Ronnie Montrose – Bearings (1999; 2013 reissue)

This acoustic offering, remastered and packaged together with a new concert tribute to Ronnie Montrose, offers an opportunity for quiet reflection on the guitarist’s lost genius.

Montrose, before his sudden passing last year after a lengthy battle with cancer, had long established a searcher’s persona, having created and then left behind careers in hard rock, fusion and prog. In that way Bearings — delicately executed, deeply emotional, filled with a focused reserve — should have come as no surprise. Still, for those who will always associate Montrose with the truly monstrous riffs of his old band’s “Rock the Nation” or the Edgar Winter Group’s “Free Ride,” this 1999 project offers a stunning new vista on the guitarist’s craft.

As he carefully weaves acoustic, mandolin and acoustic bass into these 14 tracks, Montrose’s often-overlooked expressiveness — rather than his pile-driving pyrotechnics — rushes back to the fore. Typically paired with nothing more than a series of diaphanous asides from Ed Roth on keyboards, Montrose’s genius is revealed anew.

Reworked for release with the emotional Concert for Ronnie Montrose, the album also features new artwork to go with a touching message from Montrose that resonates even more in the wake of his awful suicide: He calls music one of the “most powerful and precious gifts we all share,” adding that the goal should always be to “bring as much of ourselves as we can to that process.” With the cinematic, deeply moving Bearings, he’s done that once more.


Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at