard 'The Midnight Hour' which the band never did put on record (Dewey sighs 'I hope you all like this song - they (meaning the band) don't like it!') Better yet are some terrific versions of studio favourites that leave the better known versions for dust. The opening song 'Pay The Price' goes on for nearly triple the length of the original, taking longer to settle down into it's groove before gradually exploding into raucous life with Stills adding a nicely bluesy vocal. Fragile flower 'Clancy' is a tough old bird played live, with Stills and Furay swinging into action one of the few songs in the setlist they clearly know backwards. 'Rock and Roll Woman' - fresh from being played at the studio earlier that day - features a Stills vocal sung through sandpaper and a slightly different arrangement that presumably features what the band first recorded with the Hastings guitar parts later replaced by Young's ('David Crosby taught me the *jingle jangle* Stills announces to an indifferent crowd at the start). Fiery versions of 'Bluebird' and 'Mr Soul' extended to 13 minutes (despite Stills' promise of 20 for the former, 'our new single - so that you won't forget it!') aren't quite as riveting as that sounds but still feature some terrific interplay, especially the latter slowed to an unusual bluesy crawl (a little like the way Neil sings it on his 1997 'Year Of The Horse' live LP, but on electric not acoustic). A glorious 'Hung Upside Down' sounds utterly wretched, but in a good way - with the song about lethargy and frustration never sounding more likely to topple over and collapse. Finally, 'Leave' is a stomping farewell that leaves the crowds wanting more, Stills using up the last of his ragged voice with some great blues hollering. The only song that fares badly, in fact, is 'For What It's Worth' - the one tune most of those in the audience would have known but which is rather thrown away here with Stills wisecracks about 'The Sunset Strip Riot Joke' while Dewey plays 'some stripping music', drowns out the lead vocalist with yells of 'Dewey Martin! Dewey Martin!' and tells the audience to 'listen to the drummer!' Stills, meanwhile, tells the audience that 'nobody knows what it means including me - and I writ it!' The band's only hit seems like it deserves more respect, somehow!
What's fascinating is hearing what the band dynamic is - something you'd never get from hearing studio tapes, even ones with studio chatter. Stills is shy but funny, Richie oddly serious and neither Doug nor Bruce say a word. Instead most of the best lines come from Dewey, who wins by getting the biggest re-actins of the whole night from the crowd and having a ready answer to everything his partner's throw at him - but loses by very audibly getting on their nerves ('Quit stepping on my lines Dewey!' an exasperated Stills cries, later adding 'I'm trying to talk!', while another joke has the drummer adding that 'Richie took the Charles Atlas course and failed', Richie responds by claiming that next track 'Leave' is 'an ode to Dewey Martin' with the drummer coming straight back by saying that the act won't be over until they 'throw Richie off the bridge!' While all banter, made in jest, with each of the three talking Buffalos just as likely to make jokes about themselves (Stills apologising for his grubby appearance at one point - 'studios are really grubby places!') if this was as typical a night as it sounds (the venue wasn't that prestigious) then it shows how night after night for 19 months this sort of thing could easily have got on everyone's nerves.
What's most fascinating too is the weary resignation to the band's lack of success. 'This song has been really good to us down South' drawls Stills in a  mock American accent, a revealing comment about a song that was probably once announced as this quite genuinely but a full year on is now being treated with sarcasm. 'This is our other top 40 hit' Richie announces after playing 'For What It's Worth', announcing Dewey's cover of 'In The Midnight Hour' (indeed a top 40 hit, but for Wilson Pickett* not the Springfield!) and adding 'Dewey's the only top 40 material we got!' Stills sounds rather desperate trying to get the audience to buy their latest record 'Bluebird' too: 'Buy four and give them to your mother!' he quips. 'She'll want three - two to break and one to keep!' We know, of course, that the Springfield never do get another hit - something they already sound resigned to, especially Stephen - but the forlorn Stills shouldn't give up hope as he'll be one of the music business' biggest names in less than five years' time!
All in all a fascinating little time capsule when The Springfield weren't even the cult band they are today but a one-hit wonder slipping down the charts and hemmearaging  members left right and centre. While far from the greatest concert ever made, the band are on hilarious form in their on-stage antics and the performances have a real drive and power, sounding tougher and more muscly than many of the albums. While you can understand why the band might be reluctant to put this album out (Neil isn't on it so the 'family' isn't all there and some of the jokes seem to sting a little), at least a few of these recordings deserve to see the light of day properly, proving that even in disarray the Springfield were a great little band with a really bright future - just not necessarily one shared together! You wonder why the audience don't enjoy it more - especially the hapless policeman lured by the band inside to watch during the announcement of the second song...(I wonder what he made of 'For What It's Worth'!)

"Monterey Pop Festival"
 (Not Released,  June 1967)
For What It's Worth/Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing/Medley: Rock and Roll Woman-Bluebird/A Child's Claim To Fame/Pretty Girl Why?
"Now let's all welcome with a great big fat round of applause my favourite group - The Buffalo Springfield!"
That Neil Young, eh, what is he like? Not long after leaving the band on the verge of doing The Johnny Carson Show (perhaps TV's second biggest programme for pop stars in the 1960s after Ed Sullivan) than he's left again, shortly after the Springfield have received the invitation to play at the summer of love's biggest event: three days of flowers, love, peace and great music organised by a whole board of musical stars including John Phillips, Paul McCartney and Paul Simon. Despite having had just the one hit single and only one album out in the shops, The Springfield are clearly a hot property - or at least they were at the start of the year when the festival was being organised. Oddly enough, given the fame of CSNY in the years to come (and Poco to some extent) the Monterey organisers are clearly having second thoughts, giving the band a mere twenty minute set and shunting the band to an unpopular late-night but not-that-late-night spot on the Sunday just when everyone was going home (on in between an 'encore' set for Janis Joplin - the hit from the night before - and The Who, their show was bound to be a bit lost). To be fair, the organisers were probably also well aware that this wasn't the band they'd signed: the festival's souvenir programme has a great shot of the original band larking around in Topanga Canyon, but of course two of them are missing. What's more the band don't even have their replacement, by now realising that the quiet gentlemanly Doug Hastings is no replacement for fiery catalyst Neil Young. The Springfield could have cancelled like so many other bands (The Beach Boys pulled out last minute, forever sealing their doom  as an 'oldies' act in the eyes of many American fans) and perhaps should have done as the band sound very much like a rabbit caught in the headlights during their set.
However Stills' growing friendship with David Crosby meant that the band were urged to appear all the same, with Crosby going against all previous musical protocol and - shock horror - guesting with the band on stage as their rhythm guitarist despite still being in The Byrds! This was a revolutionary act for the times and the other Byrds were livid, although their claims that Crosby cancelled rehearsals with them to play note-perfectly with the Springfield are clearly wrong given the sonic mess of the audio soundtrack. Still, even though Crosby does little except sing the chorus of 'For What It's Worth', this clearly has huge repercussions in the CSN story - the first time both men are seen in public together - and is very much in keeping with the Monterey Pop ethos of free love (much more so than what was taking place backstage at this very moment, as The Who and the Hendrix Experience allegedly end up in a  fist fight over who gets to go on first). Talking of 'For What It's Worth', Stills saluted the peace and love crowd by looking at the audience and ad libbing 'There's a man with a gun...nowhere!' One other notable event at this gig is the emcee: Stills' old friend Peter Tork - then still very much a Monkee - introduces the band as 'my favourite group' and says a few words about his being 'friends' with the band. Tork clearly means it and is trying to do his old friend a favour for his early support (Stills was the one who applied for The Monkees gig but when he didn't get it nominated his friend Peter for the role), but by mid 1967 The Monkees' fortunes are on the turn and few people in the crowd even recognise him (The Monkees didn't play that weekend at Monterey although both Peter and Micky were in the audience - had they played their fortunes might have been very different indeed).
The real star of the show, though, is drummer Dewey Martin who senses that the band are struggling during a very loose and raw version of 'Rock and Roll Woman' and yells from his drums that instead the band are about to do their 'next single' 'Bluebird', jumping onto the song's distinctive rhythm and turning what was becoming a noodling jam into a fiery rocking finale. To be honest, though, the Springfield sound more relieved than excited when it's over, with by far the biggest crowd they ever played unsure what to think (the rapturous applause over 'For What It's Worth' has died out long before the end!) Sadly the only official release for four of the songs (the last two were missing) was on the 1987 20th anniversary radio one 'Monterey Weekend' (where as much audio footage as possible was repeated in 'real time' - this wonderful project badly needs a repeat on BBC6!) and to date only 'For What IT's Worth' has ever been officially released on both CD and DVD (as part of the second volume of Monterey performances 'Monterey Int'l Pop Festival' released for the 40th anniversary in 2007 and the 'Monterey Pop' DVD set in 2002).
 "This Is It !- Long Beach 1968"
 (Not Released,  May 5th 1968)
Rock and Roll Woman/A Child's Claim To Fame/Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing/Good Time Boy/Mr Soul/Uno Mundo/For What Its Worth/Bluebird
"Whose putten sponge in the bells I once rung and taken my gypsy before she's begun to sing?"
The last Springfield show for 42 years took place at Long Beach Arena, New York, putting an end to a mere 23 rollercoaster months of music making and group breaking. The writing had been on the wall for a while and given the messy circumstances within the band across 1968  it's rather good that the band had a 'set date' to say farewell, with as much of the original band as possible (Neil is back - rejoining for a fifth time - but sadly Bruce's deportation order back to Canada couldn't be broken this time around). Thankfully, while the band were more tired and relieved than aware of how big a deal this was, someone had peace of mind to tape the show for history, albeit only in rather muffled sound. Parts of the show -compiled into a montage - were released as a 'hidden' bonus track at the end of the second disc of Neil Young's box set 'Archives One' (2009), while some full performances have been leaked on bootleg (including an incredibly angry 22 minute finale version of 'Bluebird'). These would have made a nice addition to the 'Buffalo Springfield' set too (where they 'belong' more than on Neil's set - he's unusually quiet actually here, perhaps out of guilt, with just one lead vocal to his credit although oddly he does most of the chatting).
The band don't play their best but this is the only place where you can find live performances of some of their later material (most notably the songs off third album 'Last Time Around', still being made at this point and left un-promoted and un-toured because there was no band left by the time it came out; Neil says at one point that 'there'll be another one - the last one - out in a couple of weeks' but it turns out to be more like eleven by the time 'Last Time Around' is in the shops). While Stephen will revive 'For What It's Worth' frequently across his solo career and Neil will always have a regular place in his set lists for 'Mr Soul', many of the other classics here get their last live outing of the 20th century: songs like 'Rock and Roll Woman' and 'Bluebird'. The fact that the band clearly sense this (and each already has at least some idea of what to do next, although at this moment in time CSN are still without Nash) gives this gig a real poignancy with what was assumed to be the last great Stills-Young guitar duel on 'Bluebird'  taking up almost a quarter of the set. An often chaotic farewell, with some truly atrocious performances of some songs: for instance there's a very Poco-style version of 'A Child's Claim To Fame' is truly a mess and this is the all-time roughest version of 'Clancy'). This is also the only place where you can hear Stills playing the drums on stage, as Dewey prowls up front on 'Good Time Boy', the song that probably fares best here in these raw surroundings although the one and only surviving live performance of 'Uno Mundo' sounds pretty great too. Largely, though, this show is a mess, a lot rawer than even the other two surviving tapes - and yet even this mess seems apt given the circumstances, with this band's sheer number of possible directions over the past three years spinning out from each of the eight tracks they play, with the five bands in one suddenly turning back into five bands again as the Springfielders all plot their solo careers...
(Atco,  February 1969)
For What It's Worth/Mr Soul/Sit Down, I Think I Love You/Kind Woman/Bluebird/On The Way Home//Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing/Broken Arrow/Rock and Roll Woman/I Am A Child/Go and Say Goodbye/Expecting To Fly
"In a strange game I saw myself as you knew me, when the chance came and you had a chance to see through me"
Most bands who split up too soon struggle to get decent compilations dedicated to them, given what little material there is to work with - CSNY, for instance, will be shockingly dealt with by the very same record company when 'So Far' comes out in 1974 after just two albums. Atco can be forgiven for compiling this assuming that they had to release this record quickly to cash-in on the band's relative fame before everyone forgot about who they were. At times this compilation does look cheap and nasty - there's very little sleevenotes and cover looks like a pale facsimile of 'Buffalo Springfield Again' with added butterflies (no, I don't know why either, you'd think if the art department wanted a bit of nature a buffalo would have been a more obvious choice!) But many a fan has a soft spot for this compilation, which plays a bigger role in musical history than perhaps anyone was expecting. Released four months before 'Crosby Stills and Nash' turns Stills into a superstar and a mere three before 'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' means people start taking notice of Young, nobody knew at the time that 'Retrospective' was going to be the first-stop shop for curious CSNY fans who wondered what two of their heroes sounded like together. Given this fact 'Retrospective' is tremendously useful - it's pretty neatly divided between Stills songs (five) and Young songs (six) and digs beyond the hits and flop singles for a real flavour of what all three records are like (although sensibly the 'Again' LP gets the most space devoted to it). By and large the track selection is spot on - yes I could query why 'Sit Down I Think I Love You' is here over 'Hung Upside Down' or why all three of Neil's vocals from the second and third  album are here and yet there are none from the first. But as a work in its own right this compilation is very well made, starting the only way it can (with 'For What It's Worth') but brave enough to move the art collage 'Broken Arrow' to the middle and choosing to end side one with 'Bluebird' and side two with 'Expecting To Fly' (genius choices, both). Sadly the one person who gets a raw deal from this album - and whose reputation seems forever sealed thereafter - is poor Richie Furay, who gets just 'Kind Woman' to his name (the addition of 'Sad Memory' or 'A Child's Claim To Fame' in place of 'Sit Down' and 'Broken Arrow' perhaps would have made an excellent compilation perfect!) That said, 'Retrospective' manages to work on all levels - as a more-successful-than-expected cash-in LP at the time which enabled Atlantic to make up for the money lost over 'Last Time Around', as a useful one-stop shop taster for curious fans from the future and as the only regularly on-catalogue Springfield album down the years a strong reminder of why this band matters and how great they were at their peak.

Richie Furay/Poco: "Pickin' Up The Pieces"
(Epic,  May 1969)
Foreward*/What A Day*/Nobody's Fool*/Calico Lady*/First Love*/Make Me A Smile*/Short Changed*//Pickin' Up The Pieces*/Grand Junction/Oh Yeah*/Just In Case It Happens, Yes Indeed!*/Tomorrow*/Consequently So Long*/
* = song written or co-written by Richie Furay
"A Renaissance, childish in their innocence, laughing now tomorrow's come"
Maybe it's the Springfield fan in me, perhaps the fact that I'd already heard the Buffaloes sing so many of these songs or perhaps it's because this record is the closest Poco come to rock rather than country-rock, but whatever the cause I'm going to buck the trend that generally claims Poco didn't get it together until album number two and say that I like this debut album best. Future Poco records (especially once founding member Richie is out of the band) will try that little bit too hard to put in something spectacular which all too often sounds like a gimmick. By contrast, Poco sounds like a band that need business here, setting out several strong songs that nearly all have that natural air of brilliance the Springfield had and feature a similarly eclectic mixture of styles. While no Poco album ever quite managed to match the Springfield records, Richie's records always have a sort of quiet excellence about them and there's arguably more of 'Richie' on display here than in his actual solo work, dominating the writing credits and co-writing all but one track on the album (guitarist Rusty Young - yep, Richie's back working with another 'Young' on guitar, although there's no relation - is instrumental 'Grand Junction', the closest template to the country-rock style Poco will use from here-on in). Jim Messina, reverting to his favoured instrument the guitar, gets oddly little to do here despite being arguably the biggest name to come out of Poco - in time he'll cite Richie's dominance of the writing credits as the reason he left in 1970 after just three albums.
Beaten into the shops by 'Neil Young' and the first 'CSN' album, it's interesting that Richie should be the one who spends so much time looking over his shoulder at the past. While his colleagues are proudly using their names face-front on an album cover for the first time, Richie appeals directly for the Springfield fans with re-recordings of 'What A Day' and 'Nobody's Fool' (both played by the Springfield in concert at one time or another) and talking about the band's dissolution directly in both the album title and title track. However what impresses most is how different in feel most of this record is, with Richie very much coming up with songs that are based around a 'new' country-rock sound, back in the days when at most only old partners The Byrds had paved the way in that particular direction (this was years before The Eagles flew onto the top of that particular bandwagon!; Richie was one of the first people to pick up on Gram Parsons' solo work instead of thinking of him as '#that weird Nashville guy who ruined The Byrds!') In a way 'Poco' is as credible and forward-thinking an album as 'Crosby, Stills and Nash' and 'Neil Young', though it sold far less copies at the time and is rarely mentioned at all nowadays, which is sad. While not as 'important' as either record (Richie really is running the show himself, without even a Jack Nitzche to help him), 'Pieces' is a great A- record that's only a few tracks shy of being a classic.
(Please note: for reasons of sanity I've elected to review only Richie's tracks from these Poco albums - there's only so many instrumental jigs my ears can take! For now that means practically everything but Richie's tracks do get gradually fine on the ground as these Poco albums go on). The album starts off timidly with the muffled recording 'Foreward' , a 45 second fragment that doesn't sound at all connected with the songs to come - and it speaks volumes that Richie sings this opening song entirely on his own. 'What A Day' is simultaneously both calmer and trippier than the Springfield version, with less frenetic interludes from various folk and country instruments that somehow comes out sounding more countrified all round (perhaps it's Richie's, erm, interesting cowboy accent and 'ah-ha!' shrieks!) The song is less rambling this time around too, suggesting Poco have done a lot more rehearsing from it than the Springfield ever did - and that Richie has learned from what did and didn't work from the time before. Effectively giving a 'cameo' to most of the band in turn (on various  banjo, fiddle and ukuleles) it's an impressive recording, although personally I wish the band had gone closer to the all out-rock bass-drum groove they play in the fade-out. 'Nobody's Fool' couldn't be less like the soul styling Dewey Martin gave the song in concert, although what's surprising compared to Richie's demo is how tough this song sounds. With Poco flexing their harmony vocals for the first time (although Richie still sings double-tracked and is very much the lead), they sound like a posse you'd never want to mess with, including an especially demented Rusty Young solo that growls before barking like a banshee. Richie's first new song (co-written with ***) 'Calico Lady' is my favourite song on the album: this one has no stop-start rhythms or 'gimmicks' and simply soars out of the blocks, a neater country-rock combination than anything close cousins The Flying Burrito Brothers were doing. By contrast Richie's 'First Love'' is a little ordinary - a country-rock weepy complete with slide guitar that's a far less love-lorn song about love than 'Kind Woman' and somehow ends up with a rather generic approximation of Furay's childhood ('My toys meant most of all, you know how kids are when they're small'). Surely that's going back a bit far for what most people mean by a 'first love'? Or does my crush on Lulu count?! 'Make Me A Smile' is an ok-ish harder edged song that shows off the sunny side of Richie's nature once more, backed by a pedal steel guitar part. 'Short Changed' ends the first side with the heaviest rocker Poco ever recorded and shows off just how eclectic this early line-up were. This song is a second diatribe, following 'A Child's Claim To Fame' and may well be aimed at the same person (Neil), with lines like 'blood stained, my hands were tied because of you!' and 'I look back over the times when my love was all - but you didn't know me!' While far from an immediate success (Neil won't be a household name until he joins CSNY), it must still have been galling for Richie to see Neil's eponymous solo record do relatively well when Richie's own career seemed written off. Then again, could this song be about Stills? Given how close the pair were they seem to have lost contact with each other remarkably quickly (they never guest on each other's albums for instance). Stills of course was enjoying much bigger success on the back of CSN and record company tactics meant that Poco were 'swapped' by Atlantic for Graham Nash - a switch Richie reportedly wasn't too happy about. Was he expecting his old friend to intercede and say he was 'worth' more than that? (while a huge name in Europe, Nash's band The Hollies had only ever scored big with 'Bus Stop' in America while Graham was in the band, a track he didn't have a hand in writing). The screaming guitar solo from Rusty sounds like a direct 'copy' of Stephen's work - although then again it could just be a case of Richie asking him to play it 'like the Buffalo would have done'.
Side two is slightly less interesting. The title track 'Pickin' Up The Pieces'  tries to set out Poco's stall and what the band wants to achieve: 'sitting picking and grinning' seems to be about the gist of it (the Springfield were a bit grumpy sometimes, let's face it, Richie just wants to be in a happy band). The track sounds like a direct copy of The Byrds' 'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo' to me too, with the promise that 'we're bringing you back homeward'  to country music of people's pasts there 'was a little magic in the air'. Alas there isn't enough magic in this forgettable song. After 'Grand Junction' comes the bluesy 'Oh Yeah' - Jim Messina's only vocal on the album (co-written with Richie) that sounds like a slightly more commercial re-write of 'Carefree Country Day'. Jim's guitar playing is the best thing about this track. 'Just In Case It Happens, Yes Indeed!' is more sunny Richie Furay optimism that tries to look on the good side when the narrator's girl leaves him (well, at least they still have the memories). Given the theme of the album I'm tempted to see this song as about the Springfield split, in which case Richie seems to have come to terms with the split refreshingly quickly ('A new beginning's clinging in my head - the rest of it's been said!') This is one of the better songs on the album with Richie in good voice. 'Tomorrow' is a real country weepy that somehow turns into a prog rock epic that by contrast seems to suggest Richie hasn't got over it after all. To the accompaniment of a pedal steel guitar, Richie tells us how miserable he feels before a sudden switch of key is greeted by the words 'a renaissance!' Richie tells us how great it is to be in a new band ('and in the thrill of its re-birth, flowers wait to greet the dawn') before falling back to earth with a bump in the final verse that finds him upset all over again. Nicely ambitious, it's a simpler Richie-fied version of 'Broken Arrow' and no worse for that. The album ends on a bouncy country-rocker that's another of the best thing on the album: 'Consequently, So Long'. Richie waves goodbye to the Springfield one last time with the lines 'it's been a long time coming and I have to carry on - now you're gone'. Unable to 'turn back all the clocks in town', Richie decides to confront the 'rain' in his life head-on and walks like through it, laughing. Sadly Richie won't be laughing for long, but it's a wonderful response to the turbulent Springfield years and nicely catchy.
Overall, then, 'Pickin' Up The Pieces' is a delight. What could have been a sad slow how-dare-you album filled with pain and anger keeps trying to put a smile on its face and hopes for better times. While other fans prefer the more pure country Poco albums to come, I still say Richie has good reason to be happy as Poco were everything the Springfield weren't: stable, reliable, tightly knit and with a distinctive sound and direction the all-encompassing Springfield would never allow itself to be limited to (along with Neil Young's many decisions to leave the band perhaps the thing that cost the band most in the long-term, with no 'one sound' for the public to latch onto). In time that formula will get stale and the songs a little bland and predictable, but for now you can hear the joy and enthusiasm in the room, with Richie excellent in his role as band-leader. If you're a Springfield fan curious to know what Furay went on to do then this is by far your best place to start. The CD of this album includes one additional unreleased song from the sessions, the Richie co-write 'Do You Feel It Too?' A catchy but slight song, closer to rock than country, it's loosely based around Richie's earlier Springfield song 'Can't Keep Me Down' (as released on the box set) and is a nice find but not up to the best the album has to offer.

"Dewey Martin's Medicine Ball"
(RCA,  May 1970)
Indian Child/Right Now Train/Silent Song Through The Land/Maybe Baby/Recital Palmer//Yesterday/The Devil and Me/I Do Believe/Race Me On Down/Change
"Just came back from nowhere on a doing alright now train!"
Few Springfield fans would have guessed that drummer Dewey had an album in him, despite vocal showcases down the years and a longer musical pedigree than anyone on the band. Typically, though, Dewey was adamant that stardom would be his, to the extent of releasing this album with his name writ large on the cover (even though few people in the know knew who he was) and - for the longest time - fighting to use the 'Buffalo Springfield' name, with this record held up for several months while legal teams did battle. Dewey lost, which is probably just as well not because this LP necessarily disgraces the Springfield name but because it is arguably the biggest leap from the Springfield sound of the early records made by all five. Medicine Ball consisted of several almost-famous names, members of the Sir Douglas Quintet, Rock City Band, Blue Mountain Eagle Express, BB King's backing guitarist Bill Darnell and David Price, once Davy Jones' stand-in during the filming of the Monkees TV series and a friend of Mike Nesmith's (further cementing the links between the two bands).The going in the early days wasn't good - a misguided idea of hiring the Hell's Angels as the band' protectors' for their first gig at San Francisco's Cow Palace  a year before they caused havoc at Altamont resulted in a scared band ands a booing audience. And those were the band members who'd stuck around after the threat of legal action from Stills and Young scared half of the first line-up away. Yet despite going through more line-ups in their short career than even the Buffalo Springfield, Medicine Ball pull together nicely on this LP, covering a whole range of styles with aplomb. Best of all, Dewey's old partner Bruce Palmer returns for one sole lone recording, the lovely instrumental 'Recital Palmer' although oddly his name is missing from the listed musician credits (perhaps the band figured the title was enough of a clue?) and it's odd in itself that  a musician who doesn't play on the rest of the album should get one song to his credit.
Unfortunately, Dewey's voice wasn't meant to be listened to across a full LP and if anything has got even gruffer with age (knowing Dewey, he'd probably been having fun since the band split drinking and smoking his Springfield fortune away...) Ironically, perhaps the drummer is the band's weakest link, crucifying some very off song choices (such as Buddy Holly's 'Maybe Baby' and The Beatles' 'Yesterday', which has to be heard to be believed) and with his typically heavy drumming a little off-beat compared to the gentler, folkier, country strains of the other players. Most of the songs are written by the rest of the non-Springfield band and aren't that hot either - well not by comparison to Stills and Young anyway - with Dewey getting one nicely funky song (Indian Child') to his name in addition to Bruce's composition.  Talking of things 'Indian', Dewey may have been 'cashing in' on Neil's 'indian' obsession on this album, despite having never shown any interest before (it's worth pointing out too that Dewey is Canadian, not American...), although I have to say the band name (effectively 'Broken Arrow' by a different language) is a very clever idea at keeping in with the Springfield fans.  Overall this LP is rather heavy going, but it has promise for a debut release by a man not known for his writing or singing and had Medicine Ball been a bit more stable they could have been real contenders for the Springfield crown. It certainly deserves a 'proper' re-issue (this record never has come out on CD), preferably with the second unreleased album in tow and mopping up the handful of extra singles Dewey put out first to test the waters (for the record these are 'Jambalya'/'Ala-Bam', 'Caress Me Pretty Music'/'There Must Be A Reason', although only the second of these - a B-side written by Dewey - is of any real interest. Alas the fame wasn't to be and after a second album that's meant to be better (though it never has been released) Medicine Ball split up, transforming into the equally short-lived Blue Mountain  Eagle and actually 'firing' Dewey after one night of excess too many (losing his fame and baying crowds really didn't help). Having burnt a lot of his bridges, Dewey lived out the rest of his days as a motor mechanic (did he ever work on Buffalo Springfield-licensed steamrollers one wonders?!) before the lure of music became too strong in the 1980s and Dewey and Bruce go on to form 'Buffalo Springfield Revisited', much to the consternation of the rest of the band who once again bring the lawyers in...

"Expecting To Fly"
(Atco,  'Early' 1970)
For What It's Worth/Expecting To Fly/Special Care/Hot Dusty Roads/Everybody's Wrong//Flying On The Ground Is Wrong/Burned/Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It?/Leave/Out Of My Mind/Merry-Go-Round
"Special care has been taken to make you aware of the forsaken!"
Another year and another, much rare compilation that was very much released to cash-in on the sudden success stories of Stills and Young. Thankfully there was still enough good material from albums one and three to make releasing this record worthwhile alongside 'Retrospective' although its clearly inferior - the cover art features photos of the band members stuck together in a collage and wobbily coloured in (with Neil and Stephen the biggest, naturally), while the track listing runs into each other rather clunkily. You have to ask where the 'missing' songs from the 'Again' album have gone too ('Everydays' 'Hung Upside Down' and 'Sad Memory' are all superior to what's here). Still, as cash-ins go this is still rather good and - short of a full re-issue of all three albums - was a nice way of keeping the Springfield alive in the CSNY era.

Richie Furay/Poco: "Poco"
(Epic,  May 1970)
Hurry Up*/You Better Think Twice/Honky Tonk Downstairs/Keep On Believing*/Anyway Bye Bye*/Don't Let It Pass By*/Nobody's Fool (El Tonto De Nadie Regresa)*
* = song written or co-written by Richie Furay
"It'll offer you wings to fly away, but do not expect to land if you can't stay"
With Richie having got his last batch of Springfield songs out of his system, the second Poco record is much of a 'band' affair aimed at creating a diplomatic group identity (fittingly it's this second album that's named after the band, not the first as most groups usually have it). More or less all the band are included in the writing credits somewhere and the vocals are more evenly shared too. Despite sticking closer to the country-rock terrain there's an even more impressive array of instruments heard across this album and while the first album still has the edge in terms of songs, this second album has the edge in musicianship. Call me loyal, though, but Richie's songs are still the stand-out material, with his four songs (plus a lengthy jamming session on the already released 'Nobody's Fool') aiming to go a bit deeper than the more country-rock material on the rest of the LP and more like the first side of 'Pieces' than the second. The biggest talking point, though, is that Poco have dispensed with the compact story-telling of the first album for long extended jams on many of the album's songs - partly out of expediency (Richie didn't have enough songs ready and the other members weren't up to speed as songwriters yet) and partly because long jams were the 'in-thing' (even Stills had go into the act on 1968's 'Super Session' with Al Kooper and - on the non-Stephen side of the record - Mike Bloomfield). The seven minute weepie-with-surging-guitar-solos 'Anyway Bye Bye' is extraordinary enough compared to Poco's usual style and standards, but even that's beaten hollow by the outrageous 18 minutes of 'El Tonto De Nadie Regressa' - a repeat of the first album's 'Nobody Fool' in heavier clothes. Double the length of even the original extended 'Bluebird', it's Richie pushing the boundaries like never before - to mixed success it has to be said (a six or seven minute version would have been fine).
That said the album highlight isn't by Richie at all but the Springfield sound-alike 'You Better Think Twice' by Jim Merssina which comes on like a less subtle re-write of 'A Child's Claim To Fame' (if the writing credits didn't tell me otherwise I'd be convinced this was another song about Neil, the narrator asking his flighty friend to stay by him rather than 'spreading his wings' - compare to 'Expecting To Fly' where Neil went solo doing just that - of course it still might be the result of Jim picking up on the fact that Neil has left again just when the band are getting good and that he's done it far more times than just on his watch. Could this song be instead about Richie? Upset by the slow sales for 'Pickin' Up The Pieces' compared to the huge sales for the first CSN record and the lesser but still respectable sales for Neil's first two records he may have been having second thoughts about making Poco and country-rock his career - although unable to think of anything better he stays loyal for another three records. Messina leaves after this record, despite very much co-founding it with Furay: what changed between them? Is Messina accusing Richie of acting like Neil, something that would really get his goat? Furay sings Messina's lyrics with relish, better than his own in fact, suggesting this track has some personal significance for him.  The only other Furay-free song is far less enjoyable and finds Richie moans his way through the forgettable Dallas Frazier country cover 'Honky Tonk Downstairs', perhaps the nadir of his time in the group.
Ah well, Richie's own material is pretty interesting. 'Hurry Up' is a heavier-than-average song that features Richie trying to be patient but finding it hard. While dressed up to sound like a love song it's almost certainly about his frustrations over his own success: 'I've struck out, new faces are in...' Then again, parts of this unusually gloomy lyric sound like leftover steam from the end of the Springfield days (so much for 'Consequently, So Long' then!) as Richie bemoans yet another adjustment to a band of friends and asks 'how many more will there be?' (Poco are, for the moment, stable although perhaps he's already got wind that Jim Messina is getting cold feet and wants to move on). Highlighted by a brilliant storming Rusty Young solo, 'Hurry Up' is one of Furay's more interesting Poco songs with an intriguing lyric set to a strong beat. 'Believe' is a key word in many Furay's songs and the rather noisy 'Keep On Believin' is no different: a stomping beat that sounds like the guitarist banging his head against a tambourine-covered wall jumps around as much as 'What A Day' but sounds desperate rather than exuberant. You can really hear the three-way guitar battle going on in this track - something the Springfield sadly rarely did on LP with Messina, Furay and Young all shining in turn. It's just a shame that some murky double-tracking makes the lyrics rather hard to hear. New boy Tinothy B Schmidt makes his songwriting debut here: he'll go on to be a big name after joining The Eagles and will later cover for a poorly David Crosby during sessions for old buddy Stills' CSN album 'Daylight Again' in 1982.  'Anyway Bye Bye' is a sweet little ballad that finds Richie playing the 'Neil' role, asking 'are you sorry I'm leaving?' and almost cackling that without him 'it won't be easy'. The album's second highlight it's a prog rock epic that does a better job of 'Tomorrow' at linking up all the sections and has really built up in power by the time that Poco finally push through to a nicely soulful organ-drenched climax seven minutes in.
Side two features just two songs:  the first is a sleepy two-and-a-half minute ballad 'Don't Let It Pass Me By' that further cements the Poco sound: slow and soft, but with sudden lurches of tension. The song is credited to Richie and 'T Furay' *** - I can't find any info but presumably this is either a misprint or a family member (or a misprinted family member?!) The song makes for a sweet prelude to the re-make of 'Nobody's Fool', marking the fourth straight different interpretation of a simple folk song adapted to soul or Dewey Martin to sing, re-made into country and now turned into a funky jamming session. The Spanish version of the title (the lyrics are identical to 'Pickin' Up The Pieces' and sung in English throughout) points to Poco being influenced by Santana - Rusty Young's quirky echo-drenched guitar-work and the heavy use of tom-toms suggests this too. In truth this version of the song loses its way after coming to a natural full-stop some three minutes in before finally picking up on a 'doo-dah-der-dah-doo-bum-be-dum' riff that's rather good (but has nothing in common with the one for 'Nobody's Fool' - it doesn't even have the same 'you're not fooling me!' vibe anymore). As rhythm guitarist Richie is rather pushed to the sidelines and there's no guitar duelling to match the Stills-Young partnership. You have to ask, too, quite why this song is taking up 18 precious minutes on a band's crucial second album - as part of a double record by an established act then fine but there's the sense that Poco are putting all their eggs into one basket we've already heard once and wasn't that amazing the first time. All that said, Rusty is on great form, twirling this way and that round the riff like he's a seasoned veteran rather than a relative newbie and Messina's sudden panicked squeals near the end are pretty fine too.
Overall, then, 'Poco' is another fine effort that deserved to do better with a good three songs worthy of attention and a few nice ideas that although they don't always come off prove that Poco aren't resting on their laurels and are trying to mix it with the bigger boys. I've often felt that Poco never got the fair crack of the whip they deserved and - unlike the Springfield - it wasn't just through self-destruction. While not as consistent as the first LP, 'Poco' is another strong record that deserved a better fate. From now on, though, Richie's going to find it increasingly difficult to keep up artistically with his former colleagues...
Richie Furay/Poco: "Deliverin'"
(Epic,  Recorded September 1970, Released January 1971)
I Guess You Made It*/C'mon*/Hear That Music/Kind Woman*/Medley: Hard Luck-A Child's Claim To Fame*-Pickin' Up The Pieces*/You'd Better Think Twice/A Man Like Me*/Medley: Just In Case It Happens Yes Indeed*-Grand Junction-Consequently So Long*
* = Richie Furay compositions
"Though it seems hard to believe the heartache is gone, yes indeed!"
Despite having just two studio albums to their credit, Poco were already getting the reputation as a strong live draw. Epic were keen enough on the way things were going to commission this live LP which is a pretty accurate representation of a Poco concert of the day back when Richie was still leader and chief vocalist, dominating the song selection here. Jim Messina had already handed in his notice by the time this album was released although he's the 'other' star of the record with some lovely country picking and some great guitar duels with Rusty Young that are almost up there with the Stills-Young battles of old. Poco are still very much in the Springfield's shadow at this point, with some lovely live versions of 'Kind Woman'  and 'A Child's Claim To Fame' (discussed in more detail in our 're-recordings of Springfield songs' column near the end of the book) in addition to a pretty good selection of songs from the first two records. The highlight, though, are probably the 'new' songs exclusive to this set: both funky Furay rockers. 'A Man Like Me' is the best, about the toughest Poco ever sounded, while 'I Guess You Made It' is a rather less in control and rather panicky song about betrayal, a 'Child's Claim To Fame' for the 1970s that sounds like Richie still isn't over Neil's disappearances yet. Both songs sound better than anything from certainly the second album if not the first - one wonders why Poco didn't try these songs in the studio too (actually they did in the case of 'I Guess You Made It', which duly appeared on the Poco compilation 'Forgotten Trails'). The result is an enjoyable live LP, surprisingly polished for the age and a pretty good replica of the studio albums that may well be the most essential of all the Poco albums for curious Springfield albums who just want to 'test' Furay's future career rather than dive in head first.
?/You Are The One*/Railroad Days/From The Inside/Do You Feel It Too?*/Ol' Forgiver/What If I Should Say I Love You?*/Just For Me and u
Richie Furay/Poco: "From The Inside"
(Epic,  September 1971)
Hoe Down*/Bad Weather/What Am I Gonna Do?/You Are The One*/Railroad Days/From The Inside/Do You Feel It Too?*/Ol' Forgiver/What If I Should Say I Love You?*/Just For Me and You*
* = song written or co-written by Richie Furay
"The words are getting hard for me to find"
Here's where Poco begin to remove themselves completely for the Springfield days and became just another good time countrybilly act. Perhaps taking Jim Messina's defection over his domination of the credits to heart, Richie has a hand in just five of the album's ten songs and of these only the closing classy pop of 'Just For Me and You' (one of Poco's few hit singles) sounds like his heart is in it. Just take the opening 'Hoedown' - literally, that's the name of the song - which contains every yee-hah country picking boy having fun cliché under the sun. Oh and guess what the rhyme is: yep, 'we'll never slowdown'. The first album's personal insights and the breadth of vision of Richie's Springfield material suddenly seems a life time away - which makes rather a mockery of album title 'From The Inside' as arguably this album tells us less about the band than any other Poco album (up till the 1980s reunions anyway). After riding just ever so slightly behind Stills and Young in the reputation (if not sales) stakes, respect for Furay amongst the country-rock community took a huge nosedive starting with this album.
To be fair to them, though, Poco still have much to offer - even on autopilot Richie is one of the best singers in the business and the band sound much tighter with new boys George Grantham and Paul Cotton firmly in place (both of whom will still be going with the band years after Poco bail out!) What's more the band have somehow manages to enlist the services of Steve Cropper, once of Otis Redding's band Booker T and the MGs and one day due to work with fellow Springfielder in 2002 (once again Richie got there first!) The upside of the fact that every song sounds roughly the same at different speeds and that Poco aren't being anything like as adventurous is that this third album finally achieves the consistency the first two albums have struggled with. The good news is that from now on there are no more 18 minute jams based around Spanish re-writes of peculiar songs - the band news is that you come away almost preferring that to half an hour of the same song split into ten parts. Many of the non-Richie songs have their moments, especially Cotton's debut song 'Bad Weather' (a song about overcoming obstacles that would have fitted snugly onto 'Last Time Around') and Timothy B Schmidt's shimmery Neil Young-like title track. Three promising songs do not an album make though- while Poco were probably right to open themselves up to new musicians and new songwriting voices, Richie used to add a vital spark and willingness to go in new directions that's all but distinguished here.
Richie's song include the hopeless 'Hoe Down' - another candidate for Poco's nadir, which is so soaked through with country it makes Willie Nelson look like a punk without offering anything new or interesting to the millions of country songs that already exist. The slow weepy 'What Am I Gonna Do?' also sounds so similar to the Flying Burrito Brothers' material that this track sounds like a Gram Parsons composition.  While it's always good to hear Richie in touch with his feelings and some of the lines are good ('Seems like my whole life should be re-traced'), this song is just too slow and too boringly arranged (with a pedal steel the only colour in a slow plod of sound) to reverberate with the listener. The livelier 'You Are The One' is better, adding a touch of rock to proceedings with a re-write of 'What A Day' as Richie promises the sun will shine. While Richie himself places his conversion to Christianity later in the decade, I'm tempted to hear it starting here, with the 'You' in this song meaning 'God' in the 'George Harrison' style of writing ('Anyone whose turned around and lost his way is looking for you').  Poco really bounce off each other nicely on this track which is one of the better performed songs on the album.
'Do You Feel It Too?' is an oddity, a kind of swamp blues played with the same 'Santana' feel as the long 'Nobody's Fool' and Richie singing down what sounds like a megaphone. The song would have made a fine addition to the Rolling Stones albums of the period that loved adding odd blues covers to otherwise perfect LPs - I'm still not entirely sure whether I mean that as a compliment or not, but it's nice to hear Poco try to do something other than country-rock. 'What If I Should Say I Love You?' is Poco all over: a really beautiful heartfelt melodic verse featuring some fine CSN-approaching harmonies and some sterling guitar work simply doesn't know where to go and falls back on a sudden rush of adrenalin that achieves nothing before taking us back where we started. Still, this is another of the better songs on the album with a delightful song in there somewhere. The closing song 'Just For Me and You' is the best thing here by country-rock mile, though, a fun vintage pop song that wraps up all of Richie's charm and optimism in one nicely wrapped parcel. Like the rest of the album it's not all that deep but it's very pretty and Richie successfully conveys the happy intimacy of two lovers meeting up after both thought they were doomed to live their lives unloved. Given Richie's penchant for writing songs about the bands he's in masquerading as women, it sounds as if he's found peace and happiness at last and this song also gives each member of the band a chance to shine, especially Rusty (who otherwise is oddly quiet) who turns in a typically neat solo.+
Overall, then, there are worse country-rock albums around and this lesser Poco effort still beats most Eagle LPs for cleverness, adventurousness and heartfelt songwriting. This is undeniably a step backwards from the braveness of the first two records, though, and it's sad to hear Poco reach the same milestone as the Springfield with only having covered a fraction of the same ground. Something needs to improve and Richie needs to up his game. Alas he's not quite out of the woods yet as up next is Poco album number four...

Bruce Palmer: "The Cycle Is Complete"
(Verve,  September 1971)
Alpha-Omega-Apocalypse/Interlude//Oxo/Calm Before The Storm
"Beta-Gamma-Get This Record Back In The Shops!"
The problem for many bands when they break up is what becomes of the non-writing members, generally the rhythm section. While most Springfield fans imagined bright happy futures for Steve, Richie and Neil, the same wasn't always going to be true for Bruce and Dewey (especially as Bruce had only recorded a grand total of about 14 songs with the band before being busted and deported). However both men released solo records on smaller labels, which both showcase their very different and individual personalities. Bruce's record is particularly interesting, a series of three free-form jams (and one two-minute 'filler') that suggest Bruce's mindset was forever stuck somewhere around the 'summer of love'. Bruce, who plays guitar as well as bass throughout, assembled an impressive line-up for this LP including drummer Big Black (whose day job was with the Electric Flag and who's already played the drums for Stills' solo Springfield song 'Special Care' funnily enough) and vocalist Rick Matthews, who'd once fronted Bruce and Neil's band The Mynah Birds. Rick James was about to have a very busy future under his middle name 'Rick James'  when he finally made the big time at the age of 30 as a Motown singer in 1978, a generation after his peers had gone to find their fame and fortune. Sadly Bruce's career went the other way and he never did make any more recordings after this, a great shame as this nicely jazzy record has real promise - especially 'Oxo' with its lovely blend of raga-influenced guitar licks, flutes and occasional stinging violins. For years I'd read reviews for this album that dismissed it as self-indulgent, a 'mad' early 70s record by an acid casualty to file away alongside Skip Spence's 'Oar' and most work by Captain Beefheart (before he suddenly became 'hip' again in the 1990s - how did that happen?!) Actually what impresses most about this lovely record is how musical it all is - Bruce plays firmly within the rules of traditional music; there's no jarring attempts to shoe-horn influences together that won't go or messy sound effects or atonal jams that sound like The Spice Girls played on fast forward. Instead 'Cycle' is a loose jazz session between several talented players who wouldn't normally have gone together at all (I'm willing to bet Rick James, Big Black and the various members of forgotten psychedelic band Kaleidoscope had even met before working together on this album!) Throughout Bruce takes on the heavy responsibility of keeping the band together while letting everybody shine, demonstrating his zen-style playing with lots of wide open spaces while keeping the free-form jamming from becoming too up itself or flying too far from the ground. Everyone who knew Bruce always writes that he was one of a kind and that it was a tragedy that his drug busts kept him away from his natural home in the Springfield. Hearing this record I concur - a few minutes of this sort of thing (perhaps with Stills and Young playing along) added onto the eclectic 'Buffalo Springfield Again' would have made it a true monster of an LP. Alas, as the spooky closer 'Calm Before The Storm' makes clear, life for Bruce was about to get a lot darker, with drug addictions, brain fog and an unhappy stint in Neil Young's band in 1982 to come...


Richie Furay/Poco: "A Good Feelin' To Know"
(Epic,  November 1972)
And Settlin' Down*/Ride The Country/I Can See Everything/Go and Say Goodbye/Keeper Of The Fire/Early Times/A Good Feelin' To Know*/Restrain/Sweet Lovin'*
* = song written or co-written by Richie Furay
"If it seems to you that I am fading..."
In 1972 Neil Young released 'Harvest' - we can (and will) dispute it's claim as the guitarist's greatest ever accomplishment but it did contain 'Heart Of Gold' 'Old Man' 'A Man Needs A Maid' and 'The Needle and The Damage Done' all on the same LP so can be considered at least half a classic album. Stephen Stills, meanwhile, has formed Manassas - a seven-piece band who can play anything and whose debut record spilled over with so many extraordinary ideas it had to be turned into a double album. Richie - once the equal of both writers and a more natural singer than either - is reduced to propping up the new band formed solely through his vision, gaining just three songs on the album (equal to Paul Cotton and only one more than Timothy B Schmidt) while his voice is moved further and further away from the frontlines. As a loyal Richie Furay fan I'd love to say that his songs are still by far and away the best and that he's being sidelined through band politics not talent, but of his three tunes only the title track - another infectious slice of summery pop - comes anywhere close to his abilities. Instead this is very much Schmidt's stepping stone to fame and fortune, with the future Eagle star coming up with both album highlights (the sweet 'I can See Everything' and the hard-hitting - by Poco standards - 'Restrain').
To Springfield fans 'Good Feelin' will always be known as the album where Richie revived one of his favourite songs from the band's early years - Stills' 'Go and Say Goodbye' - and turned a cutesy pie pop song into a strutting country-rock anthem. It even made the bottom reaches of the charts - which is more than most Springfield songs had done (they never did put 'Goodbye' out as a single!) While the new arrangement is strong, with a switch between rock and country that's very in keeping with the style of both bands, the radical surgery the song has gone under simply shows how far down the country-rock Poco have come since 1968: Richie sounds like he's chewing gum throughout, a guitar solo alternated between rock, acoustic and pedal steel, there's a real 'yee-hah!' feel about the new walking pace tempo and Rusty's electric guitar almost sounds like an intrusion. There's even - go help us - a jew's harp popping up on the chorus - Stills would never have allowed that country touch through onto his song! I'm intrigued why Richie should have chosen to revive this song at this point in Poco's lifespan, just when the band were beginning to create their own identity away from the Springfield. Had enough water passed under the bridge in the four years between 'Last Time Around' and this record? Or is Richie offering us a 'clue' to his coming departure on the next record?
As for Richie's songs, 'And Settlin' Down' is a song filled from first to last with nervous tension, a riff that just won't sit still and an electric power unusual for this stage in Poco's career. Richie pleads with his audience to listen, effectively warning us a year early that he's thinking of leaving ('look at the faces, don't care what the pace is - I miss my woman!') He's not completely fed up, though, he still has 'music in my ears' and sounds as if he's trying to make his mind up. The opening cry of 'boogie!' is not the best way to start a song though and this song does sail close to cliche at times. Much better is the title track 'A Good Feelin' To Know', a kind of updated version of 'Kind Woman'. It's good to know that Richie is every bit as excited about his wife as he was when he got married, with his rapturous excitement at returning home to somebody who 'listens' and 'who loves you' impossible to dislike. Recorded with the full Poco harmony onslaught of chiming guitars, harmonies and every trick in their country pop and rock canons, this is one of the band's better recordings even if the song also suffers from the typical Poco trouble of running out of steam long before the end (most of the last minute of this three minute track is a superfluous repeat of 'It's a good feelin'...Feellin'! Feelin'!' over and over). Richie also closes the album with his customary epic finale 'Sweet Lovin', a six-and-a-half-minute song that begins with a full minute and a half of swampy church organ. Naturally the song proper when it starts is a gospel one, complete with guesting church choir and while the song doesn't quite suit Richie or the band it's nice to hear them trying something a little different. The central melody is a good one, too, as are the lyrics about a parent's joy at seeing their new-born baby (Richie 's daughter *Victoria* will end up in his band in about 30 years' time!)
Overall, then, 'A Good Feelin' To Know' is a bit of a mixed blessing. Paul Cotton's second batch of songs aren't as good as his first and Richie is perhaps trying a bit too hard with his songs. But when this album is good - on Timothy's songs and Richie's title track - Poco are still a force to be reckoned with. Thankfully their growing fanbase and well received concerts turned 'Feelin' into the best-selling Poco album so far - even if their sales were still a fraction of what old colleagues Stills and Young were achieving in their respective careers. Alas there's a major change on the horizon and Richie is at the heart of it - join us over the page for Poco album number five...
Richie Furay/Poco: "Crazy Eyes"
(Epic,  September 1973)
Blue Water/Fool's Gold/Here We Go Again/Brass Buttons/A Right Along/Crazy Eyes*/Magnolia/Let's Dance Tonight*
* = song written or co-written by Richie Furay
"I remember when it turned the band in a natural way, it seemed there was a time in my mind when it brought the light of day"
After five frustrating years trying to achieve the same success as his former Springfield colleagues, Richie has finally had enough and quits the band that was once formed as a vehicle for his songwriting but which he's become increasingly isolated from. Instead of acting shocked, most Poco fans seemed to carry on as if it was business as usual with the next few Poco albums without Richie amongst their most successful and strong-selling. Just to re-iterate how odd that is, though, let's put it like this: it's like The Who becoming a success without Pete Townshend circa 1968 (funnily enough the very year he was having a bit of an identity crisis...) or Brian Wilson leaving The Beach Boys circa 1966 and 'Good Vibrations (even when poorly the following year the elder brother couldn't leave the band no matter how hard he tried and to all his fellow band members and fans the thought of him not there in some form or another was unthinkable, even when palpably impossible). How did it get to this? How did Poco - a bunch of young unknown musicians who Richie considered he was doing a favour - end up eclipsing Furay's talent?
Richie barely appears on fifth Poco album 'Crazy Eyes', writing just two songs (out of eight - like the first four this is rather a short album) and only singing lead on both of these and one Gram Parsons cover. Unlike the last two records, though, Richie's songs are once again the highlights, at once both deeper and more melodic than what his fellow Poconians are coming up with. The theme of this album - perhaps with Richie's leaving day on everyone's minds - is very much 'loss' and 'heartbreak'. Richie's contributions are inspired in particular by the recent senseless death of ex-Byrd and country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons (the genre's Godfather, although both the Springfield and the other Byrds all have at least an input into it's DNA too). The title track is a eulogy for the lost soul and runs ever so close to saying those famous Neil Young words 'it's better to burn out than it is to rust', hinting that his death came because his 'crazy eyes' burned too bright. A Nice cover of Gram's best solo song 'Brass Buttons' (alluded to by Richie in the lyrics) - ever so nearly up to the original - is the album's other high spot. Elsewhere it's business as usual: Paul Cotton provides country-rock with the emphasis on rock ('Blue Water' is catchy but doesn't really go anywhere; 'A Right Along' is a great driving stomper with a better than average guitar riff), Timothy B Schmidt provides country-rock with the emphasis on 'country' ('Here We Go Again' is the 'other' best song on the album), Rusty gets a rare writing credit on the surprisingly strong finger-picking country instrumental 'Fool's Gold' (sounding not unlike the Clarence White-era Byrds in the process) and the band cover J J Cale's country weepy 'Magnolia', to not much great effect. 'Crazy Eyes' is a typically inconsistent Poco album, then (and they're about to become even more of a rollercoaster ride, with only Schmidt's fragile folky tunes worth going out of your way to listen to) but thanks mainly to Richie's near-ten minute title track this is the most interesting and worth purchasing Poco album since the second one.
As mentioned, Richie only gets two songs so this section won't take long. 'Crazy Eyes' itself is the epic he's been trying to make for some time, to dig a little deeper than the yee-hah two minute pop-country-rock hybrids that are Poco's default setting. The death of Gram Parsons - which drew a line in the sand of country music as deep as Lennon's did in rock - has clearly set him thinking though: about Gram's life as a spoilt rich millionaire with a drive to fly in the face of authority and blend two genres that had always been polar opposites; why this made Richie so determined to travel down the same path; how music and art needs great inspirers to create ('oh the loving you gave me!') and what that means for Richie now that he never got to meet his 'idol' and the genre seems to be over ('now to be or not be, that is the question now') . What's interesting is that if you didn't get the reference to 'Brass Buttons' you might not have realised this song was about Gram at all: it could be anyone with 'crazy eyes' (Neil's were pretty crazy too...) The music too is orchestral and moody - more like 'In The Hour Of Not Quite Rain' than anything else in Richie's canon and only a bit of banjo and pedal steel hint at any country influence at all (to be honest this song sounds more like one mourning the death of a prog rock band, like Pink Floyd or The Moody Blues). While the three minute instrumental break pushes the song past the point where it should have ended, the entire 'wordy' section holds your interest - no small achievement for a song that lasts almost a third of the playing time. What a shame that Richie left when he did because by returning to what made him want to create country-music in the first place - and sensibly learning from a rule-breaker not to simply parrot a style he likes totally - he seems to have finally 'cracked' what Poco should and could have been here. His harmonies with Schmidt - the only real time the pair have sung together - are especially great, Richie getting a worthy 'number two' after 19 months in the Springfield being the best at that.
Which is not to say Poco  were usually useless - far from it. There's a place in music for short bursts of cheery pop and country-rock's most commercial band deserved more success than they ever got with or without Richie in the band. The trouble with them was that you only ever got half a record when they were truly trying - half of every record could also be trite and annoying. Richie's farewell song 'Let's Dance Tonight' isn't as bad as 'Hoedown' and features some nice lyrics about 'stepping away, back to L.A.' which offer himself and the band some closure. In truth, though, there's nothing in this simple song about wanting a last dance before he goes that wasn't better said by many other bands the world over millions of times before this. 'Come on - let's dance, tonight!' is the kind of chorus best forgotten, a relic left over from simpler times when musicians and writers didn't have to try quite so hard. In truth Richie's farewell goes on a bit long without much to say - like that rather awkward retirement party you felt you had to go to be polite and could never quite extricate yourself from.
Overall, then, Poco's tale is one of even more missed opportunities and of a band sound pulled in more directions than even the Springfield. Unlike the Buffaloes, though, there's been no cult revival for Poco despite the fact that several members 'discovered' by Richie went on to find bigger fame than he ever did in soundalike copycats The Eagles (a truly pale re-tread of this band who simply had a better management and publicity system as well as the benefit of a few extra years when country-rock was better established). All too often forgotten against bigger, noisier, more successful bands Poco deserve to be remembered - as the name suggests, a little goes a long way and in truth there's a good third of their catalogue I'd never want to hear again (including the odd song of Richie's). But when Poco were good they were doing things nobody else was (more commercial and accessible than Gram, with more character than The Eagles) and doing them very very well. Poco, for all their faults, deserved better recognition with and without Richie than they ever got and while  a rather good (and long!) best-of continues to sell well (including many of Richie's early songs outlined above - though sadly not always the best) these first five albums in particular are really great minor gems, made all the more interesting because hardly anybody talks about this band anymore and nobody from after the 1970s whose tried this band out ever expected anything from them. Poco won't be the greatest discovery you'll ever make - on the level of the Buffalo Springfield amongst other AAA bands - but they're so much better than you might think.

"Buffalo Springfield"
(WEA,  November 1973)
For What It's Worth/Sit Down, I Think I Love You/Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing/Go and Say Goodbye/Pay The Price/Burned/Out Of My Mind/Mr Soul/Bluebird (Unedited Version)/Broken Arrow/Rock and Roll Woman/Expecting To Fly/Hung Upside Down/A Child's Claim To Fame/Kind Woman/On The Way Home/I Am A Child/Pretty Girl Why/Special Care/Uno Mundo/In The Hour Of Not Quite Rain/Four Days Gone/Questions
"Take all those blues, must be a thousand hues, and be just differently used, you just know"
The third and - to date - last Springfield compilation is a peculiar beast, like many of these sort of records unwanted and unsanctioned by the band and made in something of a hurry to be ready for the Christmas market (who yet again had been half-promised and then robbed of CSNY product). That said, it's a pretty good one stop-shop for anyone who'd got into the band since their split, when all three albums were long since deleted and being a double LP has more scope than the other two in explaining just who this band were and why they mattered. The track listing is almost chronological (you can forgive them for putting 'For What It's Worth' first instead of seventh where it should be) and the impressive seven and nine selections from 'Again' and 'Last Time Around' get no queries from me. Even the cover is quite nice - another collage style front of the band holding a hoola-hoop, looped to look like there's more of them than there really are (trippy...)
However the reason this album is so pricey and sought-after isn't anything to do with the packaging or track listing but the fact that record label WEA 'accidentally' used a fully unedited nine-minute master take of 'Bluebird' without the band's knowledge. For those who don't know, the band originally played on 'jam style' past the 'false ending', coming in not with the 'Appalachian mountain banjo' known from the record but a throat-searing gritty jam that ends up huffing and puffing its way through several soul cries of 'alright!' into a recap of 'Leave' (a track from the first album) and finally back into the main song, only to then tail off into another jam. These sorts of things were all the rage back in 1968 and the Springfield are better than most, with this welcome rarity showing off yet more fizzing Stills-Young guitar duelling. Alas the band don't seem to rate it very much and were appalled to find it released; despite many requests from fans they've never re-released it and abandoned plans to include it on the 'Buffalo Springfield' box set of 2001. Until the band finally acquiesce, it seems likely that this double album best-of will remain a pricey rarity, much sought after by fans.
"The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band"
(Asylum, 'Mid' 1974)
Fallin' In Love*/Heavenly Fire/The Heartbreaker/Believe Me*/Border Town//Safe At Home/Pretty Goodbyes/Rise and Fall/Flight Of The Dove*/Deep Dark and Dreamless
* = Richie Furay compositions
"Can you see where we've been? You know we can't do that again! Gonna be hard - hard times"
Crosby, Stills and Nash simply had to exist in 1969 - the world needed them and hard as the trio tried to argue that they hated being in bands their vocal blend and complementary writing styles were such that they were clearly destined to be together for all eternity (in between the twice yearly rows anyway). They were a true meeting of brothers - by contrast The Souther-Hillman-Furay band weren't even friends. You can see where this is going can't you? As the boss of new record label Asylum David Geffen was sure that the CSN template was going to bring him riches and he might have been right had he chosen three people who'd met in similar circumstances who'd already had one shot at fame in their lives already (10cc are about the closest, being effectively Stockport's answer to California's CSN!) So sure was Geffen that there was mileage yet in the Springfield and Byrds canons that he contacted two of them who'd been having rather a rough time of it lately: Richie was getting rather bored in Poco and losing faith in the band after several flop records, while Chris Hillman - once bassist in The Byrds - was furious that yet again fellow Byrd Gram Parsons had bailed out on him as part of their spin-off band 'The Flying Burrito Brothers' (long story short: Chris needed the money but as the privileged son of a millionaire Gram didn't and he showed up to gigs late, drunk or not at all - occasionally all three, which is quite some going) and that Stills had ended the career of promising band Manassas to return to CSN.
Chris and Richie knew each other - Hillman's enthusiasm had been chiefly responsible for the Springfield's first shot at fame supporting The Byrds - but they were hardly bosom buddies and hadn't really talked in eight years. Neither of them knew Geffen's protégé J D Souther, a writer who will indeed find some form of fame and notoriety amongst 1970s record buyers as a writer (penning hit songs for The Eagles and Linda Ronstadt) but for now is effectively a nobody with just one flop record to his name. The trio really didn't gel - Souther was used to working alone and both Richie and Chris had fought hard to escape the 'number two supporting role' tag from their first respective bands. Just look at the cover: J D Souther is looking serious, Richie is giggling his head off, Chris in the middle doesn't know what to do so goes for an expression somewhere in between; this is a band who don't even find the same things funny and when that happens you ain't got a band! Even  finding the backing crew was hard work compared to CSN - Hillman simply 'invited' the remnants of Manassas (the band he'd formed with Stephen Stills) to work on the album, but this caused tensions because the other two didn't know any of them and this was in danger of becoming a 'Hillman' solo album. The band were meant to singing about brave new tomorrows like CSN - instead they spent most of both records sniping about the shallowness of the music business and their weariness after having to start a new band all over again. Geffen, convinced that he was on to a winner, blitzed the media with a campaign strong enough to get the record all the way to #11 in the American charts, the highest Hillman had managed since The Byrds' peak years and higher than Richie or J D had ever managed before in their careers. Clearly there was a fanbase out there for these albums to work, but even the most generous critics claimed to be 'underwhelmed' by this album, the trio far less than the sum of their parts.
In the end The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band stayed together long enough to make two records and despite both records' low reputations some of it is rather good in a 'coasting California rock' kind of a way. This first album is best, with a good half of it written when the band were still hopeful this band could be a long-term investment, although even this one is more like three solo albums in one with the band rarely having much input on each other's material. Richie's is the best, especially on the first album, where he gets three songs: opening track 'Fallin' In Love' is a sturdy rocker that finds Richie clearly enjoying himself with a meatier sound than most of what Poco delivered. Unfortunately the lyrics are a little too generic to make this song a classic, but this track does sport a memorable singalong chorus and a typically breezy optimism that's as welcome as ever. 'Believe Me' is the album highlight, a gorgeous piano ballad with a beautiful haunting melody that's clearly written with wife Nancy in mind as Richie updates 'Kind Woman' with lines about a long lasting relationship that still continues to surprise and delight him. The trio actually sound like a real live band on this one, with some nice chorus harmonies  that turn this track into a rocker midway through. 'The Flight Of The Dove' is the weakest of Richie's three songs, a slow burning blues about how 'apathy is killing me' that does rather too good job at summing up how stuck-in-the-mud Richie feels his career is. This song is very fitting to the overall theme of the record, though, and the performance rescues the song to some extent, with a nicely gritty lead from Richie and some lovely organ licks from Paul Harris.
Elsewhere Hillman has a very up and down album, providing the record's other highlights ('Safe At Home' and 'Rise And Fall') and the album's weakest moment ('Heavenly Fire' - to think Hillman left Manassas for this!), all three enhanced by some lovely Furay harmony vocals (the pair's voices aren't a natural fit and there's not much chemistry there, but they're still a nice blend). J D Souther, meanwhile, growls his way indifferently through his own songs (which all have a habit of sounding the same) and is audible by his absence on his partner's creations. The trio must surely have been ready to cut their losses and run once this album was out, but the fact that it sold so well and the fact that both Hillman and Furay had burned all their bridges meant they gave this trio idea one last go.


The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band "Trouble In Paradise"
(Asylum,  'Mid' 1975)
Trouble In Paradise/Move Me Real Slow/For Someone I Love*/Mexico/Love and Satisfy//On The Line*/Prisoner In Disguise/Follow Me Through/Somebody Must Be Wrong
* = Richie Furay compositions
"There's trouble in paradise, the story don't sound too nice, and you just can't sleep at night in a solid gold room"
The general consensus is that the second Souther-Hillman-Furay record is even more of a disaster than the first and this time the record bombed badly, missing the charts completely. However, while the trio still sound far from telepathic 9and yet again Richie looks cheerful on the cover while the other two look glum), I find this second album much of a team effort - even J D Souther sounds like he's getting involved this time around and Richie and Chris do their usual capable job of backing him and each other up. The mood is still anger, bordering on bitterness, with all three men spending yet more time reflecting on their respective flop bands and wondering where their career goes from here, trapped together in a band none of them want but where none of them can think of anything better. However this is a much more upbeat album, with Souther's country honk title track (the album highlight this time around) setting the tone: it reads like a tragedy but sounds like a comedy, with Richie having fun adding some 'yeehas' and enjoying the 50s rock groove. The other highlight is Hillman's Manassas outtake 'Love and Satisfy', a clever little country-rocker about aiming to please but your best never being good enough (although Manassas' version on outtake set 'Pieces' is a bit better, certainly less polished than here).
This time around Souther and Hillman really dominates the album credits with four songs to his name - poor Richie only gets two. Thankfully they're both good ones this time around. 'For Someone I Love' is the weaker of the two, pretty but pretty inconsequential, the kind of thing Paul McCartney churns out in his sleep and then gives to Ringo to sing. The trio have really got the knack of harmonies now though and this song sounds good even if the foundations are flimsy. 'On The Line' is much better, an interesting country lament that would have been right up Poco's road, with a nice melody, a great organ break from Manassas' Paul Harris and some reflective words from Richie about his mixed re-action to the trio's sudden success ('Feelin' a little of that love - I suppose' he sighs).
Overall, then, it's a shame Richie doesn't get more air time for his second at least suggests he deserves it, although it seems from reading interviews of the period that he tired of the artificial construction of the band a bit quicker than the other two. With this second record disappearing much quicker than the first and all three members keen to go their own ways before the band became a long-term rather than a short-term affair, the trio quietly folded - a shame given the promise on the best of this record, although in truth there's maybe only two-thirds of a good record between the pair of them. Richie's next moved seemed inevitable - some six years after Stills and eight after Young, he was finally going to be alone, strictly solo, without anyone else around to help him flesh out an album. Strangely enough his two old companions were having exactly the same idea...Richie Furay: "I've Got A Reason"
(Asylum,  'Mid' 1976)
Look At The Sun/We'll See/Starlight/Gettin' Through/I've Got A Reason//Mighty Maker/You're The One I Love/Still Rolling Stones/Over and Over Again
"I've found I'm a singer of songs and they belong to you, all of the time"
We might never find out what that 'reason' is directly across this record (although faith has a lot to do with it), but there's no doubting that it's there. Richie is committed and energised here, giving his full attention and enthusiasm to a project for the first time since the early Poco days. Arguably the best of Richie's half-a-dozen solo albums, this record might not match up to the adventurousness or ground-breaking level of the Springfield and is musically far closer to Poco than 'Sad Memory' or 'A Child's Claim To Fame', but this is an undeniably pretty beautiful record with a nice glossy production - and for once on these pages isn't meant as an insult. Michael Omartian's production came before the producer won a grammy (for Christopher Cross' similar debut, which isn't a patch on this record), but very much sounds like a man who deserves one. He also clearly worked well with Richie (both men were recent conversions to Christianity). Richie has a lovely voice but he's rarely given the chance to use, what with duelling guitarists, noisy drummers and Poco members snapping at his heels. Here he's determined to give his all and it's arguably his greatest half hour or so as a singer, Richie getting every nuance and expressive emotional moment spot on.
The songs are a little bit behind the production and singing - Richie's never had to fill a whole album with his own songs before and as ever there's a fair bit of filler here. However the best of them are excellent, the reverse of the coin heard on the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band albums where Richie felt trapped by fame and locked onto a carousel he couldn't escape. Here he's free, experiencing life anew and no longer cares how successful he is or even if anyone hears him - instead he's content to be doing what he wants to be doing. The album also explores his relationship with Nancy, now coming up to their tenth anniversary - which must have seemed a world away given that their honeymoon had to be fitted round a TV show and Springfield gigs. Now Richie is a free man and most of this record is delightfully upbeat. Not co-incidentally, this is also the period where Richie began to hear the 'calling' of Christianity and from here on in his attentions will slowly turn away from the rock and roll crowds to the church. Richie had 'heard the word' after befriending Manassas and Souther-Hillman-Furay Band steel guitar player Al Perkins; while his new found faith was gently mocked by the Manassas crowd (rtock and roll and Christianity aren't natural bed-fellows), Furay was his usual empathetic self and gradually came to be drawn to the pair's conversations each day.  For now, though, Richie is using the early 'Cat Stevens' trick of hinting at his faith and being 'born again' and given a second chance, rather than the 'Yusuf' or 'George Harrison' esque approach of shoving it all down our throats the first chance he gets. There are several references here to the 'sun' for example  - an old songwriter's trick for implying inspiration and a source of energy - and the opening of the record finds Richie watching the sun of a new day come pouring through his window (it's a wonder he doesn't record 'Morning Has Broken' for this album); it all seems in great contrast to the Springfield's final chaotic days (where 'there'll be no sun today' because all of Richie's patience and enthusiasm had been used up). By the way, 'We'll See' is a new Richie song, rather than a revival of the unreleased Stills song recorded on the box set (although as we've seen Richie was far from averse to reviving Springfield songs when the mood took him).
'Look At The Sun' is an atmospheric start, with Richie in awe at the sunlight streaming through his bedroom window which he's never seen properly before. An epic song full of sudden twists and turns, it's a nicely upbeat opening to the album with 'the winds blowin' and my ship a sailin' again'.
'We'll See' is another album highlight, a breezy pop song about not caring what the future has in store - Richie's content to run his life without a game-plan ('What will the seeds I've planted become? We'll see!') Richie makes this song undeniably autobiographical, talking about a lifetime 'makin' songs' before warning his audience that all that might be about to change ('Ready or not, I'll be going').
The gorgeous 'Starlight' makes it three strong songs in a row. A haunting piano ballad with Richie's tenor at its finest, this is a cosy romantic love song for wife Nancy which sighs in awe at her strength and support, Richie moved by her show of love at his latest career change and adding 'you've outlasted everyone'. Richie harks back to the album theme by claiming that 'everyone sees the sun but not many get to touch the sky'.
'Gettin' Through' isn't quite as strong and is the most overtly like Richie's past music - although sadly for us this is a Poco-lite song rather than a Springfield one. A sort of hybrid 50s rockabilly-country, this song is also the most overtly about Richie's faith, claiming that this new inspiration came to him 'in a song' and that just as he believed 'with all my soul' in rock and roll' so he's found a new direction for his love. Once again the sun comes out to greet him, making its presence felt 'in a clouded sky'.
Title track 'I've Got A Reason' is a pretty closer to the first side, a reflective song where Richie looks back on an adulthood spent 'like a child' chasing ethereal dreams and reflecting that at last 'I've got a reason for living each day' after so many years of 'thinking I knew how this story would end'. Alas Richie peaks a bit too soon on this song and goes a tad shrill somewhere in the middle.
'Mighty Maker' is a rock song about God - no, really - which is arguably the album's weakest moment and (if I've read it accurately) the most unappetising lyric of the album. Richie is tired of being alone to delight in the new surprising direction his life's taken and asks for God to shine the light on his wife too, irrespective of whether she wants it to or not. Lines like 'the devil drove her away from my dream' are rather ungenerous and hint that it took a while for those close to Richie to accept his conversion (after all, going from being the wife of a rock star out on the road to a church pastor home every day is quite a life change!)
'You're The One I Love' is another rather oddball moment: as far as I know this is the only time an ex member of the Buffalo Springfield doing reggae! Like many white Westerners who try to get the Jamaican groove the results are laughable. However, there's a catchy chorus about having to wait for a good thing and that making it all the sweeter when it comes along  and another reference to celestial activities that clearly point to some deity in the Heavens, this time stars shining at night.
'Still Rolling Stones' is a little aimless too, the kind of sappy mid-70s rocker punk was put on the planet to expose (and explode). Impatient with his rock star buddies, Richie fumes that it's a world full of liars and that everyone he knew from ten years earlier is stuck repeating themselves via a clever pun ('While you're still rolling stones, I'm going home, so so long, goodbye!') This probably isn't the place to point out that only a year before the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band were rolling stones with the best of them...
'Over and Over Again' rescues the second side at the last minute, a marvellous moody ballad about how the best things take time to come together. In the most original metaphor on the album, Richie compares his life to a dancefloor:  'You keep draggin' along like you never belonged' , but now he's found his 'rhythm' things will never be the same. It's interesting how often Richie compares his spiritual awakening with music across this album, adding again here how similar the two loves are and that the shock discovery of music in his teens is comparable to the spiritual thoughts he's experiencing now in his mid-thirties. A nice unexpected false ending then pulls us physically onto the dancefloor as Richie tries one more time to excite and enlighten his listeners with what he's feeling. I'd love to tell you that this was the only occasion that an ex member of the Buffalo Springfield went disco as well but that wouldn't be true (although I have a softer spot for Stills' 'Thoroughfare Gap' than most fans seem to!)
The overall result is a largely beautiful and polished an album as any soft-rock solo record released in the 1970s, released in the dying months before punk came along to wipe such music away. 'I've Got A Reason' is one of the few 1975/76 records that deserve saving, a mature and honest record on a par with 'Stills' (out in 1975) and Young's 'Tonight's The Night' (ditto) as one of the better releases of Richie's career. Along with Poco's 'Pickin' Up The Pieces' and 'Deliver' it's probably the best place to start if you want to learn more about what Richie went on to do next after the Springfield broke up, especially side one. From here on Richie's music will get a little more predictable, following a two-year break, but here the inspiration is flowing and the music keeps on coming.

Richie Furay: "Dance A Little Light"
(Asylum,  'Mid' 1978)
It's Your Love/Your Friends/Ooh Dreamer/Yesterday's Gone/Someone Who Cares//Dance A Little Light/This Magic Moment/Bittersweet Love/You Better Believe It
"It'll offer you wings to fly away, but do not expect to land if you can't stay"
Richie's second album moves back a little from the evangelism of the first. In many ways it seems like a 'goodbye' to old friends: Richie regrouped with old producer Jim Mason (who'd produced the fourth Poco album) and his old Poco buddies Timothy B Schmidt and Rusty Young, plus the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band's Chris Hillman. However the sound has moved on even further away from the back-to-basics country rock of Poco and the sheer rawness of the Springfield at their best to a really polished sound of orchestras and - on 'Yesterday's Gone' - a jazz big band. The results don't really suit Richie's voice or his sweet and understated songs (heavy on the ballads again) and are less convincing than 'I've Got A Reason' somehow. There's also a lot more 'cover' songs creeping in to the album's running order, including two by Doc Pomus and Mort Schuman.
Still, there are a number of highlights the equal of the last album. 'Someone Who Cares' is a delightful ballad that really pulls at the heartstrings, Richie's 'reply' to this a 'reply' to 'Starlight' from the last album where Richie promises his support in return for his wife's. 'Bittersweet Love' is a fascinating song about betrayal , Richie longing to be friends with someone who keeps letting him down but realising that it's never going to happen - a fact that saddens him (is it about Neil?! The lines read 'It's a bittersweet love that called us out to 'play', but we had cryin' and sighin' each day'). Standalone single  'Stand Your Guard' - added to the CD of this album - is an excellent song, which should have given Richie a real hit, an urging to Richie's fanbase to keep going through troubled times so that something better can come along (a fierce guitar duel and a fun Poco-style country instrumental in the middle means that this recording is much grittier and tougher than the actual album. Alas the other songs here tend to be bland filler, without the emotional weight of the songs outlined above, full of the usual mid-70s penchant for disco drumbeats, a choir of female singers and slick and solid production that saps all the energy out of the record (you'd never know that punk had happened - this is even more of a mid-70s beast than 'I've Got A Reason'). Still, this album is an awful lot better than critical reputation and commercial sales suggest and once again it's an album well overdue for another re-issue on CD. If only Richie had done a little more thinking and a little less dancing this might have been another real winner - that said, the third of this album is well worth seeking out.

Richie Furay: "I Still Have Dreams"
(Asylum,  'Mid' 1979)
Ooh Child/Lonely Too Long/Island Love/Come On/I Was A Fool/I Still Have Dreams/Satisfied/Headin' South/Oh Mary/What's The Matter Please?
"My life seems like a hundred years a day, waiting in this dream - a nightmare I should say"
Ever wondered what a Christian Rock disco album might sound like? 'I Still Have Dreams' is the answer and suddenly singing in a contemporary vein (instead of a singer-songwriter country-rock style that was looking a bit passé by 1979) Richie suddenly sounds ten years younger. He clearly struck a nerve with his audience too, with the title track making the top 40 of the pop charts - a big deal considering that, unbelievably, it was the first track Richie had worked on that had gone top 40 since 'For What It's Worth' 12 years previously! The song is still heard on radio occasionally to this day (especially the gospel stations, so I'm told) and if you know it then rest assured that the rest of the album is very much in the same vein: Richie's in good voice, the backing somehow manages to combine uptempo pop, gospel and disco and the mood is upbeat throughout. In fact if anything this record gets a bit irritating by how happy Richie sounds throughout, with the same smile in his voice throughout. Once again Richie is joined by an all-star cast from his past, with J D Souther around this time to cameo alongside Poco's Timothy B Schmidt and Randy Meisner (who was in the first line-up of Poco but who left during the making of 'Pickin' Up The Pieces', with his few recorded parts replaced by George Grantham). For the backing Richie borrowed the services of 'The Section', a band who recorded a few records on the side of working as the go-to band for Californian musicians across the 1970s (they play on the second and third albums by Stills' partners Crosby and Nash; incidentally Craig Deorge - keyboardist on this album and CSN's 'Live It Up' record of 1990 - is the only person Stills and Furay have both worked with in their careers, alongside Chris Hillman and the other Springfielders obviously).
Compared to the last two albums, 'I Still Have Dreams' is a consistent album, of much the same quality throughout. On the plus side this means there are less out and out mistakes like 'Mighty Maker' and 'Yesterday's Gone'. On the negative side, there are less standout songs that are truly worth going out of your way to hear, with even the hit single title track not quite the head-and-shoulders superior track everyone else seems to think it is (it's a bit boring, to be honest, although the atmospheric Billy Preston-style opening is rather nice). A good sign of a good album is how long it stays in your head after you've finished playing it - even after a few playings I can't remember any of this record now that it's finished playing. This time around there's decidedly less references to God and Christianity in the lyrics, which are mainly built up of original songs this time around (albeit with several outside collaborators for the most part). Instead the theme throughout is love: having it, losing it, looking for it, regaining it, the usual kind of thing. 'Island Love' is arguably the best song, simply for bucking the trend of the rest of the album and adding a bit of a Hawaiian feel to the track (and unlike the clumsy 'You're The One I Love' it just about gets away with a new sound thanks to some George Harrison-esque slide guitar and a nice vocal from Richie that sounds like a 'tourist', not a lame attempt at gettin' down wid de locals, man as before).
You'd have thought this album and tie-in single's surprise hit status would have been enough for Asylum to re-sign Richie, especially given David Geffen's worry that Richie's audiences might not take to his overtly religious material (seemingly re-enforced by this album's healthy sales). However Asylum instead chose to but let his contract slide, leaving Richie free to explore his religious side with greater fervour on a new home in the coming years. Is that a good thing? Well, yes and no. There's nothing wrong with 'I Still Have Dreams' - in many ways it's a more musical and listenable album than anything to come in Richie's solo oeuvre. And yet, you can tell that the guitarist's heart really isn't in it anymore - you might question the source of the passion of the next run of albums but there's no doubting that it's there, whereas with this album fans have to do a lot of searching to find the 'real' Richie hidden under a back of user-friendly slick production values and sappy pop songs.
Richie Furay and Poco: "Songs Of Richie Furay"
(Epic,  'Mid' 1980)
A Good Feelin' To Know/Hurry Up/Don't Let It Pass By/What If I Should Say I Love You?/Pickin' Up The Pieces//Crazy Eyes/And Settlin' Down/C'Mon (Live)/What Am I Gonna Do?
"Somebody yelled at me, country music and record company - kinda makes it on a Sunday Afternoon"
Despite Poco never quite making the big time, the rest of the band's persistence in continuing after founder Richie left - six albums in - had finally paid off handsomely with their post-Furay album 'Legend' hitting the top 20 in 1978 (which is doubly odd, because technically speaking it's a spin off recording a la CSNY featuring just Paul Cotton and Rusty Young without the rest of the band - it was the record company ABC who turned it into a 'Poco' album; it's always intrigued me why this album in particular took off - it's no better, worse or any different to most of the others). Epic, Poco's original label, wanted to cash in one some of that fame so they came up with a compilation of 'their' years with the band, which actually stretched a further two albums and another year after Richie's swansong 'Crazy Eyes'. However, Epic cleverly decided to appeal to two audiences: Buffalo Springfield were also quite 'hip' in 1978 thanks to a contemporary return to form for Neil Young (whose 1978 album 'Comes A Time' was also his most successful in a long while) and the success of the 'CSN' album of 1977 (the record known to fans as 'the one with the boat'). Even the cover serves a sort of 'dual role' - horses were big on Poco packaging after Richie left the band (that's all there is on the front cover of 'Legend' for instance), partly because of Poco's best post-Furay song (and their biggest single hit) 'Rose Of Cimarron' (whose a horse, by the way, not a plant). The Springfield of course were all cowboys and indians, with Richie generally dressed as the cowboy (even if he never quite took to the stetson hats the way that Stills did). So what could be more natural than combining the two and having a cowboy on a horse?! Actually that's rather clever - would that the art department at Atlantic spent that much time on the trilogy of Springfield compilations...
Anyway, as a result this is an oddball compilation that sought to play up Richie's role within the band and make Poco seem like the true inheritors of the Springfield's crown, pushing Richie's name up front in big letters and only using songs written by Furay and from his time with the band. The result is actually pretty good - certainly for those collectors who came to this album as a Springfield rather than Poco fan - and does a good job at rounding up most of Richie's success stories with the band (although sadly 'What A Day' 'Nobody's Fool' and 'Anyway Bye Bye' - the rest of the pick of the bunch - are sadly missing). Full marks for including the whole of the lengthy 'Crazy Eyes' title track though and for substituting the rather ramshackle studio take of 'Cmon' with a cracking live version from the 'Deliverin' LP. The result is an album that's sadly rather rare and isn't available on CD (although all the tracks are available separately on their various albums - impressively all the Poco records came out rather early and are still widely available if you're patient enough to have a look in smaller, more specialised shops). A shame because it's a rather handy way of getting the majority of Furay's essential work with his 'second' band and a reminder that, while highly variable, Poco at their best were another highly under-rated band. Thankfully an 'extended' version of this set, with rarities, did come out in 1990 and while far from common is easier to find than this set...

Dewey Martin: "One Buffalo Heard"
(Piccadilly Records,  'Mid' 1980)
I Don't Want To Cry/I Don't Want To Have To Worry About You/Tell her Tonight/It Took A Long Time/I'll Understand/White Cliffs Of Dover//While I Wait/Always/Something 'R Other/Things We Said Today/If You Need Me/Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day
"There'll be love and laughter, peace forever after, tomorrow - just you wait and see!"
The year 1982 was a big one for the Buffalo Springfield rhythm section; at the same time Bruce Palmer had been called back to the ranks in Neil Young's 'Trans Band' the band's drummer was making his first recordings for 12 years! Arguably the rarest record in this book, Dewey's second and last album is a sheer cash-in on the Buffalo Springfield name from the pun in excruciating pun in the title and the actually rather good illustrated cover where a buffalo listens to a gramophone with a barren landscape behind him. However once again the music couldn't be more different, with Dewey moving on even from the 'soul' songs that were his staple with the band to offer the same blend of heavy handed versions of light and delicate songs that made up most of 'Medicine Ball'. This time around the songs are more suitable: second Beatles cover 'The Things We Said Today' stands up to Dewey's gravelly voice rather well, while David Gates' 'Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day' (also recorded by The Monkees and perhaps learnt from David Price, Monkee friend, stand-in and member of Medicine Ball) sounds rather good with all that extra bluster and power (it also sums up Dewey's happy-go-lucky personality well). Or at least most of them - Dewey roaring through Vera Lynn's 'White Cliffs Of Dover' like Meatloaf's older brother is enough to start a third world war (especially as the drummer had never actually been to Britain to see Dover for himself!) Again though even this song is nicely Dewey-like (had Vera Lynn been born 30 years later, on a different continent and had a sex change she too might have been singing 'Good Time Boy' on stage with the Springfield!) Once again, though, it's the originals that are the weakest in the bunch and one wonders why Dewey turn to his first love of soul for this album, once again passing up the opportunity to sound like his idol Otis Redding. this time around a rather faceless backing band lack the spark of Medicine Ball too and the result is even more on the sloppier side. All that said, this is another of the albums in this list which is long overdue a CD release and deserves to be heard by a much wider audience (even Dewey's wikipedia page doesn't mention this album!)

Richie Furay: "Seasons Of Change"
(Myrrh,  January 1982)
Hallelujah/Endless Flight/Yellow Moon Rising/Season Of Change/My Lord and My God/Rise Up/Promise Of Love/Home To My Lord/For The Prize/Through It All
"I was born in love, a son to be named, I grew up wild, hard to be tamed"
By 1982 Richie had been dropped by Asylum and his religion was taking up more and more of his time. However he was reluctant to wave goodbye to his musical career forever so Richie made what seemed an entirely natural move - he recorded this album for a smaller label specialising in Christian Rock CDs (with the wonderful biblical name 'Myrrh'). The result is one of Richie's rarest albums, only fleetingly available on CD, and it's one that continues to divide fans ever since his release. Given the new circumstances and the lack of a record company breathing down his neck, Richie naturally went ever further down the road of Born Again Christian-dom, no longer couching his faith in terms of metaphors or 'love'. Fans coming to this record direct from 'Buffalo Springfield Again' would have been left scratching their head as Furay ends up singing against a snappy happy gospel backing on an album that doesn't really change from one song to the next. Richie's songs - he wrote them all this time around - seem to have lost a little sparkle somewhere too, sounding more and more generic as the album wears on.
However, to dismiss this album outright like so many critics have is wrong. There's nothing on this album a remix with a less 'jazz lounge' feel couldn't have cured. Richie continues to sound great, even against sometimes less than great backing. Also, in 'Yellow Moon Rising' (an old song from the 1970s, which Asylum kept rejecting from Richie's previous LPs) the album even contains the last - to date - outright Richie Furay classic, a slinky Credence Clearwater Revival style song (why Geffen objected to it for it's 'Christian flag waving' so much is a mystery: it's not any more overtly religious than Richie's other songs from 1976 on and harks back nicely to 'I've Got A Reason's equation of God with the Heavens). Second to this is the orchestral ballad 'My Lord and My God' - why this was never sung in my school assemblies I'll never know. The album could have done with a few moments like these to be truly classic - and the rather twee gospelly opener 'Hallelujah'  is every bit as bad as it sounds ('You are the son of God and I love ya!') - but by and large this is another good record that will give Richie's devoted fans (in both meanings of the word) something new to enjoy, if not quite powerful enough to preach to the unconverted.
Richie Furay and Poco: "Legacy"
(RCA,  September 1989)
When It All Began*/Call It Love*/The Nature Of Love/What Do People Know?/Nothin' To Hide/Look Within/Rough Edges/Who Else?/Lovin' You Every Minute/If It Wasn't For You*
CD Bonus track: Follow Your Dreams
* = compositions by Richie Furay
"Do you remember then how the music made you feel, back when it all began?"
An awful lot had happened in the years since 1982 - Richie had gone from helping out at his local church to becoming pastor of The Calvalry Chapel in Colarado, Poco had finally split after what was actually one of their better albums 'Imorata' in 1984 and at least three potential Buffalo Springfield reunions had flown by in a haze of rash promises and broken dreams. Instead it was Richie's second band who tempted him out of retirement, with a big scale reunion to mark the band's 20th anniversary with all of the other four founding members  - including Jim Messina, who'd been away from the band for even longer - agreeing to take part. Richie was a natural to be asked, although there were doubts about whether he'd given up music or it had given up him (compare to Cat Stevens, who turned his back on music almost the instant religion took up so much of his life). Actually Richie was only to pleased to go back to his 'original' job and was in a deeply nostalgic mood for this record, with three songs (two co-written with longtime friend Scott Sellen and one with the whole band) that touch on the autobiographical (itself rather in keeping with the 'theme; of 'Pickin' Up The Pieces' all those years ago).

 Elsewhere Rusty Young dominates the writing credits and Messina and Meisner split most of the singing between them (Richie singing on just three songs, a major change compared to the first record). The album is rather good in a reunion-party sort of a way: nobody tries that hard, nothing really breaks new ground and there are way too many contemporary production touches (like bad 80s synths and pounding drums) that sound wrong with all the talk about the 'old days' in the lyrics. But this is still a generally likeable and nicely democratic LP that gives everyone a turn in the spotlight and does capture some of the feeling of Poco's early years (although that said there's more their pop leanings than their country ones, another major difference since 1969). The overall highlight, by the way, is Rusty Young's poppy 'Call It Love' where he sounds remarkably like Furay. This song was catchy enough to become a top forty hit (amazingly Poco's first with Richie in the band!) It's actually rather a departure for Poco, who'd never sounded quite so overtly commercial before, with producer David Cole emphasising every hook in the song he can.
Richie's songs are amongst the best of the rest on the album however and sound nicely like the 'old' style Poco while slotting into the more contemporary production of this record. Richie did write 'If It Wasn't For You', which fits with the album's generally slow and moody sound and sounds like yet another song of devotion to wife Nancy for supporting him through thick and thin. The lyrics read 'real' enough, but the production doesn't do this sweet song any favours and you also have to question whether this was really the best Richie had come up with after no less than seven years away from the music business. The real album highlight is Richie's other song  'When It All Began' which is a nice bit of nostalgic back-slapping for a band marking an important anniversary. The lyrics cleverly reflect on the band's heyday ('I remember the feeling not so long ago, the kids came dancin', their hearts romancin' and the music was live Poco'!) and include some nice nods to past classics like 'Good Feelin' To Know'. There's even a brief return of a banjo just like times past!
The overall result is an album that tries hard and is partly successful at updating an old sound. The original members of Poco seem to work together well and the changing status of the various band members (some of whom weren't writers when Poco started) has lead to a fair bit of shuffling of personnel (this is certainly the Poco album Richie had least of a hand in). It is, though, a quite successful experiment in recapturing the past and Poco really do sound like a 'band' here rather than simply Richie's backing group. The result was a surprisingly strong selling album, Poco's first to feature two top 40 hits (the other was the rather bland Richard Marx cover 'Nothin' To Hide') and a record that should have led on to greater things. Instead, Poco called it a day a second time, putting an end to an institution that had - in one form or another - weathered a full 17 studio albums and clocked up 20 years: just imagine how different the music scene (and this book!) might have been had Buffalo Springfield recorded as much and stayed together for as long.
Richie Furay and Poco: "The Forgotten Trail 1969-74"
(Epic, October 1990)
CD One: Pickin' Up The Pieces*/Grand Junction/Consequently So Long*/First Love*/Calico Lady*/My Kind Of Love*/Hard Luck/Last Call/Honky Tonk Downstairs/Hurry Up*/You Better Think Twice/Anyway Bye Bye*/I Guess You Made It*/C'mon*/Hear That Music/Kind Woman*/Just For Me and You*/Bad Weather/You Better Think Twice/Lullaby In September
CD Two: You Are The One*/From The Inside/A Good Feelin' To Know*/I Can See Everything/And Settlin' Down*/Blue Water/Fool's Gold*/Nothin' Still The Same*/Skunk Creek/Crazy Eyes*/Here We Go Again/Get In The Wind/Believe Me*/Rocky Mountain Breakdown/Faith In The Families/Western Waterloo/Whatever Happened To Your Smile?/Sagebrush Serenade
"Hummin' another sound I hear music in my ear!"
The best way for curious Springfield fans to dip a toe in the Poco waters, this Epic anthology ostensibly covers the whole of Poco's eight records on the label (including the two made after Richie left the band) but is definitely Furay-friendly. Yet again Epic are trying to pull in two lots of collectors with one LP and feature Richie's name large on the cover alongside a picture of a huge woolly buffalo sheltering a smaller one from a snowstorm. Poco are clearly being modelled as the Springfield's kind of 'younger brother', although the feeling you get from this set (much more so than on the albums, actually) is what a strong democratic unit Poco were, with each of the five members of any of the many 1969-74 line-ups getting one place or another to shine. naturally Springfield fans will be most interested in the first CD, which features more of Furay's work, but controversially I actually like the second disc better - Poco took more risks from albums four to eight and the best of this set ('Crazy Eyes' 'A Good Feelin' To Know' and 'Blue Water') really is the peak of Poco's releases.
Richie has a hand in the writing of half the songs on this record and has a fair share of the helpings from the unreleased and rare tracks on the album too, which we'll deal with here if we haven't already covered them elsewhere: first up, flop debut single 'My Kind Of Love' is the first release on an album for the Springfield era song Richie first demoed for the second album and played life frequently by the band, where Stills took the gritty lead vocal (the demo, not out at the time of this compilation, will duly appears on the 2001 Buffalo Box Set). Slower in feel than the Springfield's, this is a thoughtful lament rather than paranoid rocker, with lots of criss-crossing vocals where Richie and the rest of the band seem to sing in competition. Like much of first Poco album 'Pickin' Up The Pieces' it seems fragmented somehow, pausing for a new idea rather than letting rip and isn't quite as successful as when the Springfield cut it live. Still, it more than deserves a place on this compilation, a reminder of the band's glory days as a sort of countryfied version of the Springfield. Next up, the studio version of 'I Guess You Made It' - the 'new' Furay song debuted on live LP 'Deliverin' - isn't quite as fun or as tough as the live version but still packs rather a punch which wasn't always the case with Poco. Once again this song is surely about Neil and refers to 'child-like' behaviour - possibly even Neil's refusal to be on the 'branded' album cover for Richie-made final album 'Last Time Around' (There you were standin' with your feelings hurt? Who was to blame? ooh no, it can't be you, you're much too cool to scar your name!' Also, what better line for Neil can there be than 'you went to a rare school where you learnt by your own rules'?!?) By contrast, 'You Are The One' is a previously unreleased live recording of this song originally belonging to the 'From The Inside' album. It's fun but rather raw, with those usually pretty harmonies a little wayward, although the band are clearly very 'tight' here, starting with a rhapsody from Richie about how drummer 'George Grantham' is the 'unheralded backbone of the group' and 'deserves a round of applause!'
'Nothin's Still The Same' is a country weepy from Richie recorded during the sessions for his final Poco album 'Crazy Eyes'. It's far from a long lost classic but it's better than most than made the record and makes you wonder just how much influence Richie still had at the end (he gets very few compositions on that album). You have to wonder too at the sheer audacity of a band who kept so much rubbish and rejected this compilations' final rarity, a storming early version of future Souther-Hillman-Furay highlight 'Believe Me'. Given a heavy, noisy opening that couldn't be less like the finished version, this early recording is a little heavy-handed throughout, heavy on the pedal steel and while there is a piano in there somewhere it doesn't carry the same lovely chords as the finished version. Extended long past it's best into a seven minute epic, the lengthy running time is probably the reason why this song got left behind (Richie's title track for 'Crazy Eyes' is an epic enough by itself!) However, the brilliant simplicity of the song still shines through and Richie's committed vocal is a delight, even if you do miss Hillman's harmonies.
Overall this compilation is un-missable just for the first and last of these rarities alone, although it's still well worth your time as an overall best-of compilation for the band. In truth, two fully packed discs of Poco is a little too much for all but their biggest fans and the songs do have a tendency to end up sounding the same. However all the good ones are here and by and large the bad ones have all been given the elbow. 'Forgotten Trails' might not have the thrills and delights of the future Buffalo Springfield box set but it's clearly made with a lot of thought and a lot of care and at its best proves once again why Poco deserved to be so much bigger, despite their self-effacing name. The set was a surprisingly good seller once again, too, with Poco never bigger than the late 80s/early 90s (the same way that the Springfield have grown in stature so far in the 21st century). Given how much rubbish also did well in that same period, that's a good feelin' to know - let's hope Poco have another revival of fortune sometime soon!
Richie Furay: "In My Father's House"
(Calvary Chapel Music,  'Mid' 1997)
Hallel/In My Father's House/Peace That Passes All Understanding/Wake Up My Soul/We Have Come To Worship You/The Love I Now Possess/Give Thanks To The Lord/I Will Bless The Name Of The Lord/Man Of Many Sorrows/Send Me Lord
"We have come to honour you, holy one of God"  
Richie's first recordings for eight years again came out on a smaller Christian label and enabled Richie to indulge his love of Christian music. Smaller and more intimate than his solo albums had been so there, 'In My Father's House' is a little like a sermon on a Sunday afternoon. On the down side Richie is at his most preachy here, with every song on the same religious grounds which can be a drag for non-believers. The passing years of non-singing and religious work have damaged his formerly glorious voice somewhat too. You can just imagine Richie's regular congregation sneaking in late to Pastor Furay's sermons, worried that he's going to flog them a copy of this CD again...And yet Furay is a more interesting and passionate reverend than any I grew up knowing. This album is a labour of love, not just a former rock star trying limply to keep up with his peers, and while wearing when heard as a complete album, heard individually this record has many pretty moments. Several of Richie's new songs (mostly co-written with Sallen again) are both more interesting and more inspired than a good two-thirds of the hymns you hear at church and best of all Richie's even back to playing the guitar again, turning in a lovely cod-Springfield solo on album highlight 'I Will Bless The Name Of The Lord'. Clearly this album is no 'Buffalo Springfield Again' or even the 'Souther-Hillman-Furay Band' , but it isn't meant to be: the musical scope is smaller (although you could argue the lyrical scope is larger), Richie sure by now that most of his rock fanbase will have forgotten him and that he can get on with releasing the music he wants to make for a similar audience. It's that communal spirit that makes this album, whether you're a part of that community or not, and while I'm glad not every Richie Furay album sounds like this one the results are at least convincing, bordering on moving. Let's just say this: as AAA religious albums go this one is somewhere above George Harrison's Hari Krishna-filled 'Living In The Material World' (or at least the bossy second half) and Cat Stevens/Yusuf's woeful Islam-filled 'An Other Cup, but below George's stunning 'All Things Must Pass' and Yusuf's sequel 'Roadsinger' - far from essential, but still rather good.
"Buffalo Springfield" (Box Set)
(Rhino, July 2001)
CD One: There Goes My Babe/Come On/Hello I've Returned/Out Of My Mind (Demo)/Flying On The Ground Is Wrong (Demo)/I'm Your Kind Of Guy/Baby Don't Scold Me (Demo)/Neighbour Don't You Worry (Demo)/We'll See (Demo)/Sad Memory (Demo)/Can't Keep Me Down/Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing/Go and Say Goodbye/Sit Down, I Think I Love You/Leave/Hot Dusty Roads/Everybody's Wrong/Burned/Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It?/Out Of My Mind/Pay The Price/Down Down Down (Demo)/Flying On The Ground Is Wrong/Neighbour Don't You Worry
CD Two: Down Down Down/Kahuna Sunset/Buffalo Stomp (Raga)/Baby Don't Scold Me/For What It's Worth/Mr Soul (Alternate Version)/We'll See/My Kind Of Love/Pretty Girl Why (Alternate Mix)/Words I Must Say/Nobody's Fool/So You've Got A Lover/My Angel/No Sun Today/Everydays/Down To The Wire (Stills Vocal)/Bluebird/Expecting To Fly/Hung Upside Down (Demo)/A Child's Claim To Fame/Rock and Roll Woman
CD Three: Hung Upside Down/Good Time Boy/One More Sign/The Rent Is Always Due/Round and Round and Round/The Old Laughing Lady/Broken Arrow/Sad Memory/On The Way Home (Alternate Mix)/Whatever Happened To Saturday Night?/Special Care/Falcon Lake (Ash On The Floor)/What A Day/I Am A Child/Questions/Merry-Go-Round/Uno Mundo/Kind Woman/It's So Hard To Wait/Four Days Gone (Demo)
CD Four: For What It's Worth/Go and Say Goodbye/Sit Down, I Think I Love You/Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing/Hot Dusty Roads/Everybody's Wrong/Flying On The Ground Is Wrong/Burned/Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It?/Leave/Out Of My Mind/Pay The Price/Baby Don't Scold Me/Mr Soul/A Child's Claim To Fame/Everydays/Expecting To Fly/Bluebird/Hung Upside Down/Sad Memory/Good Time Boy/Rock and Roll Woman/Broken Arrow
"I've got to dream, can't find a reason to care, it seems as though I hung all my thoughts in mid-air, I want to play, oh what a day!'
This box set came as a surprise to many when it was released suddenly in 2001 - after all the band had been struggling to meet up and sit in the same room for the past three decades, so getting the four surviving members to agree to a box set's track listing and packaging seemed near-impossible. What's more, by 2000 Neil Young had been talking about his 'Archives' box set for a decade and we still hadn't seen it - surely Neil would be saving his best work for that? As it turned out, Neil was the prime mover behind this rather good retrospective in a rare fit of nostalgia (his period song 'Buffalo Springfield Again' in 2000 shows how fondly he was thinking of his old band 30 years down the line). Impressively Neil gives roughly equal space to all three composers in the Springfield (he gets 26 songs on the opening three discs, Stills gets 30, Furay 11) - something no previous compilation ever managed to do - and raided the home archives of his two colleagues as well as his own to offer no less than 20 completely unreleased (by the Springfield that is) songs and many alternate versions or demos of famous Springfield moments. This finally offered fans the chance to hear how some of the Springfield albums might have sounded like in some 'alternate universe' - there's most of the 'Stampede' record sketched in  by Atlantic for release between albums one and two but nixed by the band, there's a whole host of Beatlesy demos from the early days that were in the running for the first album and there's s sudden burst from Neil towards the end, most of which was dumped from 'Last Time Around'. Even in the 1960s, Springfield fans hadn't had this much to celebrate in one go and the release date was a real cause for celebration, with many critics finally getting round to registering what an important and influential band this was.
There are several highlights in this set: Neil at his poppiest, re-writing Beatle licks into 90 second songs and catching the 'Merseybeat' bug two years after everyone else; some glorious early Stills songs that show off the remarkable interplay between him and Richie (the demos of 'We'll See' and 'Baby Don't Scold Me' are gorgeous and both far better than the electric versions released later in the set); Richie gets a whole raft of sensitive folky demos to his credit, most of which were available for the first album but shockingly passed over (fans of 'Sad Memory' will find much to enjoy here); a classy sleepy demo for 'Out Of My Mind' finds Steve and Richie having fun on the backing vocals behind Neil's serious lead; the legendary first take of 'Mr Soul' crackles a bit but is every bit as good as rumours had suggested, with a faster lick and all sorts of backwards guitar effects throughout; Stills' delightful rocker 'My Angel' (finally released in 1975) is shown here in its early days as a sensitive ballad; another Stills demo for the released 'Hung Upside Down' is jaw-dropping, a folky delight more like the first album than the acoustic-electric hybrid of the first album; Stills' fully unreleased 'So You've Got A Lover' ranks alongside his other great songs written in 1967; a Stills vocal take of Neil's 'Down To The Wire' - released with Young on vocals on his solo compilation 'Decade' - came as a complete surprise, having never previously been bootlegged; two fully unreleased electric songs with the full band 'No Sun Today' and 'What A Day' - a song Richie re-recorded with Poco - would have made fine additions to 'Last Time Around'; finally, disc three ends with the highlight of the entire set - a gorgeous lethargic demo for 'Four Days Gone', with Stills alone at the piano late one night and adding such pathos and poignancy to his tale of draft-dodging that it's a revelation after the poppier sound of the 'finished' version. Other songs much talked about for years aren't quite so amazing (Neil's 'Falcon Lake', which sticks two future songs clumsily together, is a failed attempt to write another 'epic', whole the fierce jams on 'Kahuna Sunset' and 'Buffalo Stomp (Raga)' are less about the Stills-Young guitar duels and more about how 'weird' the whole band can sound when they feel like it. Still, what impresses most about this set is how consistent it is: for a group of demos, separated by the odd outtake (and with a few 'released' recordings sprinkled throughout), this box set is amazingly consistent and really adds to the Springfield ethos that they could go in any direction and do anything with aplomb. Is there another great album lurking in the unreleased recordings? Not quite, but there's a very good half-album and an awful lot of bands would have given masses to write songs half as good as the weakest here. Worries about how releasing these unfinished scraps might hurt the band's reputation are unfounded - instead you come away ever more impressed by how good this band managed to be so fast.
However, this set isn't perfect. Releasing a four disc set by a band who only made three albums (none of which lasted much past half an hour) seems a little daft, even with so many 'extra' songs to include - especially given that the compilers didn't do the sensible thing and re-release everything (the set has the first two albums complete but is missing 'In The Hour Of Not Quite Rain', the 'finished' take of 'Four Days Gone' and Jim Messina's 'Carefree Country Day, not to mention the elongated unedited nine minute take of 'Bluebird' (released on a compilation by accident in 1973). Neil clearly doesn't consider this a 'proper' album (it was compiled after he left and he's barely on it), but it's his one poor judgement call of the entire set:  'Last Time Around' is still at the time of writing the rarest of the three original albums to track down. After all, it's not as if there wasn't space on it: the fourth disc senselessly replicates several songs already heard on the set, with the first two albums heard again in their entirety (despite the fact that only the 'released' version of 'Mr Soul' and the final mix of 'Baby Don't Scold Me' hadn't already been heard on the first three discs (which all have  a nice long running time, but still have space enough for these two songs). Why not just add the missing six songs in amongst the rest of the material and re-divide it across four CDs? Also the packaging leaves much to be desired. The Springfield were a highly colourful band, but you wouldn't know that from the hideous packaging, which consists of a plain wooden box with the words Buffalo Springfield 'branded' into the side (a clever idea, but one already used on 'Last Time Around'). The essays and photographs in the booklet are nice but there aren't that many of them (not considering how much the first pressing of this box cost anyway - thankfully it's been re-issued at a much more reasonable price since) and Neil could have learned a thing or two from the CSN box set of 1991, which gives all sorts of information about the songs.
All that said, it's the music that matters and this box set works well as both an 'introduction' to curious newcomers and those who already own all the original songs on the first three albums anyway. With lots of interesting nuggets for even the biggest collector of bootlegs, this set is a real box of delights, and singlehandedly nearly doubled the amount of Buffalo Springfield songs out there in the world. And that can only be a good thing, however crummy  the packaging and misguided the fourth disc of this set may be.

Richie Furay: "I Am Sure"
(It's About Music,  February 2005)
With My Whole Heart/Jesus Eternal King/Shout To The Ruler/Overflow/Most High/ Wonderfully Praised/So Far To Go/Father Of Glory-Give The Glory To You/City Of God/Precious Blood/I Am Sure/Come and Praise Him/Deep Within My Heart
"He will hear me when I call his name - I am sure of this thing!"
With 'In My Father's House' proving more popular than expected, Richie finally got back to a sequel after an eight-year gap. 'I Am Sure' is much the same as before, but with the major difference that Richie now has a bigger band behind him and has returned to the country/folk tinged style of the olden days. He's also singing better too, suggesting that he's learnt from his break away and got his voice back into training again (in fact he sounds very good for a man in his early 60s, a strong ambassador for clean living - well from the mid 1970s at least!) The title of the album is also noteworthy: it sounds much more like Richie's solo album titles like 'I've Got A Reason' or 'I Still Have Dreams'. Of course, the same pitfalls as last time still apply: this album is one for the converted and if anything is even more preachy, with copious references to 'the promised land' 'Jesus' and more 'Hallelujahs' across this album than in Handel's Oratorio. Reading the lyric sheet (helpfully provided, like all the other albums in this book, at Richie's rather good website suggests that this record is more tired than the last one, with far more repeats and praise-bes-to-God than 'In My Father's House' and with Richie sliding ever further into bible-speak. However this time the music is far more invigorated and fans of Richie's rockier past can have fun spotting the relevant guest stars (there's a few names from Poco here once again) and all the different genres that made up Richie's past (this must surely be the only 'bible rock' CD that comes with a banjo solo!)
Overall this record suggests that Richie has finally found a way to combine the two loves of his life, with music on the gentler side of rock and roll that allows Richie to sing of his beliefs, and that's great news for Richie, if not always for us. At times this record drags and you long for a bit more life and energy, but compared to 'In Our Father's House' at least the accompaniment is always deeply musical and occasionally moving. Highlights include the countryfied 'Gates Of Zion', the nicely psychedelic 'Most High' (had this one been released 40 odd years earlier I'd assume this song was about drugs!)  and the Poco-ish 'So Far To Go' (imagine Richie singing 'Goodbye, So Long' to the Devil!) The result is an album that again will be of most interest to those who share the same passion and will leave non-believers scratching their heads a bit. It's no 'Last Time Around' never mind 'Buffalo Springfield Again', but then it isn't meant to be: this is the sound of a man at peace with himself and his past, not a hungry young buck looking to mark his mark. Had our local church been this entertaining and musical, instead of sticking religiously (excuse the pun) to the only three songs our RE teacher knew how to play, there would have been a lot more recently-born born-again Christians walking around my neck of the woods. The result is an album that's nice but still inessential, in the pantheon of AAA religious records somewhere behind classics like George Harrison Hari Krishna-filled 'All Things Must Pass' and Cat Stevens/Yusuf's Islamic 'Roadsinger', but decidedly better than both men's more patronising works (like 'Living In The Material World', especially the second side, and 'An Other Cup' respectively).

Richie Furay: "The Heartbeat Of Love"
(Always An Adventure,  'Mid' 2006)
Forever With You/My Heart's Crying Out Tonight/Crazy For You/Kind Woman/Heartbeat Of Love/Dean's Barbecue/Only To You/Callin' Out Your Name/Real Love/You and Me/In The Still Of The Night/Let's Dance Tonight
"I wanna be all I can be, everything you wanted me to be..."
At long last, after some 34 years (some would argue 41...) Richie returned with a proper bona fide album of pop songs that made no reference to religion. To celebrate the occasion, all sorts of names from Richie's past got involved, including two old friends who hadn't worked with Furay since 1968: Stephen Stills and Neil Young, in addition to the usual friends from Poco and two members of the Manassas backing band from the Souther-Hillman-Furay days. Adding to the nostalgia fest, Richie re-recorded a new version of what many still consider his finest Springfield song, [61] Kind Woman. This clearly is the album to get if you're a Springfield fan who wants to know what Richie sounds like in the 21st century and the album did rather well, selling solidly to Richie's longterm fans.
However I've never felt the same emotional connection with this record that I do to Richie's three for Asylum (well, by and large anyway). There's a sappy modern production that takes away from what sounds like a fairly interesting set of songs, there's a bland girl choir 'ooh'ing and 'aah' ing through everything like they're watching a fireworks display and saxophone solos on bleeding everything. The big name guests are largely inaudible and Stills and Young seem to be restricted to guitar rather than vocals (they also don't play together, sadly). The re-recording of 'Kind Woman' in particular is a shock, our beautiful and graceful old companion slowed down to the point where she now sounds senile and doddery. It's as if Richie was so determined to steer away from the Christian values that drive him that he'd forgotten to inject any passion in the rest of his life. And yet for all that this isn't a bad album. It's a delight to hear Richie back to his roots again, with that wonderful aural smile on his face and the problem doesn't lie with the songs or his voice (which again has aged nicely here: 'In My Father's House' is something of a one-album blip). Instead the problem lies with the rather dreary and repetitive arrangements and the production values that seem to treat Richie like a young trendy teenybopper rather than an elder statesman of rock.
As ever with Richie, the songs are a little uneven and the pop trappings soon wear when the album is heard in one go, but some songs really do shine through the murk and add a great deal to his canon. The title track is about the best, a lovely song where Richie remembers just how head-over-heels in love he fell with wife Nancy the first day they met (a memory that's still clear almost 50 years on). How can you not love a song that starts 'When I'm makin' up love songs, you're the one I'm always thinking about'?!) 'Callin' Out Your Name' is a superior sort of pop song about absence - unusual for Richie - and has him pleading with a loved one to come back. 'In The Still Of The Night' is a pretty ballad that's the Springfield canon's equivalent of The Rolling Stones' sleepy 'Moonlight Mile', sounding as if its playing in slow motion (but for once that's a good thing).  Elsewhere though the songs get a bit weird: 'Dallas Barbecue' is basically a four-minute advert for Richie's favourite eating spot, dressed up in country finery - which would be nice if I lived anywhere near Dallas, but as I don't is rather irrelevant to me and 99% of Richie's audience. 'Let's Dance Tonight' is a rather odd ballad reading of the old Poco classic that's now so slow impossible to dance to (well, all songs are impossible for me to dance to, but this one's impossible for everyone). To be honest both this and 'Kind Woman' show up how weak and one-layered  some of the other modern songs are. Still, even on an uneven album like this one there's plenty to love and Richie's company is always enjoyable in any form. There have certainly been worse comebacks down the years (did anyone mention Stephen Stills' 'Man Alive'?!) and if this is a little blander than what we know Richie is truly capable of then it's still a lot better than a man who hasn't gone near a pop song since 1982 and is now a full-time pastor with a whole other life has any right to be making. A welcome, though by no means perfect, return.
The Richie Furay Band: "Alive"
(Friday Music,  Recorded December 2007, Released June 2009)
When It All Began/Pickin' Up The Pieces/Buffalo Springfield Medley #1/Forever With You/Go and Say Goodbye/A Child's Claim To Fame/So Far To Go/Satisfied/Through It All/Kind Woman/Just For Me and You/A Good Feelin' To Know/Sad Memory/Heartbeat Of Love/Make Me A Smile/You Better Think Twice/Baby Why?/Rise Up/Believe Me/Just In Case It Happens/Medley #2: Poco-Souther Hillman Furay Band/Callin' Out Your Name/Let's Dance Tonight/In My Father's House
"Some called it country, some rock and roll, but whatever the sound it was sure to be found with a heart, rhythm and soul!"
For me, the best release of Richie's career in a long long time (1976?) is his surprisingly tough and meaty live album, recorded with his rather fine backing band (including daughter Jesse, who sounds very like her dad) near his adopted home in Colorado in 2007. This is a real nostalgia-fest, beginning with Poco's names-of-song-dropping reunion song 'When It All Began', ending up covering the Buffalo Springfield glory years and ending up with the album's lone religious moment, the title track of 'In My Father's House'. It's like a mini-history of Richie's career, with so many songs to pack in on two busy discs that Richie resorts to sticking a lot of them inside two ten minute medleys dedicated to the Springfield and to Poco. Richie sounds right at home - perhaps because he is home, near enough - and loving every minute of it.
Highlights are numerous and include some lovely versions of Springfield songs Richie boasts of 'not having sung in 40 years!' In fact he's being generous: some songs the Springfield technically never did at all and which up to this point had never been heard live: mainly Neil's early songs like 'Do I have To Come Right Out And Say It' and 'Flying On The Ground Is Wrong'  as well as more common Springfield standards like 'Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing' (the highlight of the set and suddenly very poignant after Richie's many years without singing!), the live debut of 'Sad Memory', 'A Child's Claim To Fame', 'Go And Say Goodbye' (sung in the countryfied Poco arrangement) and old warhorse 'Kind Woman' (sounding rather better than on 'Heartbeat Of Love'). Elsewhere Poco fares even better than the Springfield, with some great versions of most of their better songs: 'Pickin' Up The Pieces', 'Just For Me And You' 'You Better Think Twice' and 'A Good Feelin' To Know'. In addition there's the one Furay-written classic from the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band ('Believe Me') - although, weirdly, their other song 'Fallin' In Love' crops up in the middle of the Poco medley - and a sprinkling (though thankfully not that many) of the better songs from Richie's solo years.
The one new song 'Baby Why' (mainly sung by daughter Jesse) isn't up to much and 'In My Father's House' is a rather weak ending for all its symbolism as evidence of Richie;'s 'present' rather than his 'past'. But no matter: every song here is played with conviction and Richie is having so much fun joking with the crowd that it's clear that he's glad to be back and is at last at peace with his rock and roll past and that so many of his fans are thrilled to have him back. The Buffalo Springfield reunion might not have happened without this gig and the end of Richie's semi-retirement (they'll re-use a lot of Richie's arrangements of the Neil Young covers), for which we'll always be thankful but for fans who have a particular interest in Furay's contribution to the band this is probably the best single release you can buy that covers every era. Forget what we've bored you with the past 30 odd pages: this is Richie Furay at his best, thriving on memories of the good old days but still with enough fire to say more and enough talent and energy to say it very well.

A Now Complete List Of Buffalo Springfield Articles Available To Read At Alan’s Album Archives:

Dewey Martin Obituary and Tribute:

Non-Album Songs
Surviving TV Appearances 1967-2010
Solo/Live/Compilation albums (Including Poco!)

Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Songs