Sunday, March 4, 2012

Montrose - Montrose

Growing up in Southeast Iowa, one of the most ubiquitous hard rock albums you could find on Saturday night was the debut album from Montrose. I’d only heard bits and pieces of the album on the stray FM signals that worked their way up the banks of Mississippi river from St. Louis or down from the Quad Cities.

Those signals were few and far between, so much of the Montrose legend came from rock and roll uncles and older brothers. And it only one listen of it before you understood why it was so revered.

I think the only reason Montrose isn’t noted more is because it came during a time, 1973, in which everyone seemed to be releasing albums of incredible consistency. Montrose was a just another band from Southern California with Sunset Strip chops and a young unknown Sammy Hagar fronting an upstart guitarist as its namesake.

This album would turn out to be the best record that either one of them would do in what stands as pretty lengthy careers for both.

Ronnie Montrose was best know as one of the guitarists of the Edgar Winter Group’s They Only Come Out At Night release. Montrose also worked his way into the Herbie Hancock band previously, and he counts Tupelo Honey as one of his credits.

Warner Brothers records viewed Montrose as a potential star and put him together with producer Ted Templeton for the major label debut.

Clocking in with eight songs in just over a half-hour, Montrose is the perfect training manual for future SoCal hard rockers, including Van Halen, who mirrored much of the record for their own debut.

It is here where Sammy Hagar introduces some of the first entries of his endlessly questionable lyrical choices, and it is here where another guitarist of enormous talent saves his ass again.

Montrose possesses none of the flash of a Eddie Van Halen, but he comes from a school of hard working guitarist who starts with a few blues chords and ends up with otherworldly talent.

“Space Station No. 5” should be required listening for any self-serving bar band thinking of introducing their own material into the set. And if that band is of any merit, it should sound just as convincing as Montrose’s version of Roy Brown’s “Good Rockin’ Tonight” that’s found on side two.

“Rock The Nation,” “Bad Motor Scooter,” and the closer “Make It Last” also feature memorable riffs and themes that qualify for rock and roll’s most anthemic performances of all time. Why Montrose-and even Hagar, to some extent-couldn’t move beyond this benchmark is one of the hard rock’s biggest mysteries while becoming the pair’s own fuel for future disappointment.

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