FOTOMAKER – Fotomaker (That 70’s Guy Retro-Review)

FotomakerHe’s baaaack! Yes, I am and this time “That 70’s Guy” resurrects the 1978 debut album from the band Fotomaker – a 70’s so-called “super group” that consisted of members of the Raspberries and The Rascals. Hailing from Long Island New York, bass player Gene Cornish and drummer Dino Danelli from The Rascals teamed up with guitarist/vocalist Wally Bryson of the Raspberries to get things rolling. The band was completed with the addition of keyboardist/vocalist Frankie Vinci and guitarist/vocalist Lex Marcshesi.

Back then I did what I always did – go to Sam the Record Man weekly and search out all the new releases. In many cases, they were rated in my head solely based on the front and back cover. I would examine the band photos, the song titles, the band members (if any of this was visible) and make a conscious decision that this might be the “one” to spend my hard earned $5.00 on. But this was 1978. This was right smack dab in the height of the disco years. Disco clubs, disco balls, flashing dance floors and Saturday Night Fever were running the show back then. The top 40 was swamped with dance music. 1978 was a tough year for a rock and roller like me. Sometimes I struck it rich with debut gems by Van Halen and Riot but many others suffered the “don’t judge an album by its cover because it’s usually bad” demise.

The other downside was rock and roll communication – there basically wasn’t any? I never knew this band was forming. I had no clue that a member of the Raspberries had resurfaced. In fact, the Raspberries were by far one of the most underrated bands of the 70’s. They had it all – the looks, the sound, the catchy songs and of course Eric Carmen! Just ask Eddie Trunk his thoughts on them. Fotomaker had no videos, no radio play, no website, no TV appearances and no local concerts. I basically had zero to go on.

FotomakerI paid the cashier my $5.00 and left the store.

                                        Fotomaker – S/T – Released 1978 on Atlantic Records

Side One

  1. “Where Have You Been All My Life” – An AM pop masterpiece. Too bad it only clocked in at number 81 on the Billboard Hot 100. The closest they got to fame. Nice slow intro building to one of the finest vocal drenched choruses. One thing about the 70’s was, for the most part, you actually had to be able to sing to front a band. Pure bliss!
  2. “Can I Please Have Some More”Caught between two gems doesn’t stop this song from having its own identity. Building into a nice chorus I find myself asking the same – can I please have some more?
  3. “All There In Her Eyes” – to be honest, I’m a sucker for ballads. I grew up in the 70’s back when we had school dances, couples skates at the roller rink and of course every couple had “their” song. This was long before the 80’s power ballads saturated the airwaves and ruined the whole feeling. This song is no exception. Probably one of the finest ballads ever written and performed. Still goosebump worthy. Let’s not forget the wonderful dreamy guitar solo followed by the fade out from Vinci’s flute, yes flute. Magical!
  4. “Two Can Make it Work”nice guitar intro. Catchy as hell, this song could’ve easily been a song that we all still hear on classic rock radio today. Insert sad face here.
  5. “The Other Side”time for those 70’s keyboards to shine. Early Foreigner sounding. Great beat with some fantastic dual vocals!

FotomakerSide Two

  1. “Say the Same For You”OK – the real rocking gem for me!! Fast and in your face. Just love the beat which reminds me of Billy Squier. Nice solo as well, all jammed packed in this one. I find it amazing what 2 minutes and 27 seconds can do to one’s life forever! My clear cut fave!
  2. “Plaything”a sneaky heavy side to Fotomaker. Great vocals as always. Great guitar riff and solo. Five minutes of “real” melodic rock!
  3. “All These Years”a bit of an acoustic side to the band with some underlying heaviness. Beautiful harmonies and lush guitars.
  4. “Pain”it pains me to no end why these guys never made it. Think of Toto or The Baby’s – same vein. Really nice guitar work intertwined on this one.
  5. “Lose at Love”another really fine ballad to close off the album. This gem really shines especially the vocals which are magically haunting. The sweet guitar solo is also amazing. This album is one of those rare treats that once put on it just flows. There were no skipping songs here only just the moment it took to flip it over.

This album was produced by none other than Eddie Kramer. Iconic producer of Jimi Hendrix, KISS, Peter Frampton, Pretty Maids, Loudness and countless others.

Before we move on, let’s talk about that cover – a controversial cover to say the least. I used to stare at this cover like in some kind of trance. Is this a kid? Is this an older girl that just looks young? Should I even be looking at this cover? After all, my tortured teenage eyes and mind are still recovering from the damage left by the Scorpion’s Virgin Killer album cover from a couple years earlier.

Fotomaker also released their second album that same year – Vis-à-vis. This alone is another fine example of pure 1970’s power pop and would recommend it highly as well. Bryson left the band after this but Fotomaker continued on for one more album – 1979’s Transfer Station before calling it a day.

FotomakerI’m not really sure exactly what caused it. Was it disco? Was it the lack of a hit single? Was it the way they were categorized? The Raspberries definitely had a lot more depth in their music as well but were basically known as a pop top 40 band. Maybe it was the same kind of fate here. All I know is what I say all the time – they should’ve been huge. When I listen to these guys and the classic other bands that came around this time I find that they’re really isn’t much difference, yet one survives and the other disappears quietly.

My mother recently moved out of our childhood home after 68 years. Before we all left I went back down to our rec room where I basically grew up all those years ago and stared at the corner shelf where the old Olympia Hi-Fi set once was. I closed my teary eyes and for the last time, I could hear all those distant songs that once blasted from that corner.

Fotomaker was one of them.

Brian “That 70’s Guy” Ronald

BUY: Fotomaker

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