Unfortunately, the loss last weekend of Ronnie Montrose, one of '70s American hard rock's most beloved yet unsung guitarists, probably hasn't resonated all that strongly for many '80s music fans. On the other hand, hard rock aficionados were certainly aware that Montrose followed up his most famous years as frontman of his namesake band with plenty of workmanlike projects into the '80s and beyond. One of the most successful of these ventures was undoubtedly Gamma, a hard-rocking outfit Montrose formed with vocalist Davey Pattison, who presciently received mention in this space a few weeks back when I spotlighted another legendary guitarist, Robin Trower. Based on some cursory online research, Gamma seems to strike many listeners as too derivative, but rock music fans are usually more forgiving about limited ingenuity when an artist is at good at his craft as Montrose was.
"Mean Streak" does not blaze new trails of guitar rock, but it certainly delivers on all cylinders in terms of what hard rock was capable of offering circa 1980. This means that synthesizers and glossy production have a certain degree of impact, but the combination of Pattison's high-octane style with the nimble and forceful riffs of Montrose manages to transcend far more often than it merely imitates. Former bandmate Sammy Hagar had a number of positive things to say about Montrose this week, as commonly happens when a rock music icon passes away too soon. Still, Hagar's comments are candid and specific, giving Montrose credit for teaching him many lasting lessons through the energy the latter gave to his guitar playing and stage performances. Gamma may not have been the peak of Montrose's musical output, but the generally high quality of the man's work sometimes gets taken for granted. If it presents nothing else favorable, at least perhaps Montrose's death provides the opportunity for music fans to do that - for a time anyway - a little bit less.
- Sample or download "Mean Streak" here.
- Compare prices on Gamma CDs here.
- Compare prices on the Sammy Hagar-era '70s peak period of Montrose
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- Top Van Halen Songs of the '80s
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Rhino/Elektra