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 Post subject: Montrose: Paper Money
PostPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 8:17 am 
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Location: Canterbury, New Brunswick, Canada
Favorite Band: Y&T, Rush, Van Halen, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Journey, April Wine, many more
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Released: 1974
Label: Warner Brothers
Producer: Ted Templeman and Ronnie Montrose

Personnel:
Ronnie Montrose – guitars, vocals, lead vocal on “We’re Going Home”
Sammy Hagar – vocals
Alan Fitzgerald – bass, synthesizer
Denny Carmassi – drums, vocals

Marc Jordan – piano on “Connection”
Nick DeCaro – mellotron on “We’re Going Home”

You can take a wild guess what prompted me to dig this CD out to review at this particular time. We’ve seen a lot of eulogies for the late Ronnie Montrose, and most of them (including the one I did for my radio station) quite rightly center around the debut Montrose album. I’m also spotting the cover to said album popping up as a lot of folks’ Facebook profile pics in the last day or so.

The general consensus surrounding the two Hagar-fronted Montrose albums has always been that the first album is a timeless classic, while the second one has one or two good songs and the rest, not so hot. I’ve yet to come across anyone who prefers Paper Money to Montrose, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be true. Indeed I remember having to do quite a bit of searching around to procure this album, initially getting it on cassette in late 1991. After popping it in the ol’ Walkman, I 1) was glad to have finally found it yet, 2) realized why it didn’t have the notoriety (read: availability) of its predecessor. I found in on CD about five years later, and in all this time, I may have spun Paper Money a grand total of five times. Never have located it on vinyl.

Well upon Ronnie’s sad passing, I thought I’d revisit this disc to see if my opinion of it has changed over time. It’s also the only other Montrose album I own besides the first one, unless you count his production/writing on some of the songs on Y&T’s Unearthed, Vol. 2. (I’ve heard some Gamma stuff, didn’t grab me in any way.)

Hagar and Montrose famously butted heads making this album, and you will only see Sammy listed in the writing credits 3 out of 8 times here. Plus Ronnie himself sings a song, there’s an instrumental, two cover tunes…it’s plain to see that this lineup’s days were numbered. In fact the band lineup had already changed from the first album, with Bill “Electric” Church out on bass, and Alan Fitzgerald in on bass and keys. Name ring a bell? Yes, it’s the same “Fitz” that would join Night Ranger almost a decade later. He would eventually work with Hagar again, becoming Eddie Van Halen’s keyboard tech in the ‘90s.

1) Underground – This song was originally recorded by someone called “Chunky, Novi and Ernie”? The first thing you’ll notice is that the production isn’t even close to the pristine mix the debut album boasted, still in my opinion one of the most ahead-of-its-time recordings of the 1970s. Curiously, Ted Templeman was still behind the boards for this album. No, this album has more of a typical early 70s, somewhat claustrophobic and muffled sonic quality. Hagar claims that Ronnie didn’t want any of his songs because they were too heavy, and “metal’s on it’s way out.” That’s one man’s opinion (the one that’s still alive), but that claim holds up listening to this album. This isn’t that great a tune, but honestly it’s slightly reminiscent of some of Sammy’s own more blase 70s tunes like “Keep on Rockin’” and “Rock and Roll Romeo.”
2) Connection – The Jagger/Richards credit is my only clue that this slow, slightly bluesy number is a Rolling Stones cover, me honestly not very familiar with the Stones besides the obvious radio songs. As an artistic statement, I’m not sure what Ronnie could have been thinking by starting his album off with two non-originals, neither of which having any obvious commercial appeal. Perhaps he thought FM stations would spin this merely on the basis of its authors? Sammy gives a decent performance here at least.
3) The Dreamer – Finally, a rocker. This one sports a slow, pounding riff not unlike Black Sabbath’s “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” but not as low. With the debut’s production value, this song might have made more of an impression. Not coincidentally, this is one of the three songs that Sam had a hand in writing. Not bad.
4) Starliner – This instrumental almost seems like a sequel to the immortal “Space Station #5.” Pretty typical 70s hard rock instrumental, nice guitar theme from Ronnie. I’m sure listeners enjoyed getting “spaced” to this tune. Nothing really innately bad on this album so far, but anyone familiar with Montrose would have to notice the difference in consistency here. Halfway through the album and only one song which wouldn’t sound out of place on the debut album.
5) I Got the Fire – Most critics and fans tend to agree if there was one song on Paper Money which equals the power of the first album, it would be this much-covered rocker. (Iron Maiden and Axe come to mind immediately.) Surprisingly solo-penned by Ronnie, this album sports a somewhat complicated riff and a mighty groove. I say surprisingly, because apparently this is the very sound Montrose was trying to get away from, yet it’s so obviously the album’s highlight. Mystery to me why the band couldn’t have continued for at least a couple more albums. Sammy gives it an appropriately fiery vocal. Oh to hear this song remixed with the full guitar and drum sound Templeman so effortlessly captured just one album ago. That’s a minor complaint though, this song is just fine the way it is. Kickin’ guitar solo too. Here’s a studio clip of the band playing the song…
http://www.youtube.com/embed/rhoYBnFi-WM
6) Spaceage Sacrifice – Another “space” song, this one has a similar tempo to “I Don’t Want It” from you-know-what-album. Not sure what was going on with all this sci-fi stuff though, I’m sure drugs had nothing to do with it  Almost a laid-back, similar-era ZZ Top feel to this but heavier.
7) We’re Going Home – For some odd reason, Ronnie Montrose opted to take a lead vocal, on this sleepy, way-too-long ballad. I might be completely insane here, but I think he sounds a little like Jackson Browne? About the only saving grace here would be Ronnie’s ripping guitar lead. Even if there were no personality clashes going on, I don’t think anyone could have blamed Hagar for jumping ship if this was the direction Ronnie wanted to go in.
8 ) Paper Money – Well, at least things wind up on a somewhat positive note. Denny Carmassi provides a tribal beat which drives the title track from start to finish. Fitz does his part with a driving bass line. The song really only rocks out during the chorus, but there’s a firm grasp of dynamics which makes this song memorable. Cool slide solo from Ronnie. Lyrically, this song is similar thematically to words Hagar would pen in Van Halen on songs like “In ‘n’ Out” and of course, “Big Fat Money.” A sturdy windup to an inconsistent album.

In conclusion, my opinion of this album hasn’t changed much since the last time I heard it, but if you’re a fan of Sammy Hagar and haven’t heard it yet, there are enough worthy tunes on here to pick it up, as long as it isn’t exorbitantly priced. It still seems incongruous to me that a band that produced such a supernova of a debut, could turn so average here.

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 Post subject: Re: Montrose: Paper Money
PostPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 7:35 pm 
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Location: South of Heaven
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Great review, Tim. Hats off. :B

I think I expressed similar sentiments when I posted my review of the first album, but I also found a lot to like in "Paper Money"... I think I mentioned I Got The Fire, Spaceage Sacrifice and We're Going Home as big winners for me.

Incidentally, the Stones' Connection was originally found on the "Between The Buttons" album... '67 I think.



:BB The Dreamer

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"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans..."
~ John Lennon (RIP)


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Are you a victim of the System... or the Powers-That-Be?
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