Monday, 5 June 2017

"Montrose" by MONTROSE [feat Sammy Hagar and Ronnie Montrose] (October 2009 Rock Candy 'Remastered and Reloaded Collector's Edition' CD Reissue) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Good Rockin' Tonight..."

A full-page advert in the 1 December 1973 issue of the Billboard Trade Magazine announces to the USA and an unsuspecting world that MONTROSE is a new band on Warner Brothers Records and 'you'll be hearing from them...' Well the 'new' part was right at least...

"Montrose" took over half a year to register and even when the debut album did chart Stateside – it was with a whimper rather than a scream – a reaction that belies its monster reputation for being the real beginning of American Heavy Metal. With a staggeringly naff front and back cover depicting our heroes in naked torso pose (the second album "Paper Money" later in 1974 takes first prize for possibly the worst cover ever made – the next two that followed weren't much better either) - the blistering Ted Templeman-produced Hard Rock sonic assault of the self-titled "Montrose" on Warner Brothers BS 2740 has influenced Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Motorhead and every uber-polished American Rock Band ever since – Van Halen especially.

So why did it tank initially? Talk was that not only did Warner Brothers not know what to do with Montrose or how to market them – they didn’t care because they had all the Rock Gods they needed in The Doobie Brothers and Deep Purple who were selling product in cartloads. And despite touring with huge acts like Humble Pie, The Who and Lynyrd Skynyrd where Montrose would invariably slaughter all in their path when they played (there's a centre page double-photo spread of them at the UK's Charlton Athletic Football Stadium supporting the likes of Bad Company and The Who in May 1974) – the band struggled to translate that excitement into actual record sales. The LP wouldn't arrive in the UK until March 1974 on Warner Brothers K 46276 – and despite its audiophile Production values and two singles that most other Rock Bands would chop up Granny for ("Rock The Nation" and "Bad Motor Scooter") – it didn't chart.

In hindsight the LPs initial damp-squid reaction was strange especially given that the amazing hard-hitting radio-friendly riffage of "Montrose" had arrived in a world where Led Zeppelin's "Houses Of The Holy" had gone to No. 1 and ZZ Top, Joe Walsh, Uriah Heep, Edgar Winter, The Allman Brothers Band, Spooky Tooth, The Rolling Stones and Mott The Hoople (all kick-ass Rock acts) largely dominated the album charts. It would take until the 11th of May 1974 for the album to hit the US Top 200 and then it only managed a peak of No. 133 and an overall 12-week run.

But history has proven our deaf ears wrong and Kerrang Magazine right (No. 4 in their Top 10 list of best Metal albums ever) because the record has now taken on an almost mythical air - some even suggesting that its the greatest Hard Rock album ever made (I don't know about that but it's up there). Which brings us to this 'Rock Candy' CD reissue of 2009 (the label literally taking its name from their song on Side 2) that is a first CD reissue for the UK and Europe. Here are the bad motor scooters...

UK and Europe released 19 October 2009 (re-issued July 2011) - "Montrose" by MONTROSE on Rock Candy CANDY062 (Barcode 827565000289) is a straightforward transfer of the 1973 eight-track album on a 'Remastered & Reloaded Collector's Edition' CD that plays out as follows (32:16 minutes):

1. Rock The Nation [Side 1]
2. Bad Motor Scooter
3. Space Station No. 5
4. I Don't Want It
5. Good Rockin' Tonight [Side 2]
6. Rock Candy
7. One Thing On My Mind
8. Make It Last
Tracks 1 to 8 are their debut album "Montrose" - released December 1973 in the USA on Warner Brothers BS 2740 and March 1974 in the UK on Warner Brothers K 46276. Produced by TED TEMPLEMAN and Engineered by DONN LANDEE - it peaked at No. 133 in the USA (didn't chart UK). "Rock The Nation" written by Ronnie Montrose, "Bad Motor Scooter" and "Make It Last" by Sammy Hagar, "Space Station No. 5" and "I Don't Want It" by Ronnie Montrose and Sammy Hagar, "Rock Candy" by Montrose, "One Thing On My Mind" by Hagar, Montrose and J. Sanchez and finally a cover version of the Roy Brown hit "Good Rockin' Tonight".

SAMMY HAGAR – Lead Vocals

The 16-page booklet features an enthusiastic and hugely entertaining 4000-word essay on the band and the album's history by BRIAN BRINKERHOFF (Ronnie's stints with Van Morrison) that’s peppered with live photos and contributions from founder members Ronnie Montrose and Bassist Bill Church. Not surprisingly both musicians sing the praises of and hold huge affection for the dynamic audio duo of Ted Templeman and Donn Landee (Producer and Engineer) with tales of clever pre-digital multiple-microphone placing, letting the band rip live in the studio and crawling around rooms with blankets to get that 'sound' the LP is famous for.

Speaking of audio - I've had the July 2005 American-only 24-Karat Gold "Montrose" HDCD for years to have the album in its best form - a Steve Hoffman Remaster on Audio Fidelity AFZ 028 (Barcode 780014202828) and it's a belter as you can imagine. There are also tracks from the LP on a Rhino "Best Of" CD in Remastered form that sound awesome too. The latest Rock Candy version from 2009 offers a new JON ASTLEY Remaster which is described as 'sound shaped from 24-bit digital tools via POW-r technology' - whatever that means. All I can say is that it this mother 'rocks' with the lewdness and swagger of Dave Lee Roth on steroids and the visceral punch of an irate mule with daddy issues. The album was always loud - but here it has power too - and not just trebled for the sake of it either - I love it.

Warner Brothers UK took the opener "Rock The Nation" and tagged on "One Thing On My Mind" onto the B-side in July 1974 (Warner Brothers K 16428) - but like the equally ass-kicking "Bad Motor Scooter" from April 1974 on Warner Brothers K 16382 (with the same flipside) - both 45s tanked.  Maybe they were just too much at the time - but re-listening to them now followed by that astounding power-riff in "Space Station No. 5" - it makes you wonder was it that truly cruddy artwork that put people off? Unsung album heroes come in the shape of "I Don't Want It" (just quit my job making tooth-picks out of logs) - the great fun-rock of "Good Rockin' Tonight" where Montrose take Roy Brown's 1949 "Rockin' At Midnight" and update it into a fantastic Rock raver. And while you could understand why they used the huge riff of "Rock Candy" in the movie "The Rose" as the helicopter flies over the concert crowd below - my real poison has always been the brilliant but simple Rock of "One Thing On My Mind" and the big-mickey swagger of "Make It Last".

Montrose managed three more albums on Warner Brothers (Ronnie did a solo record also in 1978) - their second platter "Paper Money" in particular having some decent tracks like "Underground" and "Connection" - but mostly the rest of their output felt like that initial album magic was gone. The debut would also lead maestro Producer Ted Templeman and genius Engineer Donn Landee to Eddie Van Halen and Dave Lee Roth and their band VAN HALEN where they collaborated to amazing effect on VH's first six albums - especially their equally explosive self-titled debut in 1978 (also on Warner Brothers). Montrose's original vocalist Sammy Hagar would of course join Van Halen's ranks in 1986 for "5150" and three other No. 1 albums after whilst Drummer Denny Carmassi would swell the pirate crews within Heart, Whitesnake and Coverdale/Page. Ronnie would helm his band Montrose for years - then join with Edgar Winter and Gamma - and in 2004 and 2005 he would bring the whole story full circle by joining the original four-piece of Montrose on stage with Sammy Hagar.

"The Pretenders", "Dire Straits", "The Clash", "The Cars", "Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers" - just some of the debut albums that took us all by storm. 

Well, 1973's "Montrose" is up there with the best of them and this Rock Candy CD reissue of it has done their huge and influential legacy proud...

CD Remasters of MONTROSE on Rock Candy Records

1. Montrose (December 1973 Debut LP) – 2009 CD on Rock Candy CANDY062 (Barcode 827565000289)
2. Paper Money (November 1974 2nd LP) – 2015 CD on Rock Candy CANDY278 (Barcode 5055300387462)
3. Warner Bros. Presents Montrose! (October 1975 3rd LP) – 2015 CD on Rock Candy CANDY279 (Barcode 5055300387479)
4. Jump On It (September 1976 4th LP) - 2015 CD on Rock Candy CANDY280 (Barcode 5055300387486)

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