Album review: MONTROSE – I Got The Fire (6 CD Boxset)

Cherry Red/HNE Recordings [Release date: 29.07.22]

If you’re looking for comprehensive CD coverage of Montrose’s journey through the seventies, look no further. That might sound like a PR man’s tagline, but it’s reflective of reality.

This boxset consists of:
CD1: Montrose (1973)
CD2: Demos plus first Live Radio Session, Record Plant (1973)
CD3: Paper Money (1974)
CD4: Second Live Radio Session, Record Plant (1974)
CD5: Warners Bros Presents Montrose (1975)
CD6: Jump On It (1976)

Ronnie Montrose, session musician turned bandleader, had very astutely recruited relatively unknown vocalist, Sammy Hagar, for the band’s debut. Denny Carmassi and Bill Church, later to join Heart and Hagar’s own band respectively, rounded out the line up.

In the UK, hard rock was being knocked into shape by bands like Free, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. Ronnie Montrose had clearly been listening. The debut, characterised by the proto metal heavy rock of ‘Bad Motor Scooter’ (written by Hagar) and ‘Space Station No.5′ sold solidly through its release year.
Slickly edited versions of these two tracks are included as bonus material.

It’s become the norm now for HNE / Cherry Red reissues to display high quality sound. The remastering goes some way to separating Montrose’s monster guitar shapes from Hagar’s lean and confident vocalising. The whole album sounds like it’s been adrenalised.

The second disc, Demos 1973, opens with half a dozen demos from the debut. All of which except for ‘Shoot Us Down’ made it onto the finished album.

Their first radio session at the Record Plant – 11 tracks in all, make up the rest of this disc. It’s as you would expect. Talented, motivated musicians, all together in one room, blasting out great rock songs.

Paper Money went off (tangentially at times) from the debut’s straight ahead hard and heavy rock. This was Ronnie Montrose bravely attempting to expand the band’s musical palette. Arguably, the two tracks from the debut aside, ‘Connection’ is Hagar’s finest hour. More slick edits add 4 bonus tracks.

We’re back for another Live Radio Session in the Record Plant for CD4. This is a focused, truncated set, hitting the high spots – ‘Bad Motor Scooter’, ‘I Got The Fire’, ‘Rock Candy’, ‘Space Station No.5′ plus 4 more well chosen songs – leaving us wanting more.

By the time the third album, Warner Bros Presents, came around, Hagar was gone. Montrose covers band singer, Bob James, got the gig.

Alan (The Animals) Price’s ‘O Lucky Man’ and Eddie Cochran’s ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ seemed bizarre cover choices. Ronnie Montrose was also producing now and he made the decisions.

The anti-drugs song ‘Black Train’ had been tracked by Montrose since playing back up on the original Kendall Kardt version in 1971. It seemed another bizarre choice.

Yet, it is the band’s second best selling album.

It seems most unfortunate that 1975′s Jump On It was the last with that line up.

Bob James and Montrose were clearly creating rock’n'roll chemistry together, and Dan Hartman’s funkily commercial ‘What Are You Waiting For’ and the melancholy ‘Rich Man’ were inspired third party songwriting choices.

Once again a clutch of mono and stereo edits are added as bonus tracks.

By the end of the following year Bob James had departed, and Montrose disbanded soon after. ***

Review by Brian McGowan

Josh Taerk’s latest Sunday Session was streamed on Sunday 17 July.

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