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Fotomaker was a power pop group based on Long Island, NY which released 3 albums between 1978 and 1979. They were somewhat of a supergroup of power-pop musicians from previous groups, featuring what would become some future members of the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, albeit for their work with previous bands. They made three albums within the span of a little over a year, the third of which is considered the weaker of the three. They failed to achieve any measure of success, mostly due to lack of record company promotion.
The band Fotomaker was formed in 1977 by bassist Gene Cornish and drummer Dino Danelli, former members of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame 1960s group The Rascals (a/k/a "The Young Rascals"). Rounding out the group was world renowned guitarist/vocalist Wally Bryson, formerly of power-pop hitmakers Raspberries (which featured singer Eric Carmen), and two incredibly talented & relative newcomers, guitarist/vocalist Lex Marchesi and keyboardist/vocalist Frankie Vinci. Although Marchesi & Vinci were relatively unknown, they were undoubtedly the core talent that drove the band with their versatile songwriting and vocal skills. Fotomaker initially debuted at the newly remodeled Cleveland Agora, early 1978. From all accounts, Fotomaker brought down the house. They were electric. Local Entertainment critics Jane Scott & Anastasia Pantsios from local newspapers both gave glowing reviews and thumbs-up to Fotomaker's premier debut as Atlantic Recording Artists. The band opened with "Can I Please Have Some More", with Bryson's intricate riffing & Marchesi's soaring lead guitar. "All There in her Eyes" featured Vinci's lonely flute solo outtro. The band managed to incorporate some cover material. Wally covered songs like Free's "Wishing Well" & Todd Rundgren's "Couldn't I Just Tell You", and their set ended with Lex Marchesi's "Two Can Make It Work". During that period, early 1978, Kid Leo of WMMS radio in Cleveland featured "Two Can Make It Work" into some of his early afternoon song-list offerings. However, it just wasn't enough support for their debut album.
The 1978 debut release, simply titled Fotomaker, featured all the clichés of power-pop of the 1970s: hook-laden choruses, tight overdriven guitars, lush strings, 12-string acoustic guitars, a few melodic ballads, 3-minute radio-friendly tunes and strong vocal harmonies throughout. The group didn't get the publicity or promotion it deserved, though, and its minor chart hits failed to win a wider audience.
A full page ad in the March 11, 1978 edition of Billboard magazine featured the album cover – a picture of what seems like a preteen girl (or a very young-looking legal age model) with the band's name written in cursive in the top right hand corner. The LP was released by Atlantic Records and Tapes.
The second album, Vis-a-Vis, was hurriedly released later that year in October, 1978. The album was recorded at "The Record Plant" studios that Summer on Wally Bryson's suggestion (same studios used by Raspberries). Vis-a-Vis album featured many wonderful songs, opening with Vinci's power pop song "Miles Away" that actually did charted and Marchesi's epic ballad "Two Way Street" that unfortunately was overlooked as a single . Marchesi's songwriting crescendoed with "Two Way Street, a love song that was mixed by legendary music producer Gary Ladinsky. Unfortunately the album was ignored by the powers that be, and it simply didn't receive support and promotion and again failed to hit. Seeing that power-pop groups had all but died, with the exception of a acts like Elvis Costello, The Knack, The Cars and Foreigner who were defining themselves as "new wave" or "post punk", and with disco still raging on the charts, the third album, Transfer Station, targeted the dance genre, thus Fotomaker was not touring and Wally Bryson had already left the band. "Transfer Station" sold even more poorly than their previous albums, and the group disbanded shortly thereafter.
Wally Bryson returned home to Cleveland early 1979, teaming up with Dann Klawon (aka: It's Cold Outside-The Choir) in his band "Peter Panic". Klawon's band had already been gigging around NE Ohio on/off for number of years, doing mostly cover & some original material. The arrival of Wally Bryson signaled a different direction for "Peter Panic", now poised to work mostly on original material with the acquisition of additional member's Rick Bell on sax (aka Michael Stanley), Todd Weaver on drums & Dave Thomas. Despite positive local media interest & a decent fan base following at many local clubs, topped off with Headlining at Cleveland Agora in February 1980, the band never attracted the attention needed to garner a major recording contract, and despite some good originals, they had disband by Summer 1980. Moving forward Wally has since turned up in Raspberries reunions over the years; he has also collaborated with his son Jesse, in The Bryson Group. Frankie Vinci has done plenty of TV work, including jingles and music for the Super Bowl, and has written songs for others such as country artist Tim McGraw. He also wrote songs for the 1983 summer camp slasher film Sleepaway Camp.
- Fotomaker (Atlantic, 1978) Produced by Eddie Kramer
- Vis-à-vis (Atlantic, 1978) Produced by Gene Cornish and Dino Danelli
- Transfer Station (Atlantic, 1979) Produced by Barry Mraz