The remaining members of Montrose will lead an all-star cast of rock musicians gathering on April 27 to honor the band’s late leader Ronnie Montrose.
Sammy Hagar will join fellow original Montrose cohorts Denny Carmassi and Bill Church, along with special guest Joe Satriani — guitarist in Hagar’s current band Chickenfoot. Also scheduled to perform are members of Montrose’s subsequent band Gamma, Neal Schon and Steve Smith of Journey fame, Ricky Phillips of Styx, Eric Singer of Kiss, Eric Martin of Mr. Big, Jimmy Degrasso of Y&T and member of Tesla. Denny Carmassi will perform with both Montrose and Gamma; Marc Bonilla will also be featured with Gamma.
[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Steve Smith talks about reuniting with Neal Schon — and just how underrated that initial fusion-inspired edition of Journey still is.]
The event, called “A Concert for Ronnie Montrose: A Celebration Of His Life In Music,” will take place at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, California. Tickets will go on sale on Friday, March 30. For more, go to TheRegencyBallroom.com.
Montrose died at age 64 on March 3 after a five-year battle with prostate cancer. Best known for his eponymous band, formed in 1973, Montrose was also a respected sessions musician — having worked on celebrated albums with Van Morrison (Tupelo Honey), the Edgar Winter Group (They Only Come Out at Night), the Neville Brothers (Uptown), Herbie Hancock (Mwandishi) and Gary Wright (The Dream Weaver), as well as other dates with Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner, Bonilla, Nicolette Larson and Boz Scaggs. Over the years, Montrose’s albums and tours featured a well spring of talent, including the then-unknown Hagar, Edgar Winter, Aynsley Dunbar, Glenn Letsch, Mitchell Froom and Steve Smith, who went on to play on Journey’s biggest selling albums after being discovered by the band while on tour with Montrose.
The Montrose band’s self-titled ’73 debut, underrated at the time, has since become a touchstone recording in rock — serving as a reference point, for instance, in the mid-1970s work of Van Halen. Hagar was then part of a second edition of Van Halen, beginning in 1985.
The original Montrose lineup last reformed in 2004-05, appearing as a special guest at a series of Hagar concerts. Ronnie Montrose’s most recent studio albums were 1999’s solo effort Bearings and Gamma’s 2000 album Gamma 4.
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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Journey, Styx and Kiss. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
JOURNEY – ECLIPSE (2011): In many ways, the initial cuts on Eclipse recall the wide-open heavy fusion of the the band’s original Gregg Rolie-era records, a period when guitarist Neal Schon pulled and stretched his muse. At the same time, singer Arnel Pineda possesses a second-act Steve Perry-sounding penchant for soaring expectancy. For age-old fans, that often makes this album the best of both worlds, a musically dense recording in the style of the band’s underrated 1977?s Next, and a loud one, but at the same time one that doesn’t completely abandon the visceral mainstream pop sensibilities that defined the band’s subsequent hitmaking period in the 1980s.
ONE TRACK MIND: STYX, “DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD” (2011): There’s a world-weary melancholy, a hard-won realism, to Styx’s new song that didn’t exist in Tommy Shaw’s fun-rocking “Renegade” days, and that points the way out of the band’s more recent habit of backtracking. It’s not just the rest of Regeneration, Vols. I and II, which finds Styx rerecording some of its best-known tracks with next-generation singer Lawrence Gowan. In fact, since the departure in 1999 of Dennis DeYoung, Shaw and Co. have issued five concert recordings and — in the last four years alone — at least seven best-of packages. Styx’s most recent original long-player was Big Bang Theory from all the way back in 2005, leaving many to wonder if the group was spent creatively. Fast forward to “Difference in the World,” as Shaw, over a plaintive guitar shape, admits: “It’s hard to keep from giving up. It’s hard to make a difference in the world today.” But, through the course of a complex and involving musical soundtrack, Shaw rouses himself to try again — in a nice metaphor for the band itself.
SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: KISS: News that Kiss is back in the studio, working toward the 2012 release of a new project called Monster, got us scurrying back to our old album collections. And not just because of those fond memories of playing air guitar with former guitarist Ace Frehley during Kiss Alive. Bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons said something interesting about the sessions: “This new record feels heavier than (2009’s) Sonic Boom. It feels like a connection between Destroyer and Revenge. Those were but two of the favorites we discussed here.
ONE TRACK MIND: JOURNEY, “FEELING THAT WAY/ ANYTIME” (1978; 2011 reissue): A new Greatest Hits Vol. 2 was, in some ways, more interesting than Journey’s initial best-of compilation — if only because its songs haven’t necessarily become ear-wormingly familiar. Perhaps the most potent examples are these twin 1978 gems from Infinity, Journey’s first project with Steve Perry. His appearance would immediately transform an interesting, if often unfocused jam band — co-led by Santana alums Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon — into a hit-making juggernaut. This album easily became the band’s biggest seller to date, as Journey moved toward a tighter focus on songcraft.
SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST – STYX: A band suspended forever between the formalism of Dennis DeYoung’s Broadway pretensions and the harder edges of James Young and Tommy Shaw, Styx sounded different every time it came on the radio. Yet, critics insisted, somehow the same: Mediocre. They were, by turns, soft-prog keyboard-tweaking intellectuals, CroMagnon guitar shredders and dorky show-tune pompsters … though with very little circumstance. Every gesture, as Lester Bangs once wrote, is writ huge — to the point of flatulence. (DeYoung knows he’s not English, right?) That makes them easy to hate, or love, or whatever. They were, at once, everything … and thus, to many, nothing. Yet … how many times have we turned this stuff up? Here, we sort through it all (the adult-contemporary crap, the hair-sprayed arena rock, the robot thing) to uncover a few clues to Styx’s enduring fame — from ‘Equinox,’ ‘Crystal Ball,’ ‘Grand Illusion,’ ‘Paradise Theater’ and, yes, even ‘Kilroy Was Here.’
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