Fabulous Flip Sides of RTZ with Brian Maes of Barry Goudreau's Engine Room

Keyboardist and vocalist Brian Maes discusses his time with Barry Goudreau on tour with Orion the Hunter in the 1980s, as a member of RTZ in the 1990s, and today as part of Barry Goudreau’s Engine Room, with their new album “The Road”
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In our new Goldmine May 2021 issue, we interview guitarist Barry Goudreau, who we heard on the first two classic 1970s albums by the band Boston, and discuss his post-Boston years, many of which have been with keyboardist Brian Maes, who we have interviewed for this article.

RTZ grooves

GOLDMINE: Congratulations on your new album The Road by Barry Goudreau’s Engine Room and the 30th anniversary of RTZ in the Top 100 singles chart. How did you and Barry meet?

BRIAN MAES: I was working in a music store in Boston called E.U. Wurlitzer, which was the biggest music store in town before the big chains came in. That is where all the famous musicians would come in to buy what they needed. Through that connection I learned that Barry Goudreau was auditioning keyboard players and was told that I could get an audition. It was a cattle call with a bunch of guys who auditioned, and I got the gig to be the touring keyboardist in his band Orion the Hunter and shortly after, we were on the road opening up for Aerosmith, in 1984.

RTZ Wurlitzer

GM: Orion the Hunter’s “So You Ran” brought Barry back to the Top 100 for the first time since Boston’s “Feelin’ Satisfied” in 1979. That 1984 single featured Fran Cosmo on vocals, who my wife Donna and I enjoyed so much on Barry’s 1980 solo album with Fran’s composition “Nothin’ to Lose.”

BM: It was a good tour but after that summer the band broke up.

RTZ Orion

GM: Well that was quick. Unfortunately, the second single, “Joanne” didn’t chart when it was released late that summer. Donna says that the melody for that one reminds her of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On,” which was released years later. After the breakup, it seems that you and Barry must have remained close.

BM: Yes. I told Barry that I would love to stay and present him with some music that I had been working on and he was really happy with that idea, so we started throwing some ideas around. I told him about a drummer who I had been working with in a band for the artist Robert Ellis Orral, named David Stefanelli, who would become the drummer with us in RTZ. Barry, David and I worked together for quite a while. Brad Delp, from Boston, was around quite a bit, too, because Brad and Barry were married to sisters, making Brad and Barry brothers-in-law. Although Brad was obliged to sing with Boston, and they were on and off tours, he would hang out and we would ask, “Brad, why don’t you lay down some vocals for us?” He would do that and if he wasn’t around then I would sing leads to just get the songs worked out, but having Brad there was fun because everything he sang sounded like a hit song. We went through a few years of auditioning other singers, who were all good, but none of them seemed to work out. Then around late 1988, after Boston’s Third Stage Tour had ended, Brad approached Barry and said that he was available, so we got a record deal in about five minutes, having both of those guys in the band. The new energy of having Brad in the band fueled a lot more creativity.

GM: Then, thirty years ago, “Face the Music,” which you co-wrote with Barry was on the radio, with Brad’s voice being so recognizable.

BM: Barry and I had written it a while back and had two different singers before Brad and then when Brad sang it, we knew it was right, and we got really excited about. When we heard it on the radio, around the Boston area, it was a total gas.

GM: The flip side was “Return to Zero,” the album’s finale and the full name for the band’s initials RTZ.

BM: That was an instrumental piece that I had put together, which was part of a piece when I was in Robert Ellis Orral’s band. Once Barry got ahold of it, he made it into something else and it became the best way for us to open a show, powerfully with Barry’s slide guitar.

RTZ cassette single

Flip side: Return to Zero

A side: Face the Music

Top 100 debut: August 17, 1991

Peak position: No. 49

Giant 19273

GM: You mentioned Robert Ellis Orral a couple of times. He had his sole debut in the Top 40 in mid-May 1983, when our daughter Brianna was born, with “I Couldn’t Say No.”

BM: Oh, cool, joined by Carlene Carter.

GM: Your next charting single, “Until Your Love Comes Back Around,” brought RTZ to the Top 40, with that beautiful power ballad.

BM: I had written that song earlier and would play it in my solo gigs. I used to have a residency every Friday night at a bar in Salem and Brad used to come and see me a lot. He would sit in the corner and then people would suddenly start to recognize him, and he would get up and sing a Beatles song and blow everybody’s mind. He loved that song of mine. I played it for him at Barry’s house on Barry’s piano and Brad loved it, but we kind of forgot about it. I think I wrote that one in 1985 and even presented it to Peter Wolf of The J. Geils Band to consider. After we got the record deal, we were rehearsing in another bar, getting ready to go to L.A. to record the album and we had another ballad, which I think was called “Follow the Hope.” We all seemed to like it but in the middle of playing it, Brad stopped the band and said, “This is not the ballad for us. What about that other song, Brian?” I asked, “What song?” He replied, “That one that you played for me.” I played it and he said, “That’s it! That is our power ballad,” and Barry agreed. Brad said, “You know, Brian, you should sing it.” I said, “No. You’re Brad Delp, okay? If I sing it, the song won’t see the light of day. Ha ha.” I watched Brad sing his vocal on that song in the studio in L.A. and it was an amazing take. A radio station in the Baltimore/D.C. market is responsible for its success.

GM: Donna loves that one too. We have been playing it our car recently.

BM: Oh, thank you. I released a version years later on my album called The Great Symphony with the exact same arrangement.

GM: Now you are singing with Engine Room, with the second album, The Road, just released.

BM: Yes, I was always a go to guy for Brad, doing backing vocals for him, and working with my band. Brad was always encouraging to me, giving me confidence as a singer. Sadly, when he passed in 2007, and we did a tribute concert on the waterfront at The Pavilion, Barry asked, “Who are we going to get to sing?” I told him that I would do it. I went home and told my wife that I got myself in way over my head. She encouraged me like Brad had done in the past. She is a wonderful singer, who you have heard on the Engine Room albums. Brad adored her voice. So, I stepped up and did that and it gave me a little bit of confidence, but I would have preferred Brad sing those songs, and I didn’t want to lose him because he was a great friend and a wonderful guy. Then our group Ernie and The Automatics happened with guys from John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band, RTZ, and Boston, including Barry plus Sib Hashian on drums. It was a smokin’ band. At some point we said that we would do well if we would include some Boston material and we came up with a ten minute medley of some of the bigger hits. The crowds loved it and it became a staple of ours. When that band broke up, I put my band together, put out a record and started playing around the local scene. Then Barry called me up and said he missed working with me and asked if I would like to get together and do some new original music. I called up our bassist Tim Archibald, who Barry and I had played with for years, beginning with RTZ, and we wondered who we could get on drums to give us the power that Sib had given us. I told Barry that I have a guy, Tony DePietro. After hearing him with us for about twenty seconds Barry said, “He is the guy.”

Barry Goudreau, Tim Archibald and Brian Maes on stage, 2017

Barry Goudreau, Tim Archibald and Brian Maes on stage, 2017

GM: There are also your wife Mary Beth, Teri O’Soro and Joannie Cicatelli on background vocals, who are especially powerful on the new song “Las Vegas,” which sounds like a Sammy Hagar rocker, with your organ part prominent, too.

BM: Very early on when Barry asked if I wanted to do a project with him, he asked if I thought that Mary Beth would also want to be part of it and I told him that I thought she would and I told him that if he wanted me to put together a rock gospel choir, I know a couple of other girls who could really do a nice job. They are great singers, they love Mary Beth, and all three have different voices, but I knew that they would sound amazing together. So, they are our special sauce. On stage, Mary Beth sings some of the higher Boston vocals that I can’t reach. She’ll sing “Smokin’” and “Peace of Mind” plus Orion the Hunter’s “So You Ran.” Joanie and Terri are also singing lead now on a song I wrote specifically for them on the new album called “Edge of a Knife.” There is one that I wrote for Mary Beth called “The Camel’s Back,” which she sings lead on the whole song. Joanie and Terri also sing lead lines on the remake of “The Rhythm Won’t Stop,” originally on the Delp and Goudreau album. Most of the basic tracks, fortunately, were recorded before Covid hit and most of the editing was done by me in my home studio. Barry’s guitarwork on this record is the best I’ve ever heard him do and he is a guitar icon with his finesse, touch and style. I am so proud to be the producer of this album and grateful for all the freedom that Barry his given me. All the drums were tracked in my home studio along with my keyboards and lead vocals, most of Barry’s guitarwork, and all the backing vocals from the girls. Fortunately, in addition to Mary Beth in our house, our seventeen year old daughter Madeline has inherited her mom’s vocal talent and is an amazing singer, so I told Barry after Covid hit that I could finish the album with Mary Beth and Madeline. Barry agreed as he wanted to get the album done. So Maddy sang the backing vocals with Mary Beth on the title track, “The Road” and in the bridge of the song “What They Say.” Not everyone has recording capabilities in their own home, so we are fortunate.

GM: I think Mary Beth and Maddy do a wonderful job on “The Road” and Barry’s guitar part reminds me of “Long Time.”

BM: Maddy’s favorite singers are old school, like Dusty Springfield and Stevie Nicks. She doesn’t listen to most music that kids her age are listening to. “The Road” was the first song written for this new album, while we were on tour with the first Engine Room album. The album opens with “Love Will Lead the Way,” which is what we originally thought we would name the album after, and the last song is called “Love (Reprise),” which has a lot of the same elements as the opener and is close to seven minutes long with an instrumental introduction and then becomes a straight ahead rocker when it gets going, but it has a lot to it.

GM: That incredible finale is probably my favorite song on the album. I think it is most Boston-like song and it truly pulls everything together. “Word to the Wise” is another favorite of mine, reminding me of Bad Company drama with a touch of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.” There is also a pair of power ballads which remind me of the softer side of the band Mountain. First there is “Shade,” with a bluesy feel like one of Donna’s favorites, Derek & The Dominos’ “Bell Bottom Blues” and second, there is “Come a Time,” with a storytelling delivery we enjoy at Trans-Siberian Orchestra concerts. Congratulations on all this variety.

BM: Thank you so much. On top of this new music, I am releasing a book, in three parts, on my life, called Brushes with Greatness. The first part is from when I was born, up to getting accepted at Berklee College of Music, here in Boston. That part has just been released. Now I am working on the second part, which covers me meeting Barry. Thank you again. It is folks like you at Goldmine who can help us get this out of the gate.

RTZ The Road

Related links:

https://www.barrygoudreau.com/