The original version of Pure Prairie League, from 1972, was a country-rock band much more in the mold of the Buffalo Springfield / Poco mold. The group's driving force was Craig Fuller, a singer, songwriter and guitarist who was the heart and soul of the original League (named, by the way, for a Temperance group in the old Errol Flynn movie "Dodge City"). Fuller was a really talented songwriter, penning almost all of the songs on the band's first two Lps for RCA.
The first Lp, self-titled, didn't make many waves, but "Bustin' Out" had the huge hit "Amie." That song is just the tip of the iceberg, though - every song on this album is a wonder. The opening cut, "Jazzman", tells the tale of an itinerant musician trying to find a little love in his off-time, with beautiful harmonies and wrenching pedal steel courtesy of Al Brisco, a legendary Canadian steel player who shows up on many of the '70s country-rock classics. "Early Morning Riser", another of my favorites, is a sweet second-chance offer to a lady who's been dumped, with the awesome lyric:
There's not much more I can do to try and make things right
If you need another sunshine brother
I can be right there beside you by the early morning light
There's also the incredibly tender "Boulder Skies", and a soaring big-production closer, "Call Me, Tell Me." I've been spending a lot of time with this record lately, and I can tell you that each and every song is now embedded in my brain like an electrode from a science experiment.
Bonus: David Bowie's protege, Mick Ronson, is all over this record as a session guitar player and string arranger. Go figure!
Fuller would leave the Pure Prairie League in '74, teaming up with Eric Justin Kaz for a short while before becoming a member of Little Feat and founding the country-rock band American Flyer, another underrated group whose two Lps on United Artists are overlooked classics in their own right, and well worth finding.
For further research:
- Al Brisco plays pedal steel in his home studio
- Craig Fuller with a reunited PPL does "Amie" at the 2009 Del Mar Fair
(cuts off before the end, but great performance)
- Craig Fuller's website