Pomp Rock, a sub genre overview

Oxford Dictionaries defines Pomp Rock as: “A genre of rock music, especially prevalent in the late 1970s and early 1980s, typically characterized by prominent keyboards and drums and heavy use of guitar effects, often regarded as bombastic or grandiose in its delivery.” Earliest use is attributed to British weekly pop/rock music newspaper Melody Maker in the 1970s.

The term was used mainly by the British music press to identify Symphonic/Progressive Rock played by American bands. In the US these bands usually were labeled as AOR.

Thus Pomp Rock is a sub genre of Symphonic/Progressive Rock. Kansas and Styx are the best known representatives, but there are a lot of more obscure bands that are also well worth checking out.

Missing link beween Symphonic Rock and Adult Oriented Rock

Before we elaborate on that, it’s interesting to note that Pomp Rock in a way is a missing link between Symphonic/Progressive Rock and AOR. Originally AOR stood for Album Oriented Rock, a synonym of Symphonic/Progressive Rock. However, from the early 1980s on AOR is normally used as the abbreviation of Adult Oriented Rock.

This transition can also be seen in the development of one of AOR’s most prominent bands: Journey started out as a progressive outfit (1975, 1976 & 1977 albums) and evolved to the very definition of Adult Oriented Rock on Escape (1981) and Frontiers (1983).

Ambrosia followed a similar path. They also started out a progressive outfit (1975 & 1976 albums), had a succesful period at the end of the 1970s with West Coast style hit songs How Much A Feel (1978) & Biggest Part Of Me (1980), and reached their peak artistically with the 1982 AOR album.

A last example: Trillion, that debuted with a Pomp Rock influenced album and then moved on to produce one of the better albums in AOR history.

More obscure Pomp Rock bands worth checking out

Starcastle. An American band with strong Yes influences. Usually categorised as Pomp Rock, although there’s little difference with other Symphonic Rock bands. Their debut (1975):

Angel was discovered by Gene Simmons (Kiss fame). Their debut (1975), with  opening song The Tower, is an example of (hard) Pomp Rock, mainly because of Gregg Giuffria‘s prominent keyboards:

Alpha Centauri. A brilliant band that was sadly overlooked. They came up with just one album (1977), a genre classic:

Zon. A Canadian band. Their great debut album is a prime example of Pomp Rock (1978):

Morning Star. Fittingly described as a rock ‘n’ roll version of Starcastle. Their debut album (1978):

Roadmaster. This group is considered to be America’s premier pomp band. Especially the albums Sweet Music (1978) and Hey World (1979) are of interest for fans of early AOR, with songs like:

Touch. This outfit, with Mark Mangold, released one album in the 1980s (1980), that’s classic Pomp Rock. A second album was only released, together with the debut, some 20 years after it was recorded.

Spy. Another brilliant group, that produced a genre classic with their only album, a perfect cross of Styx and Kansas (1980):

Speedway Boulevard. An inventive band, with keyboards wizzard Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater fame), that was way ahead of its time. The style of the diverse and powerful songs is hard to pinpoint. But their fantastic and only album (1980) is definitely worth checking out:

 

 

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