Paper Money (Deluxe Edition 2 CD)

Montrose

Warner Brothers / Rhino, 2017

http://www.ronniemontrose.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/09/2018

As is the case with the original albums themselves, the deluxe edition of Montrose’s 1974 sophomore album Paper Money feels like a step down from the group’s landmark 1973 self-titled debut. At this point the original band remained three-quarters whole, with Ronnie Montrose (guitars), Sammy Hagar (vocals) and Denny Carmassi (drums) joined by Alan “Fitz” Fitzgerald on bass and keys, stepping in for the departed Bill Church. But Paper Money is a fundamentally different animal from the album it followed.

Hagar has been frank over the years in pointing out the biggest change and most obvious source of friction within the band: his individual songwriting contributions, significant on the first album, were no longer welcome. Of the eight tunes on Paper Money, two are covers (the opening two, oddly enough), three are credited solely to Ronnie Montrose, and three are co-credited to Montrose and Hagar. Add that to the fact that Hagar only sings on six of the album’s eight tracks (“Starliner” is an instrumental, and Montrose himself takes lead vocals on “We’re Going Home”), and it feels like the writing was on the wall.

Without rehashing my previous review of Paper Money, I’ll say this: the remastering for this deluxe edition is solid and sharpens things up noticeably in places, and the album was strewn with clues about Ronnie Montrose’s future musical path. “The Dreamer” and “Spaceage Sacrifice” foreshadow the darker, heavier hard rock heard on 1975’s nbtc__dv_250 Warner Brothers Presents, while “Underground” and “We’re Going Home” suggest the poppier side of his musical sensibilities brought out on deep tracks found on 1976’s Jump On It. Finally, the man’s first recorded instrumental “Starliner” presages his lengthy ’80s and ’90s career as a solo instrumental artist.

As with the album itself, the bonus disc for this new deluxe edition of Paper Money feels like a step down from the one for Montrose. No demos apparently exist for these songs, so the entire second disc consists of a live performance at a KSAN radio Record Plant showcase, 20 months after the KSAN Record Plant gig that ended up on the Montrose bonus disc.

While there are differences between the two setlists—notably the addition of a suitably fiery rendition of “I Got The Fire,” as well as “Spaceage Sacrifice,” plus a couple of as-yet-unreleased tunes—the bigger difference heard is in the performance itself. At the April ’73 gig, the band had yet to hit “record” on a single tune in its repertoire and sounded ferocious but undisciplined. The December ’74 performance captured here illustrates how much work the band had put in through the intervening months, recording two albums and touring incessantly; by the end of 1974 they had become a tight and focused musical unit.

“Rock Candy” “Bad Motor Scooter” and “Space Station #5” all repeat from the ’73 performance and each sounds much more like the studio recordings than at the previous Record Plant gig. The two new tunes are a Ronnie instrumental labeled “One And A Half,” on account of it containing the guts of that tune, later featured in a studio version on 1975’s Warner Brothers Presents album, though this version wanders over hill and dale for nearly three times the length implied by its title (bootlegged versions of this gig typically labeled this track “Ronnie’s Song,” a fair guesstimate, just as they labeled the one truly unreleased track here, the stinging hard blues number “Trouble,” as “Evil,” a word featured prominently in the chorus). Overall, it’s a solid, high-impact performance, well worth sharing here in a clean, professional recording that far outshines the sound quality of previous secondary-source bootlegs.

Paper Money would be the last time Montrose and Hagar worked together in a band setting, though they would record at least two tracks together subsequently, for Hagar’s 1997 album Marching To Mars and Montrose’s posthumous 2017 release 10 x 10. As such it’s a landmark album in its own way, just not ultimately as memorable or important as the original Montrose.

Rating: B+

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