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The story of… Roadmaster 

The story of the American band Roadmaster starts in the mid seventies in Indianapolis in the state of Indiana.
In 1977 the band released their same titled debut album on the recordlabel Village Records. The music on this LP was a first introduction to the ‘Pomprock’ they were gonna make on the next albums. The line-up of the band didn’t change from their debut to their last album.

Their debut counted 10 tracks that mostly had not much in common with ‘Pomprock’, but the last  track on side-B of this LP showed some ‘Pomprock’ that would become their trademark on their next albums. That song was titled “In the light”. In the beginning this song has a pure ‘Pomprock’-feeling with some spectacular keys a la TOUCH and an instrumental part of 2 minutes, later it turns out to a great aor/pomprocker.

Most of the rest of their debut was filled with a mixture of melodic 70’s hard rock&roll, boogie-rhythms and a bit progressive rock. The pomprockinfluences can only be heard in a couple of songs. But the harmonyvocals were already there, only the musicstyle was a bit simple 70’s rock. There were many references to the early material of REO SPEEDWAGON, who also came from the midwestern United States.

Besides the mentioned song “In the light”, the other good tracks on the first album of the band were “The magic feeling”(bit groovy, but with many close-harmonyvocals, melodic guitarsolos and a sound compared to PLAYER with some westcoast-influences), “Be my baby”(nice typical 70’s uptempo rocker with many harmonyvocals, actually this song has many Beatles-influences, only rockier, but this song gives you an idea about the influence of the Beatles on 70’s rockmusic), “I still wanna love you”(nice 70’s melodic rock) and “Love me baby”(nice semi-melodic rockballad). These last 2 songs does also sound like their later material.

The rest of the album was pretty weak and especially the track  “Am/Pm” was a very weak and long blues-song that could’ve been left off the album. Half the album has references to later material of the band, but the other half has nothing to do with the ‘Pomprock’ that made Roadmaster so interesting. The lead vocals of vocalist Stephan McNally can also be mentioned, because his talent was already on the debut-album and on later albums his voice would only become better. Stephan’s voice was very melodic and very suitable for AOR/Pomprock.

In 1978 Roadmaster released their second album titled ‘Sweet music’, an album with 10 songs. Side-A included 6 of them, but unfortunately 4 out of these 6 tracks were not interesting. The other 2 tracks were pretty good, namely “It doesn’t mean a thing”(a fantastic AOR/Radiorocker, with those lovely harmonyvocals, piano-keys, and hooklines for the Pomprockfan) and “Ya move me”(good rough midtempo 70’s pomprock’n’roll like ANGEL).

Unfortunately the other songs on side-A were very disappointing, especially the tracks “I’ll be loving you”(pop-orientated song) and “The swan song”(an acoustic pop-orientated filler) may be forgotten. On the other hand, side-B was and still is a dream for the fan of pure late 70’s pomprock. Side-B included 4 songs that were all high-class pomprocksongs. They had everything a pomprocksong needed, which is spacy keyboards/synthesizers, many harmonyvocals, long songs, different choruses, melodic lead vocals and still some heavy guitarwork every now and then.

The influence of STYX on side-B of ROADMASTER’s ‘Sweet music’ is pretty clear. Back in 1978 Styx was very popular in the USA, so they had an influence on many new rockbands. Happily, Roadmaster was one of them. Now let’s talk about those 4 great songs on side-B. “You come see me” was great midtempo late 70’s pure pomprock lik a mixture of TOUCH and STYX. “Higher higher” was another classic pomprocker, this song had a wonderful second chorus with pompclassic-harmonyvocals and after the guitarsolo the second chorus has some incredible synths that are a pompdream, closing the song with only those synths.

The song “Circle of love” was very STYX-orientated and was a high-class pomprock (semi)-ballad with in the beginning lead vocals that sound like TOMMY SHAW. Later in the heavier part of the song it was more pure pomprock with classic harmonyvocals. The final track of  ‘Sweet music’ was the titletrack “Sweet music” that was also good typical pomprock with great synths. Conclusion is that this second album of Roadmaster had a terrific side-B with 4 classic late 70’s pomprocksongs that cannot be missed by any fan of this kind of music, but on the other hand side-A only counted 2 interesting tracks. Musically side-A was totally different than side-B, side-A had many other musical influences and doesn’t have much in common with pomprock.

At the time of release of that album ‘Sweet music’ in 1978, Roadmaster had built up a huge reputation and especially in their home state of Indiana they were very popular. The band were very close friends of ANGEL, who they toured with. The group also toured the US, opening for acts like MOLLY HATCHET, PAT TRAVERS and others… And the most popular songs of the band were those 4 pomprocksongs of side-B of their album ‘Sweet music’. So, the band finished their third album ‘Hey world’ in 1979 and this album was a step into some more pomprock in the style of their side-B of ‘Sweet music’.  CLICK HERE ‘Hey world’ counted 9 tracks that were produced by Greg Riker. Especially the first 2 songs of the album were masterpieces of high class late 70’s/early 80’s Pomprock/AOR like a mixture of PRISM, STYX and LE ROUX. Those 2 tracks were “Hey world” and “My eyes have been opened”.

The first 20 seconds of “Hey world”  can easily been described as the ultimate  ‘pompdream’, with those classy keys/synths a la TOUCH. Also on the rest of the album we can hear clearly those lovely keys/synths of keyboardplayer Michael Read. Unfortunately after those first 2 classic Pompcuts, the rest of the album ‘Hey world’ is just good late 70’s pomprock with some AOR-influences. The songs “Say you wanna be with me” and “Looking for the day” are fine examples of good AOR?Pomprockers like LE ROUX.

There was some nice 70’s pomprock like ANGEL in the track “Never say goodbye”. A bit weaker song was “I’m on my way” and the short instrumental “Rainbow waterfall” was also a filler, but ‘Hey world’ was one of the best albums of Roadmaster with some unique moments that are a must for every decent pomp/aor-fan.

In 1980 Roadmaster released their 4th album titled ‘Fortress’, an album that again counted 9 tracks. The style on this new album was a bit different than their earlier material. The band had changed it’s musicstyle to A.O.R./Radiorock with influences of SURVIVOR(their earlier material) and 707. The pomprock had been put away in favour of the Radiorockstations in the USA. The songs were a bit leaning towards the opening track of their 2nd album ‘Sweet music’ (I’m talking about the track “It doesn’t mean a thing”), the STYX-influences were completely gone. The opening track of ‘Fortress’ was “Ride the wind away” which entered immediately  their new musicstyle, this song was uplifting early 80’s AOR/Radiorock like SURVIVOR.

The next track was “I didn’t notice”, a great uptempo A.O.R.-rocker. “You make me feel alright” showed a totally different side of Roadmaster, namely some great slowtempo AOR a la THE AUTOMATIX, BE TAYLOR GROUP, SWEET COMFORT BAND, FRANKE7THE KNOCKOUTS… A sublime song with some marvellous hooklines for the AOR-fan. The following track “Too long, too long” was simpler straight ahead late 70’s rock packed with some 707(like their 2nd album) influences. “New York, New York” was a great uptempo AOR-rocker that had a STARZ kinda feeling.

Then we come to one of the best tracks that Roadmaster recorded. The song “Someday” was and still is pure classic midtempo A.O.R. that sounds like a mixture of the best moments of SURVIVOR, LE ROUX and SHELTER(Remember this great AOR-band?). Especially listen to the superb harmonyvocals at the end of the song, they just couldn’t do it better and when listening to a song like “Someday” you will understand that 80’s AOR was the best. “Someday” is an undiscovered (for many AOR-fans) classic AOR-song. What followed was a weak 70’s based heavier rocker titled “Satisfied woman”. The album continued with another great AOR/Radiorocker titled “Another one’s running”, that could’ve been easily on the ‘Up’ album of LE ROUX.

Closing track of ‘Fortress’ was “Stay with me through the night”, which was another uptempo AOR-rocker like the third album of 707. Conclusion may be that the 4th album of Roadmaster showed a new musicstyle, but happily it was very good. For the die-hard pomprockfans this 4th album isn’t so much interesting, but for the AOR-fans this album is rather interesting to hear. Surely, an AOR-fan must hear this wonderful track “Someday” if he/she hasn’t heard it yet!

After ‘Fortress’ things became pretty quiet around Roadmaster, and many loyal and AOR/Pomprockfans must have thought that the band had split up or something. So, it is quite a surprise when suddenly in 1989 there was a new album. This was the first CD of the band, their first 4 albums are only available on LP. The 5th album of Roadmaster was titled ‘Live+5’ and produced by keyboardist Michael Read. The CD was released on the independent recordlabel RDM Records. The line-up still had not changed.

On that 5th album we can hear a live recording of 7 old tracks of the band, this was recorded at different concerts that took place in the summer of 1989, so the band still existed at that time. Further we can also find 5 new studio-tracks that were also recorded in 1989. For the pomprockfan this 5th album may be the most interesting album of Roadmaster, because the live recordings give you a good idea about pomprock and Roadmaster. The live-material on ‘Live+5’ is pomp-class with the incredible good vocals of lead singer Steve McNally, the wonderful keys of Michael Read and still the heavy guitarwork of guitarist Rick Benick.

The live material can easily be compared to LE ROUX and the 70’s STYX material. There are 4 songs taken from their ‘Sweet music’ album, 2 songs from ‘Hey world’ and 1 tracks from the ‘Fortress’ album. Especially the 4 songs from ‘Sweet music’ are a real ‘Pomprockdream’, including keys, guitar, harmonyvocals, instrumental parts, melodic choruses, all packed in very long versions. The song “Sweet music” has a total playing time of 10 minutes, including a very long instrumental part. It is incredible how good those harmonyvocals of Roadmaster sounded, listen to the live recordings of  the songs “Hey world” and “Sweet music”, these harmonyvocals are quite as good as Styx’ harmonyvocals. Unfortunately, Roadmaster never became as popular as Styx, although it could have happen.

Anyway, besides the 7 live recordings that have a total playing length of about 40 minutes, the CD ‘Live+5’ also captured 5 completely new tracks. The first one was titled “Cry just a little bit”, a song that followed the style of the 4th album ‘Fortress’. This song was typical mid 80’s AOR/Radiorock based on the US-rockstations at that time. A very strong production, uptempo, with still lovely harmonyvocals and a sound that I compare with 80’s 38 SPECIAL/REO SPEEDWAGON(like their 1987-album ‘Life as we know it’). The song also has a bit Tom Kelly/Billy Steinberg(famous songwritersduo) feeling that makes it sound very friendly and cheerful. A great song, but very polished on radio-format, very standard. It also captures some fantastic AOR-keys a la SURVIVOR.

The next new song was “Here I am”, which was pure Roadmaster-pomprock again with references to their albums ‘Sweet music’ and ‘Hey world’. “Here I am” had a superb chorus and with those classic harmonyvocals again, the band had released another classic track that sounded not unlike LE ROUX, SPY and TOUCH. The following 2 new tracks weren’t so sensational, the epic ballad “Indecision” that had some Styx influences and “The girl most likely”, which was actually a terrible song! “The girl most likely” had nothing to do with Roadmaster, it was an experimental reggea-popsong that should not have been on “Live+5’.

The last new track that closed the CD, was titled “Let your love go”. This song is superb classic uptempo 80’s pure AOR that sounded very much like the third album  ‘Makin’ the point’ of FRANKE&THE KNOCKOUTS. Conclusion is that this 5th and sadly last album of Roadmaster is probably the most recommended one. It is available on CD, has a playing time of more than 60 minutes and captures some of their best songs, the live registration is a unique masterpiece for every fan of Pomprock and related musicstyles.

After the release of ‘Live+5’, that is very hard to get, it becomes very quiet around Roadmaster until earlier this year. In early 1998 something terrible happened which probably was the definitive end of the band, Lead vocalist Steve MacNally died. With this sad information, the story of Roadmaster had come to an end…

Discography Roadmaster:

Roadmaster Village Records  1977
Sweet music Village Records  1978 
Hey world  Village Records  1979 
Fortress Village Records  1980 
Live+5 RDM Records 1989 

Line-Up Roadmaster:

Stephan McNally            -Lead Vocals
Rick Benick                    -Guitars
Michael Read                 -Keyboards
Toby Meyers                  -Bass
Bobby Johns                   -Drums

***Special thanks goes out to Eric Abrahamsen, Frank van Hoeve, Centrale Discotheek    Rotterdam for making this story of Roadmaster possible. This story is dedicated to Steve McNally, lead vocalist of Roadmaster***

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