RM's best solo instrumental disc - But hard to find!
UFO6 | Los Angeles, CA USA | 05/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's a shame that Montrose's excellent work on the Gamma (1-3)albums and post-Gamma solo discs is also his least known, because it's where you really get a glimpse into the man's mind. Different people like different things about his music - and his music is multifaceted enough to allow that - but the element of Ronnie Montrose's music that's always struck a cord with me is his sometimes subtle, sometimes in-your-face futuristic edge. Even on the classic self-titled '73 album, "Space Station #5" was always the defining, standout track for me; the first three Gamma albums had an almost techno-rock feel, before techno really even existed (too bad the recently-released Gamma 4 was such an utterly lifeless dud); "Speed of Sound," which if I'm remembering my rock interviews correctly is Montrose's personal fave, pushed that futurism to the fore but still within a straightforward rock feel. On "Mutatis Mutandis" it seems Montrose decided to go all out with overt SciFi overtones, from the music itself to details like song titles and album art (great concepts and CG rendering by Darrel Anderson/Braid.) The result is something that sounds like it was composed by someone from some alien civilization and inadvertently dropped out the door of a UFO by a careless but musically with-it ET on a road trip.This album was released at roughly the same time as the computer animation tape "Beyond the Mind's Eye," which was itself a groundbreaking work in CGI. From the first few listens of "Mutatis Mutandis" I kept hoping beyond hope that the "Mind's Eye" people would zero in on it and use it to create the next in their computer animation series - using the mood of the music, the cover art concepts and the song titles as virtually a ready-made script. Alas, that was to remain only a wild dream - but it illustrates the powerful imagery Montrose created on this disc.The simple, repeated chant of "Mutatis Mutandis" on the title track sets the mood perfectly; Gary Hull's excellent synth voicings in "Zero Tolerance" and "Mercury" manage to avoid the dated, cheesy feel of almost all synth from the 80s and early 90s.
And of course Montrose's otherworldly guitar shines on this disc in a particularly, errmm, spacy way - for want of a better term. He uses his distinctive "drone tone" as a backdrop for tunes like "Greed Kills" and "The Nomad," with hard-charging rock leads playing off of it. Yet on the final track "Tonga," he lays back for some of the most sweet, sublime atmospheric blues you'll ever hear. Amazing stuff - and though it may sound cliched, gives the album as a whole the feel of a soundtrack for some great, unmade drama. It's too bad this disc is so hard to find. Rumor has it that Mr. Montrose is slowly working to buy back the rights to all of his work so he can re-release it (which he's already done with "Speed of Sound.") Amazing that the person who created the music is the last one who sees any benefit for it, or indeed the last one to hold the right of intellectual property to it.Let's hope the quiet revolution started by Robert Fripp with his DGM label will catch on among artists and the industry as a whole. [Fascinating - and eye-opening - further reading: The "Founding Aims and Mission Statement" at the DisciplineGlobalMobile site...]"
A rip-roaring, chunky meat-eater of an album
G. Lara | Brewster, NY USA | 06/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ronnie dials up the distortion and brings out the heavy beats on this macho guitar-worshiping outing. Each tune has a life of its own and, with a couple of exceptions, most are worth living. There are no vocals to get in the way of the music and, believe me, you won't miss them.The first cut, Mutatis Mutandis, left me shredded, satisfied, and ready for more. Put on the headphones, close your eyes and lay down on Ronnie's crunchy rhythm beds while the beat synchronizes with your pulse, the assured, bluesy lead lines weave through the folds of your brain, and the mysterious background vocals haunt the spaces behind your ears.There are a number of different moods Ronnie goes for on this album, but the constant is the driving, energetic sound and high-flying solos for which Mr. Montrose is well-known. Every tune has a distinct personality, and though my interest wanes in a couple of places, I can listen to this CD twice in a row without a problem.In the late 80's and early 90's, Ronnie was pushing the technology envelope, utilizing synthesizers, drum machines and sequencers to build a hard driving, modern, high-tech heavy metal sound. This album is the result of the sound he was working towards (albeit with humans, not machines behind our lead man), and he accomplishes it without it feeling mechanical. In fact, I've always felt that Montrose had the most "emotional" sound of any heavy-metal guitar hero.As an off-topic but interesting side-note: shortly before this album was released, Ronnie was touring a one-man show. I saw him perform at a small club in San Francisco. The stage was littered with electronic equipment, keyboards, computers, drum machines, amps, etc. The dude sounded absolutely awesome. Everything was perfectly synced, amazing synth sounds, totally non-mechanical drum parts, a truly inspiring performance. But about 15 or 20 minutes into his set, he blew the main electrical circuits in the club, and the whole place went suddenly dark and very quiet except for the thin, unamplified sound of him strumming his Les Paul. Everyone was stunned, including Ronnie. Could he really have done this all by himself? Apparently so. Although clearly annoyed, he hardly missed a beat as he cracked a few jokes and whipped out an acoustic guitar. He expertly ran through three or four tunes, showing off his formidable acoustic chops while the club staff got the power turned back on. After about 30 minutes of reloading his sequences and patches into his computer and keyboards and making sure everything was ready, he started into his next electronic number. I don't remember how far he got the second time around, but he did blow the circuits again, and this time he was simply pissed. He apologized to the disappointed crowd and left the stage. It was truly a shame, as he was clearly treading very interesting, and virgin, territory, as far as I was concerned. Not to mention it was a partial waste of a good 'shroom buzz..."