40 Years Ago: Montrose Start Over With ‘Warner Bros. Presents … Montrose’
When Ronnie Montrose unveiled his namesake group’s third album, he was obviously having fun with the Warner Bros. label's history as a movie studio. At the same time, a rather large number of music fans had yet to make the guitarist’s acquaintance, so this title also acknowledged the fact that Montrose had a long way to go in becoming a household name.
More critically, when Warner Bros. Presents ... Montrose arrived in September 1975, they were starting fresh after making a few crucial changes – specifically replacing Sammy Hagar.
Montrose’s popular former frontman contributed both his songwriting talents and charismatic on-stage presence for two albums and their ensuing tours before getting his marching orders when Ronnie Montrose – the band’s ostensive focal point – started feeling upstaged by his hand-picked frontman. Rather than sharing the spotlight, Ronnie tried to consolidate his power base by hiring new singer Bob James and a full-time keyboard player in Jim Alcivar to join himself, bassist Alan Fitzgerald (later keyboard player for Night Ranger) and drummer Denny Carmassi.
Even so, credits on Warner Bros. Presents ... Montrose suggested this was a true band effort, with all five musicians listed as co-songwriters on three of its first four cuts — the driving, futuristic synth-laden “Matriarch,” the radio-bound tear-jerker “All I Need,” and the dreamlike prog-rocker “Whaler.” Another tune, the heavy blues “Dancin’ Feet,” was jointly written by Montrose and James, and two more were credited exclusively to Ronnie: the dexterous acoustic showcase of “One and a Half” and the plodding heavy rock of “Clown Woman.” Completing the track listing were three cover songs, beginning with a powerful run through Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock,” another single candidate in “O Lucky Man!” (penned by Animals keyboardist Alan Price), and a thrilling speedster in “Black Train.”
Altogether, these songs brought both continuity to Montrose’s hard rock-leaning first albums behind Sammy Hagar, and pushed their sounds in ever more eclectic directions. Unfortunately, it was still only good enough to earn positive, but rarely enthusiastic, reviews; Warner Bros. Presents ... Montrose could only get to No. 79 on the Billboard chart. Considering that its predecessor Paper Money climbed to No. 65, this was seen as disappointing. Matters would hardly improve on the subsequent Jump On It, which hardly charted at all. That signaled the imminent collapse of Montrose, forcing Ronnie to try again with new band Gamma and, later, retreat into session work.
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