The fourth Roadmaster album ‘Fortress’, would see the band shed their pomp tendencies and focus on a crisp radio rock and melodic AOR sound that would provide the soundtrack for the 80’s.
Written by: Lee South Africa
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Stephan MacNally – vocals * Rick Benick – guitars * Toby Myers – bass * Michael Read – keyboards * Bobby Johns – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Ride The Wind Away * 02 I Didn’t Notice * 03 You Make Me Feel Alright * 04 Too Long, Too Long * 05 New York New York * 06 Someday * 07 Satisfied Woman * 08 Anothers Ones Running * 09 Stay With Me Through The Night
Every AOR fanatic comes to the realisation that there’s far more to the classic late 70’s/early 80’s era than the handful of household names we all know (Boston, Toto etc). On your search for the less famous but equally brilliant AOR heroes, you’ll discover some outstanding bands, but your eventual destination, along with Hobbit, is Roadmaster.
The album we’re concerning ourselves with here is their fourth album ‘Fortress’, the last of their initial career. For this record they shed some of the involved pomp tendencies of previous albums, and concentrated on the kind of crisp and melodic AOR that would provide the soundtrack for the 80’s.
‘Ride The Wind Away’ is brimming with class and momentum, with a melody that’s so simple and fluid it’s no wonder this one was a concert favourite. ‘I Didn’t Notice’ rocks slightly harder without losing anything in the melody department, while ‘You Make Me Feel Alright’ is a lesson on how to really nail a harmonised power ballad chorus.
‘Too Long Too Long’ swings into Aerosmith territory and reveals to us what they could have sounded like with more talent and less drugs. ‘New York New York’ (no, not the Sinatra one!) is built on a hook somewhat like Kiss at their catchiest, with yet another flowing and emotionally-charged chorus.
‘Someday’ is up next, and if a more perfect AOR anthem exists, I haven’t heard it yet. From the opening flourish of keys right through to those otherworldly layered vocals in the closing chorus, you’re exposed to a catalogue of what 80’s AOR was going to sound like when other bands caught up.
‘Satisfied Woman’ is on the frenetic side with surprisingly little melody on offer, but ‘Another One’s Running’ immediately soothes any ruffled feathers through majestic use of melody, and the kind of post chorus bridge usually reserved for AOR dreams.
‘Stay With Me Through The Night’ is almost as good, and would have been a standout track on most other albums in 1980 – clearly a worthy closing track. Special mention must be made of the incredible lead vocals courtesy of the much missed Stephan MacNally, not only on this album but throughout Roadmaster’s career.
This record should have been multi platinum, but various factors prevented that, not least of which was the incredibly bland album cover – even the classic Roadmaster logo fell by the wayside. Still, that shouldn’t stop any of us from rushing out to buy it when it’s eventually released on CD.
Come to think of it, all four should be on the shopping list – for heaven’s sake, will some reissue company with vision please get into gear and release these already’? It’s about time Indiana’s finest got their due.
[footnote: eventually released by Rock Candy Records, along with ‘Sweet Music’ and ‘Hey World’ though one suspects a clean vinyl transfer has been applied on this one rather than masters].
Ride The Wind Away