Ronnie Montrose is known less for his guitar capabilities than for fronting a mid-’70s hard rock band that featured an unknown lead singer named Sammy Hagar. Still, Montrose released a quartet of heavy albums before heading into solo-artist obscurity. This new collection from Rhino features 18 tracks selected by Montrose, who also provides commentary in the liner notes. Running chronologically, the set begins with the self-titled Montrose album from ’73.
Ably produced by Ted Templeman, Montrose burns from start to finish. Every song is a heavy rocker, and production values are excellent. As with many sophomore efforts, Montrose’s second was more stylistically diverse, a fact reflected in this package, as well. Unfortunately, the songs weren’t as strong, but they show a band maturing, stylistically.
Hagar had departed by the release of Warner Bros. Presents Montrose in ’75 and the band seemed particularly lifeless. Produced by Ronnie Montrose, the record was poorly mixed and featured mostly mid-tempo songs. The best cut on the album, the ethereal “Sailor,” isn’t included here. Shame!
Montrose got back on his rockin’ shoes for Jump on It, in ’76, produced by Jack Douglas of Aerosmith fame. The three uptempo songs here show the band had improved greatly, but fans had apparently given up.
Rounding out this compilation are three cuts from Montrose’s recent solo effort, Mean, which capture to good effect his ability to create spacey melodic music. Sound on this remastered best-of is uniformly excellent, and the liner notes are complete and include shots of a number of Ronnie’s custom guitars. Some of Montrose’s best guitar playing came with his ’80s band, Gamma, and while none of those cuts are included here, a Gamma retrospective is close to completion.
This review originally appeared in VG‘s May ’01 issue.