Record Company: Warner Brothers
Release Date: 1973
Producer: Montrose & Ted Templeman
Web Site: http://www.ronniemontrose.com/
Sam Hagar ~ Vocals
Ronnie Montrose ~ Guitar
Bill Church ~ Bass
Denny Carmassi ~ Drums
1.) Rock The Nation [2:57] (Montrose): Mega-cowbell... a guitar screaming in overdrive... and Sammy ripping out the vocals. What more could you ask for? A loose, hard-rockin' jam that takes off from the first note and doesn't stop until it leaves you in a sweaty, panting lump. This is the first real glimpse of the Red Rocker's vocal prowess, and man, does he deliver the goods! And if that wasn't enough, this has got to be one of the best riffs in the history of hard rock, without a doubt. Awesome! Simply awesome! Rating: 12/10
2.) Bad Motor Scooter [3:43] (Hagar): How do you follow up a killer track like Rock The Nation? You let Ronnie throw the engine into 1st and then wind it through the gears. The rhythm section takes off on a loose rockin' riff for Ronnie and Sam to jam to... and the rest is history. By the time the boys fade away down the highway, there can be no doubt that you've just been ridden hard... and put away wet. Rating: 12/10
3.) Space Station #5 [5:17] (Hagar/Montrose): This is one of those songs that proves Eddie Van Halen wasn't quite the innovator he's always made out to be. As it turns out, Ronnie was doing the trippy Star Wars noises long before Eddie hit the stage... and several years before George Lucas took us to his favorite "Space Station." One listen to this song, and it's easy to see where Eddie got the idea for his now-famous "brown" sound... and why Eddie called Sammy when he needed a replacement for the immortal Diamond Dave. Rating: 11/10
4.) I Don't Want It [3:02] (Hagar/Montrose): Ronnie kicks things off with a wah-driven riff while the dynamic duo of Carmassi and Church lay down a smooth-rockin' groove. To top it all off, Sammy throws in an extra little bit of soul into the mix, making this a straight-ahead rocker of the first order. Sammy even straps on a guitar to add a little dual-guitar punch to the solo sections. Overall, a very cool tune. Rating: 8/10
5.) Good Rockin' Tonight [2:57] (Brown): The band turns in an upbeat cover of this Roy Brown classic. Ronnie lays down some of his finest fretwork for the solos... and Sammy really belts out the high notes. An all-around rock-solid performance. Rating: 9/10
6.) Rock Candy [5:17] (Hagar/Montrose/Carmassi/Church): Oh hell yeah!
When you look up "rock & roll" in the dictionary, you'll see the following phrase: " 'Cause you're rock candy, baby... You're hot, sweet and sticky...". A huge guitar and humongous drum beat takes this tune to the edge of excess... and then right over the top. This song should be named the official theme song for young lust.
Every band from here to Moscow has covered this song for one reason and one reason only: This is easily one of the coolest riffs in the history of the guitar. Period.
Rating: 20/10 (Go ahead... Call me a liar... )
7.) One Thing On My Mind [3:40] (Sanchez/Hagar/Montrose): Some people might consider this song a bit dated, especially in the lyrics department. I, however, tend to think songs like this are timeless. It's the perfect example of a mid-tempo groove executed to a perfection, complete with party lyrics and wailing guitars. Don't skip this one on my account. Rating: 8/10
8.) Make It Last [5:29] (Hagar): This one is definitely a bit lesser-known than the some of the other songs on this disc... but it's a classic nonetheless. A slow, smokin' riff and a heavy dose of Sammy's smoldering vocals combine to ensure that once you hear this tune, you won't soon forget it. A strong finish for a strong album. All aces! Rating: 11/10
The Last Word:
Long before Sammy Hagar became the Red Rocker and Eddie Van Halen took guitar gymnastics to a whole new level... there was Montrose.
While bands like Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep were singing about doom and gloom... these guys were doing riff-heavy jams about hot women and fast cars.
I'll bet most of you know all this already... but maybe not all of you. Surprisingly, this album was not the multi-platinum smash that it should have been. Most of the world never found out about Montrose until Sammy became a successful solo artist. Ironically, Sammy was a relative unknown when this album was released, whereas Ronnie and Bill were already established musicians, both having toured and recorded with Neil Young (most notably on 1972's "Tupelo Honey"). Ronnie had also worked with a number of big-name musicians, including Edgar Winter and Herbie Hancock.
When Ronnie decided to strike out on his own as a solo artist, he signed to Warner Bros. Records, who assigned veteran producer Ted Templeman (already well-known for his work with the Doobie Brothers) to handle the production duties. The recording sessions managed to capture the magic of the band in all its glory. I'm sure they must have hosed Ronnie and his Les Paul down after every song to keep his fretboard from catching fire. The rhythm section was also represented beautifully... and it shows in every song. The entire album features a HUGE bass sound that you can feel right down to your toes. Add to all of this the fire of a young unknown named Sam, who belted out each note like it might be his last. The power of his vocal work drives these songs to a whole new level, ensuring that anyone flipping through the dial would stop dead in their tracks to listen in.
It's unfortunate that Warner Bros. had little experience marketing a hard rock band, and unbelievably, the album did not make a big dent in the charts. It would only be many years later that the album would reach the platinum status it so richly deserved.
Of course, the fire and chemistry captured on this album would have been hard to duplicate, even under the best of circumstances... and like most bands with this much talent, the collaboration was short-lived. Bill Church left the band after recording this album, later joining Sammy when he recorded his first solo album, 1976's "Nine On A Ten Scale." The band would only release one more album (1974's "Paper Money") before Sammy also left the band in favor of a solo career. It is worth noting that there were a few excellent tunes on that album as well. In particular, I Got The Fire, Spaceage Sacrifice and We're Going Home (with Ronnie on vocals) are all "out of this world." Overall though, it failed to match the brilliance or cohesiveness of the first album.
After Sammy's departure and a pair of less-than-stellar releases over the next two years, the band officially disbanded, with Denny Carmassi joining Sammy's band in time to appear on 1977's "Musical Chairs." Ronnie released one obscure solo album after the Montrose years, and eventually went on to become one of the founding members of Gamma (with Davey Pattison on vocals). Ironically, Templeman and Warner Bros. would hit paydirt with Van Halen a few years later; lessons learned from the mishandling of Montrose, no doubt.
On the bright side, this album (and "Paper Money," to a lesser extent) serves admirably as a testament to the magic that was Montrose. Some will say that the music sounds dated, but I couldn't disagree more. Does Smoke On The Water sound dated? How about Whole Lotta Love? Takin' Care Of Business? China Grove? No way, Jose. A good riff and solid musicianship will always stand the test of time, and this disc is living proof. After all, this isn't one of those albums that takes a lot of listens to enjoy. One spin and you'll be hooked, without a doubt.
Think that's a bold claim? Maybe so...
Think I might be exaggerating a bit?
Me, RockHard, exaggerate?
Surely, you jest.
Well then, I guess you'll just have to go ahead and prove me wrong.
Give it a listen...
You know you want to.
Well... go ahead!
Now... tell me I'm wrong.
Yeah, that's what I thought you said.
The Bottom Line (AKA - The Six-Pack Scale):