In 1970, Jim Messina got together with Kenny Loggins (“the tall, skinny guy” as Messina put it Sunday night), and formed Loggins and Messina (“L&M,” he says), inventing soft rock. Previously, Messina, an engineer and player with Buffalo Springfield, joined forces with great L.A. musicians like Richie Furay and Rusty Young to form the seminal country rock band Poco. Thus, you could argue that Messina helped ruin both country and rock and roll. Though I think it’s more fair to say that he changed them both forty years ago in ways still affecting us today.
Live at the Granada last Friday, one might have expected a show featuring Rusty Young as accomplice would focus on the Poco side of the music-destroying equation, and that was true for the first half. Opening with a little flurry, the stage was then taken over by Young, who proved himself both a great wit and slide and pedal steel artist. Young sang “Crazy Love,” a late great Poco song and then a hilarious self-satire entitled “Neil Young Is Not My Brother,” before ceding the stage to Messina and band. They played “Kind Woman,” and I forgave every alleged rock crime. Say what you will about the Los Angeles country rock era that rose with Poco and Gram Parsons and fell with the Eagles — the sad love songs were exquisite. Then, to raise the banner higher, Messina and his gang played “A Child’s Claim to Fame,” a great Buffalo Springfield song from Richie Furay. The first half ended ominously, though, with an L&M medley of “Country” and “Holiday Hotel.” It was actually fun so far.
The second half was a crowd-pleaser in the form of a bad history lesson, stuffed with long versions of radio hits from the L&M juggernaut. Three songs stood out: “Call It Love,” stretched into a lot of solos, “Angry Eyes” as a long jam, as it always was, and then a stretch-marked “You Need a Man,” including a, gulp, bass solo. Argue about Loggins and Messina if you want — the encore was “Your Mama Don’t Dance” — but I hoped that the man who helped upset two genres of music might do better than cycle through songs they play on KTYD. When did rock and roll get ruined? When sittin,’ pickin’ and grinnin’ turn into schlock virtuosity.