The Best Of Gamma


GNP Crescendo Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


There are two time-tested approaches to the "best of" package. You can sequence the album chronologically, allowing the listener to track the artist's development over time, or you can pack the front end with the artist's most well-known cuts, and put the rest wherever it seems to fit best.

You might think that, for a band as prone to defying the conventional wisdom as Gamma and its headstrong leader, guitarist Ronnie Montrose, a "best of" album that flouts convention would be a perfect fit. You might think that… but you would be wrong.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This disc -- assembled by GNP Crescendo head producer Neil Norman (Robin Trower) -- inexplicably starts in the middle, opening up with the entire first side of Gamma 2, culminating with the modest AOR hit "Voyager." These are in fact some of my favorite Gamma tracks, but starting their "best of" collection with a four-pack from the middle of their very diverse three-album catalog makes no sense.

From there, things get even more muddled as the disc alternates trios, pairs and single tracks from Gamma 1 and Gamma 3. Keep in mind, this is a band that went through a distinct evolution, making significant changes in personnel, sound and approach between each of the three albums represented on this compilation. It would be hard to conjure up a bigger contrast in terms of production styles than Gamma 1's flat, muted tones and Gamma 3's sheeny electronic flash.

Worse yet, three of the band's very best tracks -- the Gamma 1 pair "Solar Heat" (a moody instrumental) and "Ready For Action" (a blistering rocker), and the dynamic Gamma 2 closer "Mayday" -- are completely MIA here. Why? How? It's like Van Halen issuing a greatest hits package without including "You Really Got Me." (Oh, wait…)

The packaging -- quel surprise -- is also weak, with unimaginative design hosting liner notes that are appropriately laudatory, but run long without ever getting to the heart of the Gamma experience.

Bottom line, there's a lot of music to enjoy on The Best of Gamma in spite of its many flaws. Tracks like "Thunder & Lightning," "Meanstreak" and "What's Gone Is Gone" throb with the energy and invention that Montrose, lead vocalist Davey Pattison and keyboard players Jim Alcivar and Mitchell Froom in particular brought to this band. It's just difficult as a fan to see such an underappreciated group's work presented in such a haphazard, disjointed way. The music here gets an A-; the sequencing, track selection and packaging gets a D.

Rating: B

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