United Artists UA-LA650-G
Released: August 1976
Chart Peak: #87
Weeks Charted: 10
On the face of it, American Flyer looks like an incongruous assemblage: Craig Fuller (from the original Pure Prairie League), East Coast singer/songwriter Eric Kaz, former BS&T and Blues Project member Steve Katz, and former Velvet Undergrounder Doug Yule. But under the guidance of producer George Martin, this quartet of respected middleweights finds unity through diversity. More important, their sophistication allows Martin to expound the baroque interpretation of folk and country rock that his albums with America have suggested.
In Kaz and Fuller's excellent collaborations, "Light of Your Love" and "Let Me Down Easy," Martin's interpretation is inspired. Acoustic guitars suggest a harpsichord continuo; strings are used fastidiously for dramatic richness. The result is a much more formal sounding music that is customary for this type of pop.
Fuller, who sings lead on most of the cuts, has a plaintive twang rather like J.D. Souther's and a comfortable writing talent to match. "The Woman in Your Heart," his best solo effort though not on a par with prime Eagles, is as catchy a piece of country rock as anything he did with Pure Prairie League. Steve Katz's two contributions, "Back in '57" and "M," are low-keyed personal recollections that reflect his Blues Project days in a MOR perspective. Their mournful urbanity places them utterly apart in spirit from the rest of the album. Yule's "Lady Blue Eyes," a quietly mysterious love song, and "Queen of All My Days," an engaging calypso, provide above-average filler. Surprisingly, the album's weakest moment is a lackluster version of Kaz's most famous and possibly best song, "Love Has No Pride."
If unity through diversity continues to prevail among this foursome, American Flyer should stand a good chance of success. Few groups can claim so strong a lineup of writers, with Kaz and Fuller promising to become a major collaborative duo.
- Stephen Holden, Rolling Stone, 9/23/76.
George Martin produced this, and I guess what I'm wondering is how dependent American Flyer -- Craig Fuller, Eric Kaz, Steve Katz, and Doug Youle -- is on George Martin. There seems to be good potential here, but I'm not sure how much depth there is. "Love Has No Pride," the best one here or anywhere that's connected to a member of the group -- Kaz wrote it with Libby Titus -- is not as good as it should be; its lyrics are a little careless. Some of the other songs confuse person or tense, and some moon-June language, but I'm starting to like Kaz's "Drive Away," and I don't mind Yule's "Queen of All My Days." And I like many of the vocals and harmonies and the instrumental textures. Martin's touch is there (probably here, there, and everywhere), and this may be another of those cases in which he's helped a whole become more than the sum of its parts. I'd take him to Lloyds of London to be appraised and insured if I were American Flyer.
- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 12/76.
American Flyer deserved better. Eric Kaz had written great love songs for Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt, and Craig Fuller was coming off his Top 40 hit "Amie" with Pure Prairie League. As it happened, Steve Katz's "Back in '57" turned out to be one of the album's highlights, but "Let Me Down Easy," by Kaz and Fuller, was a minor hit, and there was also Kaz's classic co-composition "Love Has No Pride." But those were just the cream of an excellent set produced by George Martin. Add it all up, and it should have meant more than a chart peak in the lower reaches of the Top 100, an early indication that, for whatever reasons, American Flyer was not destined to become the next Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. * * * *
- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
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