Mutatis Mutandis

Ronnie Montrose

IRS Records, 1991

http://www.ronniemontrose.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/27/2019

Whichever direction the phenomenally talented and deeply iconoclastic guitarist Ronnie Montrose’s muse pointed him in, you always knew this much: it was gonna be interesting. In a lifetime spent exploring hard rock, jazz rock, electronica, blues, acoustic music, and more, Montrose never made an album that could be described as “boring.”

For nearly 20 years (1982-2001), Montrose focused almost exclusively on instrumental guitar music, demonstrating tremendous range, with a wide range of results, though the consensus high point from this period remains his 1988 shred-fest my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Speed Of Sound. The ominously-named Mutatis Mutandis sometimes feels like a truer sequel to The Speed Of Sound than its 1990 predecessor The Diva Station, delivering an often hard-hitting set, though with a range of diversions and experiments, too.

Highlights include the opening title cut, which finds Montrose wailing memorably between visits from the monstrously fat core riff, bludgeoning the listener silly until he dials it all back for a thoughtful outro. Later, the maestro opens “Zero Tolerance” with flamenco-flavored acoustic textures before diving into a double-time jam. On the quieter side of things, the rippling, quite pretty “Mercury” soars, while “Velox” does a slow, pleasant acoustic/electric churn, and “The Nomad” locates a very sweet spot, featuring a soothing, circular rhythm guitar riff overlaid with keening, arcing solos.

The experiments are somewhat spottier. “Synthesist” Gary Hull provides dense, sometimes distracting textures behind Montrose’s fretwork on numbers like “Right Saddle/Wrong Horse” and “Tonga.” “Heavy Agenda” opens acoustic and stays there for two minutes before somewhat randomly shifting to electric on this throbbing but rather disjointed number. And “Greed Kills” features purposely odd “vocal texturing” intruding on a bluesy hard rock workout.  

Like Territory and The Diva Station, Mutatis Mutandis dances the line between eclectic and scattershot, and it loses energy in its final third. That said, in those moments when it clicks, Mutatis Mutandis hits hard and offers a dynamic and intriguing showcase for the many moods of Mr. Montrose.

Rating: B-

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