One of the rare Poco collections to include material from both of the band's peaks (their early artistic peak on Epic and their later commercial zenith for ABC), The Essential Poco deserves credit for its methodical, workmanlike approach to presenting the best-known Poco songs from each of the band's major albums. It should also be faulted, however, for its odd overemphasis not only on Poco's commercial successes but on its frustratingly uneven mid-period from late 1970 through 1974. All of this comes at the expense of the fantastic, trailblazing pair of albums with which the band debuted -- 1969's Pickin' Up the Pieces and 1970's Poco, which receive only three inclusions where six would have been fair and eight perfectly acceptable. Present and accounted for are Poco's two Top 20 hits, 1979's "Crazy Love" and 1989's "Call It Love" (not coincidentally, two of their slickest productions), along with plenty of material from the albums those singles were taken from (Legend and Legacy, respectively). Certainly that's par for the course for a band whose finest single ("Pickin' Up the Pieces") never even reached the charts, but it makes this compilation essential only for those who need to understand the vagaries of the pop charts and the commercial music industry. Unfortunately, 1998's Ultimate Collection falls prey to the same problems, leaving the curious to seek out either the early-period roundup The Forgotten Trail (1969-1974) or a latter-day hits compilation like 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection.
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AllMusic Review by John Bush