Warner Brothers Records, 1973

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


You can argue over which band was the father of heavy metal, an argument I won't even try to touch on. But for my money, the group that gave birth to the whole hard rock presence on the radio in the '70s was Montrose.

A veteran of the Edgar Winter Group, Ronnie Montrose was a well-respected guitarist when he formed his own band in 1973. That band, featuring future Heart drummer Denny Carmassi, bassist Bill Church, and a young vocalist named Sammy Hagar, epitomized melodic hard rock, even if Montrose isn't well remembered in 1998. Their 1973 debut effort Montrose is still an enjoyable album, even 25 years after its release.

The album was once best known for the track "Bad Motor Scooter," which demonstrated Hagar's talents as a singer as well as Montrose's axe work. However, what is striking about Montrose's guitar playing for almost the entire album is that he does not indulge himself in flashy solos. Instead, he crafts more controlled solos that meld with the songs and highlight the whole band, not just himself. You have to admire Montrose for taking such a stance - it turns out to help strengthen the songs that much more.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That's not to say that Montrose doesn't take any time to put his guitar through an aerobic workout. On their cover of "Good Rockin' Tonight," which is more of a rock shuffle, Montrose finally lets loose on his guitar. Again, instead of sounding self-indulgent, the solo almost seems to be called for on this piece, and it fits in perfectly.

Oh, sure, if you wanted to nit-pick about anything, you could probably point out some of the double-entendre lyrics (such as in "Rock Candy," which is a great track) and the themes of former teenage angst (the modern-day aging tale "Make It Last"), or you could even point out the cosmic guitar noodlings on "Space Station #5". But you'd be stretching - the minor flaws on Montrose don't distract from the whole work.

In fact, the only real complaint I have with this album is the same complaint I have of many albums from this time period: it's far too short! Montrose demonstrates that this lineup was one of the most solid rock outfits of its time, whose loose musical sound hid a tight ensemble. A little more than eight songs clocking in at under 40 minutes would have been appreciated to hammer that point home.

Montrose is also noteworthy for the production work of Ted Templeman (who co-produced the album with the band). Templeman would later make a name for himself through his work with another California band - Van Halen. The overall sound of this album has a heavier bass sound than I'd normally like - but one wonders if this has been corrected in later releases.

Montrose, unfortunately, is rarely heard on the radio anymore. Why songs like "Rock Candy" and "Bad Motor Scooter" haven't held up as well as songs from other groups at this time is beyond me; quite possibly the time is right for a re-discovery of this album. (Montrose, who has since gone on to a solo career achieving cult status, recently reunited with the former members of the band for fun.) But one thing is clear: Montrose is an album that does not deserve to be forgotten with the passage of time.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.