‘Roadmaster’ the album has often been described as the band’s weakest link, though longtime fans needn’t feel discouraged as there are a surprising number of good songs on offer, which gives us a glimpse into their keyboard-laden future.
Written by: gdmonline
LABEL: Village Records
SERIAL: VR 7601
ALBUM INFO: Discogs Info
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Asher Benrubi – vocals * Stephan McNally – vocals * Rick Benick – guitars * Michael Read – keyboards * Toby Myers – bass * Steve Riley – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 That Magic Feeling * 02 Sunala Jones * 03 AM/PM * 04 Be My Baby * 05 Boogalate * 06 Its Been So Long * 07 Who Can Sing Like Fat Boy Do * 08 I Still Wanna Love You * 09 Love Me Baby * 10 In The Light
Wind the clock back to the early 1970’s. The location? Indiana University campus, and a bunch of blokes undecided whether to play music in the style of British progressive rock or Motown soul/funk. Diametrically opposed styles, somehow this outfit under the guise of Pure Funk made it work. With personnel bringing different influences to the table, this band would eventually end up being one of AOR’s cult favourite bands: Roadmaster.
At this early point, their singer was the larger than life Asher Benrubi (a.k.a Adam Smasher), Massachusetts raised drummer Steven Riley, Washington DC native Rick Benick, plus two Indiana homeboys Toby Myers and Michael ‘Bones’ Read. Their definitive style of AOR wouldn’t come home to roost until a few years after this 1976 debut album, which though funk oriented, contained enough moments of promise to indicate which direction they would eventually take.
The band’s songwriting at this stage was dominated by keyboardist Read, who was heavily influenced by Todd Rundgren, who as it turned Released by local Indianapolis label Village Records, the album would also introduce future vocalist Steve ‘Mac’ McNally, who sang a couple of songs here.
‘Roadmaster’ the album has often been described as the band’s weakest link, though longtime fans needn’t feel discouraged as there are a surprising number of good songs on offer, which (as said earlier) gives us a glimpse into the keyboard-laden future.
‘That Magic Feeling’ which opens this album’s account is less about funk but more about 70’s rock with amazing ‘Sunala Jones’ is where the band start demonstrating their chops, here you can taste the individual solo skills of Benick, Read and Myers, all interweaving their musical tapestry.
This segues into the soul/blues workout of ‘AM/PM’ where Read dominates with piano licks accompanied by Benick’s searing guitar work. ‘Be My Baby’ is certainly a by-product of 1976, and sounds like the future template for Roadmaster’s music.
‘Boogalate’ (which I think is pronounced Booga Latte) is one funky instrumental that shows where the band’s thinking was during this timeframe. So too ‘It’s Been So Long’ which has the same vibe that Wild Cherry were working with during 1976. Definitely white man’s funk!
The best-known track on the album would be ‘Who Can Sing Like Fat Boys Do’, and with Benrubi driving this one on vocals, the focus is upfront for the ‘bigger than Ben Hur’ vocalist! Adding a bit of sunshine to the mix is ‘I Still Wanna Love You’, a track which is a pre-cursor to their mid-west brand of AOR yet to come.
The only true ballad here is ‘Love Me Baby’ which isn’t really a touch on what we’ve heard thus far, the album finishing up with the synth-heavy ‘In The Light’, a quite remarkable song and very underrated throughout the entire Roadmaster catalog I would suggest.
Roadmaster returned in 1978 for their popular second album ‘Sweet Music’, and in between times travelled all over the USA in support of other popular bands doing the rounds at the time.
Former Exile drummer Bobby Johns would replace Riley on drums, Riley moving on to what was a notable career playing for the likes of The B’zz, Keel, W.A.S.P and L.A Guns with whom he continues to play today.
That Magic Feeling