By Bob Nalbandian

The Very Best Of
Rhino/Warner Archives

Talk about classic metal! Montrose were one of America's true metal pioneers. During the mid-70's, very few bands from America could compete with the onslaught of British metal legends such as Sabbath, Purple, Zeppelin, Priest, UFO, or even Germany's Scorpions and (later) Aussie metal kings AC/DC. Sure, we had The Stooges, MC5, Grand Funk, and Mountain. But not until the disembarking of Aerosmith, KISS, Ted Nugent, and the highly underrated Montrose, did America finally have soldiers that could compete with Europe's metal masters. Of course, Aerosmith, KISS, and Nugent went on to sell millions, but whatever happened to Montrose? Basically, after Sammy Hagar left the band in '74, the band lost it's edge (which is painfully evident after just one listen to this compilation!).

"Rock The Nation," "Bad Motor Scooter," "Space Station #5," and "Rock Candy," from the band's 1973 debut, kick off the CD, and are unquestionably true metal classics! That debut album was America's answer to Black Sabbath. Not that Montrose in any way emulated Sabbath musically, it's just that never before did an American band release such a powerful slab of heavy metal! Talking about way ahead of their time! Ronnie Montrose's guitar work is superb, and Sammy Hagar has never sounded as hard, raw and soulful as he does on their debut. And the production...holy shit! Montrose's debut is groundbreaking in that aspect alone. Produced by Ted Templeman (who later went on to fame producing Van Halen), that album was perhaps the most powerful, modern-sounding record for it's time. You can play that record alongside any current production and it will still hold true. (It's my understanding that Montrose's '73 debut just recently went gold, which I find truly shameful.)

The band's '74 follow-up, Paper Money, was not near as classic as their debut, but did include perhaps their best, and heaviest, track to date; "I've Got The Fire," which is included in this package along with three other (best) tunes from that CD: "Spaceage Sacrifice," "We're Going Home," and the title track "Paper Money." In most cases, bands mature with age, writing better songs with better production and arrangement. But in the case of Montrose, it was the complete opposite. The following four tracks on this compilation are from Montrose's third album, Warner Bros. Presents Montrose! This release finds Bob James replacing Hagar. After hearing these four tunes, you say to yourself; "how can a great band so quickly turn to shit?" Well, it may not exactly be shit, but it's far from what the band is obviously capable of. First big mistake; Ronnie Montrose took control over the boards, resulting in a garage-like production. They could have at least included Matriarch (the strongest tune from that album.)

The following three songs (tracks 13 through 15) are from the band's 1976 album Jump On It. Yet another unworthy effort, but at least it had a cool album cover. In fact, I think I bought this album when I was a kid just for jerk-off purposes (the cover is a close-up of a chick's crotch.) This was probably the same reason I bought Humble Pie's Thunderbox album (my first glimpse at bush...going to Zody's department store and secretly unwrapping the cellophane in order to view the inner sleeve...God, I miss vinyl!). Anyway, where was I?? Right...Montrose. Well, the remaining tracks (16 through 18) are from Ronnie's '87 solo album Mean. I find it quite ludicrous that he would include these tracks on this package, simply for the fact that it was a solo effort and not technically a "Montrose" album.

In conclusion, this compilation is definitely worth the bargain price (I believe I paid only $8.99 at the local record store - quite a bargain, just for the Hagar tracks alone.) But I suggest you pick up the bands debut, if you don't already own it, and help to make it go platinum for God's sake!

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