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Poco – Crazy Eyes (Video)

November 19, 2009

Ummmm.  Pure Poco.

Crazy Eyes is far and away the most ambitious, musically satisfying album yet to issue from one of the most formidable but still commercially underappreciated country-rock bands. Though none of the album’s eight cuts have quite the melodic force of “A Good Feeling to Know” (Poco at their most congenial) or “Bad Weather” (at their most soulful), Crazy Eyes contains the band’s finest vocal and instrumental work to date, much of it brilliantly augmented by banjo, mandolin and on two cuts, strings—elements that help lend the album a seriousness of intent, an emotional force that exceeds their previous work.

Two songs—Gram Parsons’ “Brass Buttons” and J.J. Cale’s “Magnolia”—are the only non-indigenous group compositions and they both work beautifully within the whole. Indeed, Parsons’ melodic evocation of a former love, with its sensuous lyric imagery that specifically recalls the atmosphere of an enchanted relationship, provides the base on which the album’s magnificent centerpiece, the nine-and-a-half-minute title cut, by Richie Furay, resides.

“Crazy Eyes,” whose lyrics allude directly to Parsons’, is a gorgeous, often violent commentary on the insanity that accompanies romantic passion, it’s aura of suicidal desperation, its blindness that permits a greater truth wherein the identities of the partners, the “you” and “I” are almost inseparable and hence mutually destructive. Though it is a song of few words, the words resonate, and the extended instrumental breaks between verses embody some of the most furiously eloquent musical commentary on the subject of love that I can recall. Richie’s vocal is piercingly rendered, the vocal harmonies that join him spare and anguished.

To the already dense instrumental texture created by Poco, Bob Ezrin and Alan MacMillan have supplemented brass and string arrangements that are periodically broken by the slow strumming of a banjo. These elements segue into a strong, ominous bass line that is the stuff of pure rock with clashing cymbals and searing multiple guitars overhead. This accumulating, ominous force is again broken by moments of ethereal suspension in soaring vocal phrases that break back into desperately propulsive instrumentation … and so on. Simply by itself, “Crazy Eyes” is a great rock musical description of emotional conflict. Cale’s “Magnolia,” which follows, is the antidote … impressionistic nostalgia that is romantic without being mawkish.

Everything on side one leads up to the crisis/catharsis of “Crazy Eyes.” Paul Cotton’s two streamlined rockers, “Blue Water” and “A Right Along,” provide the album’s only moments of social didacticism. “Blue Water,” the opener, is an engaging anti-pollution song that is strongly melodic and tightly constructed, with fine instrumental work by all hands. “A Right Along,” a heavier rocker, skillfully inveighs against institutionalized fantasies, while expressing a strongly positive message. In between these, we have Rusty Young’s “Fool’s Gold,” a witty, multi-textured instrumental that lightly spoofs electric bluegrass with its momentary allusion to “Dueling Banjos.”

Tim Schmit’s one songwriting contribution is “Here We Go Again,” a mature reflection on the anomalies of an intense relationship. This song, “Brass Buttons” and “Crazy Eyes” constitute what amounts to a trilogy—an album within an album if you will—on the subject of love. Though the quality of all three songs is high, what makes this trilogy so compelling as a whole is the group’s ability to expand on a theme instrumentally, illuminating it with an intelligence and emotional understanding that is almost programmatic in its elucidation. Poco’s inventiveness in this respect has always been one of their many remarkable attributes. Here it is paramount.

Finally there is Furay’s masterful “Let’s Dance Tonight,” a simple, delightful invitation to rock. The cut surges with rich instrumentation, topped by Richie’s unfaltering lead vocal and supported by an irresistible backbeat: fine rock & roll-on a stunning album. (RS 146)

Music Review by STEPHEN HOLDEN, Rolling Stone, Oct 25, 1973


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