Montrose (1973-1977, 1987, 2005): a Heavy Metal band from California, USA.
onnie Montrose's solo act started in the autumn of 1973 in California. Montrose promised to become a powerhouse of the heavy metal genre but succeeded only briefly in that goal, featuring himself and a set of musicians over time for both live and session work. Under the original line-up of Sammy Hagar (vocals), Ronnie Montrose (ex-Van Morrison/ex-Edgar Winter; guitar), Bill Church (ex-Van Morrison; session bass) and Denny Carmassi (drums), he would release what many considered to be one of the best heavy metal debuts in history. With tracks like Space Station No. 5 and Bad Motor Scooter the self-titled Montrose (1974) became a classic even if it only got a UK 43 (but eventually went platinum). It was hard, it was heavy and it was right for its time; it was the album that made his name.
Paper Money (1974) would follow, released only 8 months after the debut and as such it was left with many shortcomings. The album was further hindered by the tension between Hagar and Montrose that was so thick one could cut it with a knife, leading to Hagar's sacking shortly after. Bob James took over the vacant front-man spot with Jim Alciver being added to create a keyboard spot, while shortly before Alan Fitzgerald had assumed the bass slot.
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Under the high-profile management of concert promoter Bill Graham, Montrose now reached the peak of their commercial popularity. The resulting 1975 release of Warner Bros. Presents Montrose got the band a 79 on the Billboard 200 chart; their second highest position. The album got them headlining shows at mid-sized venues and access to larger arenas and stadium venues sharing the bill with major artists like The Rolling Stones, Kiss, Peter Frampton, Yes, Rush, The Eagles, Journey, and Aerosmith. The follow-up, Jump On It (1976) featuring Randy Jo Hobbs on bass, followed along for the ride.
As the result of a near-fatal amphetamine overdose during his stint with the Edgar Winter Group, Ronnie Montrose adopted a strict personal anti-drug/anti-alcohol stance. He would go so far as to insist that all band members abide by this policy. It wouldn't matter much because the band imploded about a year later; Church and Carmassi would go off to join Hagar on his solo material. Hagar would go on to fame in Van Halen.
With Edgar Winter as guest keyboardist and Alcivar and Fitzgerald returning while Rick Schlosser took over drums, Open Fire would be Ronnie Montrose's new debut in 1978. The album received the cold shoulder due mostly to its style change from old school hard rocking to jazzy instrumental.
Seeing his new artistic direction wasn't cutting the mustard he broke the act up again and returned with the harder rocking Gamma 1 in 1979 under the band name Gamma with the line-up Fitzgerald, Alcovar, himself and Davey Pattison (vocals), and Skip Gallette (drums), but the three resulting albums Gamma 1 (1979), Gamma 2 (1980; featuring Denny Carmassi (drums), Glenn Letsch (bass)) and Gamma 3 (1982; with Michael Froom taking over from Alcivar), although competent, failed to grab the world's attention gaining only top 70 rankings on the US charts.
Recruiting yet one more band featuring Hilary Hanes (bass), Steve Bellino, John Hanes, Andre B. Chgapman (all drums), Pat Freehan, Mitchel Froom, Kevin Monahgan, Doug Morton (all keyboards), Edgar Winter (sax), Barbara Imhoff (harp) and Michael Beese (electric violin) he would re-launch himself as Ronnie Montrose on the Territory album in 1986. It would be the second effort Mean (1987), with Johnny Edwards on vocals, Glen Letsch (bass) and James Kottak (later of Kingdom Come; drums), however, that saw his toughest work in some time and the additions of synthesizer on the follow-up Speed Of Sound (1989), with Pat Freehan on synthesizer and Johnny Bee Bedanjek (vocals; who replaced Edwards who went off to join Foreigner) that saw the guitarist take a further back seat. Diva Station (1990) didn't fare much better with Gary Hall (synthesizer), Dave Morendo (bass), Steve Bellino and Don Frank (drums). Mutatus Mutandis (1991) saw another line-up change with Craig McFarland (bass) and Michele Graybeal (drums), while Music From Here (1994) with and Mr. Bones (1996) featured Myrion Dove (bass), Billy Johnson(drums),Joe Heinmann (keyboards), Michele Graybeal (percussion), Spencer Nilsen (organ) and Fitz Huston (vocals). All the albums (and line-ups) failed to chart significantly but continued to demonstrate Montrose's restless creative styles.
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