The story of the American band
Roadmaster starts in the mid seventies in Indianapolis in the state of
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’.
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…
***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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