Ronnie Montrose

Passport, 1986


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Following the dynamic fusion of 1978 solo debut Open Fire and the synth-heavy hard rock of his 1979-82 group Gamma, fans could be forgiven for anticipating that Ronnie Montrose’s next outing might combine the strengths of both. Instead, after a four-year wait, the ever-mercurial Montrose delivered an album that defines the term hodge-podge. A little of this, a little of that, some tracks that work, and some that don’t: that’s the story of Territory.

The lack of focus is clear from the start. Opener “Catscan” offers a thumping hard rock instrumental with cold, rather futuristic production values, a piece that feels like a precursor to my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Mean and The Speed Of Sound… at least until old pal Edgar Winter busts in with a sharp but seemingly out-of-nowhere sax solo. Then we get an instrumental r&b cover that doesn’t quite work (“I’m Gonna Be Strong”), followed by a George Harrison cover—with Montrose on lead vocals—that surprisingly does (“Love You To”).

The middle of the album gets stranger; “Odd Man Out” and “I Spy” feel like escaped experiments from a mid-’80s music lab, the former featuring a chilly, almost robotic rhythm section, while the latter spotlights Keeta Bill’s otherworldly lead vocals backed by various odd “digital vocal effects.” Soon after, you get an otherwise pleasant acoustic track called “Synesthesia” that’s among the few here that doesn’t prominently feature synths… hmm? In between, the title track offers a rather cinematic piece of space-rock.

The highlights arrive at the end of this album in the form of a pair of New Age-y instrumentals, “Pentagon” and “Women Of Ireland.” The latter is especially impressive, a superb, contemplative tone poem with Ronnie picking delicate, deliberate electric notes against a backdrop of acoustic harp, with no rhythm section present or needed.

Ronnie Montrose’s strongest solo albums typically featured a consistent cast of supporting players delivering on a distinct musical vision. By contrast, Territory appears to have been recorded in fits and starts with a range of different players, resulting in a collection of disparate individual tracks rather than a cohesive musical statement. There are moments here that fans won’t want to miss, but Territory is ultimately too scattershot in approach to rank among the man’s best.

Rating: C

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