Warner Brothers Presents... Montrose


Warner Brothers Records, 1975


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


The parting of ways between founding lead vocalist Sammy Hagar and bandleader Ronnie Montrose at the end of Montrose's 1974 Paper Money tour was a significant blow to the band. Two albums into a promising career, remaining members Montrose (guitar), Alan Fitzgerald (bass) and Denny Carmassi (drums) had to regroup and, to some degree, re-establish the pioneering hard rock band's identity.

Montrose responded by adding not one, but two new members, Jim Alcivar on keyboards and debuting lead vocalist Bob James. The ensuing album, purposefully titled my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Warner Bros. Presents, suggested this was in fact a new and different band from that heard on the first two Montrose albums, to be approached with fresh eyes and ears.

The difference is obvious from the opening bars of the leadoff cut, the heavy, almost ominous "Matriarch." The first two albums' rich, wide-open production has been replaced by a dense, somewhat flattened-out sound whose gothic overtones are reinforced by Alcivar's prominent organ work. For a band that often mentioned Deep Purple as a major influence, this was the first cut in their repertoire that sounds like it could actually have been recorded by Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord and company.

The second cut promptly demonstrates that Ronnie Montrose's perpetual quest not to be pigeonholed continues, as the lighter, more pop-flavored "All I Need" features James crooning sweet nothings to a lover, at least until the synthesizer/guitar bridge takes the song in a completely unexpected direction. "Twenty Flight Rock" follows with a blast of Montrose-style good old-fashioned rock and roll, albeit embellished with Montrose's fabulously foot-stomping guitar lines and a sizzling solo.

Much of the rest of the album follows in the footsteps of this unlikely trio. "Dancin' Feet" is a guitar-shredding piece of party rock. "Black Train" is a "Matriarch"-style pounder with Dio-esque mythical lyrics. "O Lucky Man" is a pleasant-enough slice of melodic rock whose clumsily earnest lyric echoes that of "All I Need." "One and a Half" is perhaps the lone standout, a trilling, gorgeous acoustic piece on which Ronnie Montrose previews his later solo guitar explorations.

Despite some bright spots, this uneven album suffers from a lack of focus, and James' distinctly uncharismatic performance. Montrose's powerful guitar work and another strong turn from Carmassi simply aren't enough to overcome James' cliched lyrics and bland vocals. After this album failed to spark with the audience created by the band's first two efforts, they were down to their last chance in this incarnation.

Rating: B-

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© 2002 Jason Warburg 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.