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Craig Fuller / Eric Kaz

July 5th, 2008

Songwriters are a funny bunch. Lord knows I know I lot of them. I can divide successful songwriters into three categories: 1. pure songwriters who don’t aspire to a “recording” and/or “performing” career, they’re happy “just” writing songs; 2. artists who have a viable recording/performing career and also write their own material; 3. songwriters who are not content with just writing the songs, they also want to be performers and make albums, but they never really make much progress along those lines. The third category is by far the largest. There seem to be very, very few songwriters who are happy just to write the songs (and hits) that others record. They do exist, though it seems they were far more plentiful back in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Those were the times when professional songwriters would write the songs and the labels and producers would find suitable artists to record the songs. It was a very honorable profession. There are still some songwriters like that around, but not many. It seems these days that everyone who writes songs wants to also perform and record. I think we can blame this “evolution” on two things: 1. Carole King, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka and others from the 60s who started out as professional songwriters, had big success, but then went on to have even bigger success performing and recording their own material; 2. Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Jackson Browne and a dozen other songwriters from the 70s who wrote, performed and recorded their own songs and became superstars doing so. Hey, it’s certainly not for me to say who should aspire to more than simply writing songs. All I know is that I’ve seen a lot (and I mean a lot) of songwriters who would be a lot happier if they would simply stick to what they do best, which is write songs. But almost every single one of them wants to be a star. They get sucked into that shadow dream. The reality is that for every one musical artist that succeeds there are hundreds, if not thousands of others out there struggling to find what most sane people would consider even the modest success. The used record store bins are littered with their CDs.  And let me also say this, so I’m not misunderstood by my songwriting friends. I have countless albums that I love and treasure recorded by little or completely unknown songwriters. I’m very, very happy these albums were made even though they were not commercial successes. But for everyone of those there are a lot more albums of total drivel recorded by people who should never have been given the chance or opportunity to walk into a recording studio. I’m just saying I think the world could use a lot more pure songwriters. Those that I’ve known who are content to write songs and don’t give a hoot about making albums and playing concerts seem to be the happiest. There’s a lot to be said for knowing what you’re good at and sticking to that. And some of them even make a album now then just for the hell of it, but they have nothing invested in the success of said albums. And sometimes those are the best.

Craig Fuller/Eric Kaz was released in 1978 when the singer-songwriter “movement” was in full bloom. It seemed that anyone who had even the most minor success as a songwriter could get a record deal and many of them did. Many are best forgotten. But, some truly great artists also came to our attention (if not fortune and fame) this way. Karla Bonoff and Warren Zevon are shining examples. This was nothing new. Artists like Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell were able to make their own records after others had recorded their songs and championed them to record labels. It just seems like it got a little out of control in the late 70s as every label searched for that next big superstar singer-songwriter. It didn’t last long. Once the punks and new wavers hit the scene the singer-songwriters became to drop like flies.

Eric Kaz found considerable success as a songwriter with “Love Has No Pride” (co-written with Libby Titus) which has been recorded by everyone from Johnny Cash to Bonnie Raitt to Linda Rondstadt to dozens of others. He also wrote “Cry Like A Rainstorm” which Bonnie and Linda (among others) also recorded, “I’m Blowing Away” and “Mother Earth.” He was a member of The Blues Magoos and he made two solo albums for Atlantic (Eric Kaz in 1972 and Cul-De-Sac in 1974) which went absolutely nowhere. Craig Fuller was one of the original members of Pure Prairie League who had a huge hit with his song “Amie” on their terrific Bustin’ Out album in 1975. He left the group after that hit single and hooked up with Eric Kaz, Doug Yule and Steve Katz to form American Flyer. They made two albums for United Artists (American Flyer in 1976 and Spirit Of A Woman in 1977), both of which should have been much better than they actual were based on the talent of those involved. But Fuller and Kaz soldiered on to make a duet album together and with it they finally hit pay dirt. Well, maybe not in terms of commercial success as I don’t think this album sold much at all. But in artistic terms this album is, to me at least, the highlight of their respective careers. If I had to pick one single out of print album that I could magically have appear on CD this might be the one.

Produced by Val Garay (who produced Kim Carnes’ huge Mistaken Identity album with “Bette Davis Eyes” a few years later – to name just one of his many successes) the album is a singer-songwriter tour-de-force. Now, I’ll be clear here. If you don’t care for singer-songwriters you are probably not going to like this album. The production is something that might be called “soft rock” or “adult contemporary.” There is a lot of orchestration and strings. The vocals are smooth, the musicianship even smoother. There’s no “grit” here. Most of the songs are in the classic unrequited or lost love vein. The lyrics are introspective and pensive. But, if you like this kind of stuff, this is the real thing. I personally happen to love it. The songwriting is divided between the two with Kaz getting the nod: Fuller has two songs, Kaz has five and they wrote two together. Lead vocals are just the opposite, Fuller sings seven of the songs and Kaz two. While they do an excellent version of Kaz’s “Cry Like A Rainstorm” the rest of the songs are new and some of the best either of them has ever written. Songs like “Feel That Way Again,” “Let The Fire Burn All Night” and “Restless Sea” are, to me, perfect songs. Both Fuller and Kaz have an excellent way with a melody and almost all of these songs keep me singing along at full force whenever I play the album.

Unfortunately, this album has never been issued on CD anywhere in the world. Probably won’t ever be. It’s never gotten a lot of attention or respect. allmusic.com is an unbelievable resource for music on the web, but even they don’t have a review or track listing for this album, which is hard to believe. I have, of course, ripped my treasured vinyl copy to CDR. But, there are fans out there. A good friend of mine discovered that I had this on CDR and asked for a copy saying it was also one of his all-time favorite albums. The folks at XM’s The Loft regularly play several tracks. It’s just one more of those “lost” masterpieces. There are a lot of them out there.

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3 Responses

  1. Parispal says:

    Is that the same Eric (Justin) Kaz who was with the Blues Magoos?

  2. Steve says:

    Yes, indeed. Before that he was in a group called Children Of Paradise with Happy and Artie Traum. Happie and Artie are longtime veterans of the Woodstock scene. They made some albums for Capitol in the 60s. Happy played on a couple of cuts with Dylan that ended up on his “Greatest Hits II” album.

  3. Quiet Man says:

    I have this one, too. Eric & Craig had been half of Amrican Flyer (with Steve Katz – ex Blood Sweat & Tears – and Doug Yule – ex Velvet Underground) for 2 albums released in 1976 & 1977.
    I also have a solo album by Eric Justin Kaz “If You’re Lonely” (1972).
    Craig Fuller would be later a member of Little Feat.

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