Montrose – I Got the Fire: Complete Recordings (1973-1976)

I Got the Fire Complete Recordings (1973-1976) Album Cover Art

Montrose – I Got the Fire: Complete Recordings (1973-1976)
Cherry Red Records
Release Date: 29/07/22
Review by Paul Hutchings
8/10

For many of us born in the 70s but not finding our musical roots until the 1980s, Montrose were one of those bands who were heard on rock stations thanks to covers of their music by other bands. Tunes like ‘I Got the Fire’ and ‘Space Station #5’ as well as the classic ‘Bad Motor Scooter’, which is still a favourite on the likes of Planet Rock. But now, this comprehensive collection of the band’s music allows a much deeper dive into the Montrose catalogue, and its an interesting voyage from start to finish. 

Formed in 1973, the original Montrose comprised of guitarist Ronnie Montrose and singer Sammy Hagar, bassist Bill Church and drummer Denny Carmassi. Montrose had formerly been a member of the Edgar Winter Group, playing on the hit ‘Frankenstein’ as well a being a successful session musician with credits for Van Morrison amongst others. The band’s self-titled debut is a genuine classic, and whilst it didn’t set the world alight on release in 1973, one listen to it in this collection demonstrates exactly why it has now sold over a million copies. Tracks such as ‘Rock Candy’, ‘Rock the Nation’ and of course, ‘Space Station #5’ and ‘Bad Motor Scooter’, are hard rock classics. It’s worth a listen just to hear the fluidity of the band, with Hagar bringing a defining vocal performance that would later land him the role in Van Halen, as well as huge success as a solo artist. Accompanying “Montrose” we have a selection of demo tracks as well as their debut performance for KSAN radio recorded at the Record Plant in Sausalito, California on 21st April 1973. 

The second album, “Paper Money”, saw Alan Fitzgerald replace Church, with producer Ted Templeman again at the helm. The album features similar hard rocking songs such as the riff heavy ‘The Dreamer,’ the sci-fi edge of ‘Starliner’ and of course ‘I Got the Fire,’ whilst ‘Connection’ demonstrated the softer side of the band, and echoes of Led Zeppelin. Interestingly, Montrose were sometimes called the US answer to Zeppelin, and you can see why with some flashes of musical genius and variety that match the UK behemoths at times. With additional stereo and mono singles of the title track and ‘Connection’, this is another excellent copy for the collection. Disc four sees another KSAN radio recording session with some of the debut classics featured alongside newer tracks.

1975 saw Hagar depart, due to building acrimony, and singer Bob James replaced him. Keyboardist Jim Alcivar also joined the band, bringing a wider and broader sound. “Warner Bros. Presents Montrose!” saw Ronnie Montrose taking over production duties. Whilst it may not have the instancy of the first two albums, there’s plenty of rock ‘n’ roll in evidence with the ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ bringing the jive, and James proving to be a more than capable replacement for Hagar. 

The final disc sees album number four, “Jump on It” which boasts one of the most appalling covers of all time (I’ll leave you to search for it). Alcivar brings the bottom end on the album, but only three songs feature an actual bassist with Randy Jo Hobbs filling in. It’s another solid if unspectacular release, but the guitar work is especially pleasing with some sparkling play on opener ‘Let’s Go’ as your starter for ten. ‘Music Man’ may be one of the more recognisable songs here, a slower, melodic piece which verges on ballad at times. 

This is a lovely package which showcases what a superb musician Ronnie Montrose was. He sadly took his own life a decade ago. It’s a worthy tribute to a fine guitarist and if you are curious about this influential US rock band, then this is the ideal place to start your journey. 

‘Bad Motor Scooter’ Video

TRACKLISTING:

Disc One: Montrose (1973) 
01. Rock the Nation
02. Bad Motor Scooter 
03. Space Station #5 
04. I Don’t Want It 
05. Good Rockin’ Tonight 
06. Rock Candy 
07. One Thing on My Mind 
08. Make It Last 

Bonus Tracks: 
09. Rock the Nation (mono) 
10. Rock the Nation (stereo) 
11. Space Station #5 (mono edit) 
12. Space Station #5 (stereo edit) 

Disc Two: Demos (1973) 
01. One Thing on My Mind (Demo) 
02. Shoot Us Down (Demo) 
03. Rock Candy (Demo) 
04. Good Rockin’ Tonight (Demo) 
05. I Don’t Want It (Demo) 
06. Make It Last (Demo) Live KSAN Radio Session. Record Plant, Sausalito, CA, USA 21st April 1973 
07. Intro 8 Good Rockin’ Tonight 
09. Rock Candy 
10. Bad Motor Scooter 1
11. Shoot Us Down 
12. One Thing on My Mind 
13. Rock the Nation 
14. Make It Last 
15. You’re Out of Time 
16. Roll Over Beethoven 
17. I Don’t Want It 

Disc Three: Paper Money (1974) 
01. Underground 
02. Connection 
03. The Dreamer 
04. Starliner 
05. I Got the Fire 
06. Spaceage Sacrifice 
07. We’re Going Home 
08. Paper Money 

Bonus Tracks: 
09. Paper Money (stereo edit) 
10. Paper Money (mono edit) 
11. Connection (mono edit

Disc Four: Live KSAN Radio Session, Record Plant, Sausalito, CA, USA 26th December 1974
01. Intro 
02. I Got the Fire 
03. Rock Candy
04. Bad Motor Scooter
05. Spaceage Sacrifice 
06. One and A Half 
07. Roll Over Beethoven 
08. Trouble
09. Space Station #5 

Disc Five: Warner Bros. Presents Montrose! (1975) 
01. Matriarch 
02. All I Need 
03. Twenty Flight Rock 
04. Whaler 
05. Dancin’ Feet 
06. O Lucky Man 
07. One and A Half 
08. Clown Woman 
09. Black Train 

Bonus Track: 
10. Matriarch (mono edit) 

Disc Six: Jump On It (1976) 
01. Let’s Go 
02. What Are You Waiting For? 
03. Tuft-Sedge 
04. Music Man 
05. Jump On It
06. Rich Man 
07. Crazy For You 
08. Merry Go-Round

Bonus Tracks: 
09. Music Man (stereo edit)
10. Music Man (mono edit) 
11. Let’s Go (stereo edit) 
12. Let’s Go (mono edit

LINE-UP:

Montrose
Sammy Hagar – vocals
Ronnie Montrose – Guitar
Bill Church – Bass
Denny Carmassi – Drums

Paper Money
Sammy Hagar – vocals
Ronnie Montrose – Guitar
Alan Fitzgerald – Bass
Denny Carmassi – Drums

Warner Bros. Presents Montrose!
Bob James – Vocals
Ronnie Montrose – Guitar
Alan Fitzgerald – Bass
Denny Carmassi – Drums
Jim Alcivar – Keyboards
Randy Jo Hobbs – bass

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Hutchings and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Tankard – For A Thousand Beers 

For A Thousand Beers Album Cover Art

Tankard – For A Thousand Beers 
BMG
Release Date: 25/02/22
Running Time: 07:31:56
Review by Simon Black
Zombie Attack – 5/10
Chemical Invasion – 6/10
The Morning After / Alien EP – 4/10
The Meaning Of Life – 7/10
Stone Cold Sober – 8/10
Two-Faced – 9/10
The Tankard / Tankwart “Aufgetankt” – 10/10
Overall – 7/10

The story of Tankard is in many ways also the story of legendary German Metal pioneer label Noise International and its marmite-like owner Karl-Ulrich Walterbach … or at the very least emblematic of their shared history. Although best known for the more successful acts that sprung from the stable like Helloween and Kreator, a wealth of other bands were also hidden away in the labels’ roster, with many of them never really breaking beyond the confines of their German roots in quite the same way as the two I just mentioned. Tankard are definitely one of those acts that go back to the early days of Noise and this box set pretty much covers the entire discography of that period, with the notable exception of the live album Fat, Ugly & Live – which may not have made it out of the 80’s in one piece, unlike Tankard themselves. 

Now a little confession – despite my advancing age, despite my undisguised love of the roots of Thrash and despite the fact that any given Metal festival I will be the chap at the ale bar explaining to the staff why their shite plastic glass is not a pint measure and my hallmarked pewter tankard most definitely is, I have not actually ever got around to listening to the band of the same name before this point. There’s probably a few reasons for this, starting with the one I mentioned earlier about them not being seen on UK shores widely back in the day but mostly because despite being a stalwart of the movement, they haven’t really got an ‘everyman’ track that is globally recognised in the way that Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax or Megadeth has. This, despite some blisteringly proficient albums and some quite legendary live performances – but they have most definitely earned themselves a deserved place in the Teutonic ‘Big 4’, alongside Kreator, Sodom and Destruction, as there’s more than just songs about getting pissed in the midst of all this.

Their “Zombie Attack” debut is full of early 80’s Thrash zeitgeist and is a soundalike contemporary of Metallica’s ‘Kill ‘Em All’, although with slightly lower production values, even though it came along three years later during the second wave of copycat Thrash. Sadly label owner Walterbach was notably tight when it came to recording budgets, and it really shows here. It’s fast, frenetic, full of youthful enthusiasm but by this time it was part of a crowded marketplace. The song titles and lyrics may be dripping in teenage enthusiasm and 80’s Metal cliché, but what I hear is a band and a record on the bleeding edge of a movement at its peak. Lyrically the horror and war tropes get more air time than the songs about beer, but hey its early days and it was probably recorded in very short order.

“Chemical Invasion” came a mere one year later, which was the normal modus operandi for Noise and consequently feels like it’s picking up where its predecessor left off. It does so with the benefit of a year’s road wisdom, so the beer songs which went down so well live are sharing the duration and weighting more equally with everything else, but musically it’s a subtly different beast indeed. The debut flew past in a blur of three minute chunks of Thrash fury, but this baby takes it’s time in a few places. Although the overall run time is only about three minutes longer than the debut and it’s peppered with intros and interludes, the song that gives this box set its title and the weighty epic ‘Traitor’ are both around the eight minute mark. ‘For A Thousand Beers’ may be a bit of amusing wordplay, but it’s a piece of music that starts with a well-crafted acoustic introduction that shows maturity, skill and depth for a good couple of minutes before cranking up the overdrive and adding drums on the same riff structure for a further couple, before turning into a full on Thrash jam for its remainder. It’s the sort of thing teenage me would have absolutely loved and I’m slightly frustrated to only be discovering it now but better late than never. It gives the album much more depth and maturity than its predecessor and promises greatness for what’s to come.

“The Morning After” in many ways steps back to the start with regard to the Thrashiness and feels much more like a sequel to Zombie Attack than its immediate predecessor. The more subtle musical experimentation of “Chemical Invasion” doesn’t present this time around, but they’ve adopted the habit of longer tracks with four and a half to five minutes being the norm here, even if the musical feel is more punk this time round. It also feels like a more in your face and edgy recording, reflected in the much rawer guitar sound adopted this time round and a slightly less obvious sense of fun, even on the inevitable tracks about beer. The down side this time round is that with the exception of the Spermbird cover ‘Try Again’, there isn’t much to differentiate between the tracks, which have a tendency to blur into one another although the slightly off kilter keyboard breaks on ‘Help Yourself’ do at least prove they’ve not lost their penchant for experimentation. They do the Thrash well mind, but it gets a bit repetitive after a while, although to be fair this was the period when Thrash bands were busy looking dark and moody into the lenses of their publicity photograph cameramen, like this would scare off Grunge before it started… 

This disk also includes the “Alien EP” – a release which was pushed out as a gap filer with the band not ready to release a full album that year given the need to replace drummer Oliver Werner. It has a much fatter and more polished mix to it, feeling like some proper care is finally being spent in the Production department after three albums that are not too far removed from demo quality. Had that level of quality applied to “The Morning After” material, I think the net effect would be much more positive as it adds a huge amount to the enjoyment when you can differentiate clearly what the individual players are up to, having been lost in the mix somewhat up to this point on this disk. It also has that all important sense of fun that the more po-faced album managed and is by far what saves this disk. 

“The Meaning Of Life” feels like the start of something different. Most noticeably Andreas Geremia’s vocals are noticeably more intelligible from this point and he seems to have invested some time in developing his vocal techniques to boot, with some controlled screams adding to the depth of his delivery significantly – although he is a little too high in the mix compared to the majority of the instrumentation. Add to which the production values are many orders of magnitude better than what had gone before and suddenly it feels like a band using their tools with more professional panache. The difference is tangible because this record still retains the energy and freshness of the early disks, but actually feels like it was recorded in a professional studio rather than someone’s garage for 100 Deutschmarks and a pallet of beer. It’s also a much meatier disk than anything up to this point and on this version the addition of five live tracks bulks the run time on this one to a whopping hour and seventeen minutes. At this point this feels like the strongest record since “Chemical Invasion”, but then I am only half way through this marathon…

That somewhat sobering thought gets me to “Stone Cold Sober”, released at a time when Thrash and Metal in general were under severe marketing pressure from some passing fad out of Seattle. Tankard respond to this threat with fierce Teutonic aplomb and for me this is the strongest record of the lot up to this point. The twelve songs in the core release take up over an hour of run time again and are the mix between full on Thrash, fun beer songs and a couple of left field humorous elements, so the pattern is very much the same as what has gone before, but the execution is so much the stronger. The production has been slowly improving with every release, but this one makes a much larger jump in quality. Whereas in the past improvements tended to be in one area sometimes at the expense of others, this is the first album to sound like its actually taken time to not only pre-produce but to craft and polish the sound to something more professional. 

The downside of this is that the limitations of singer Geremia become that bit more obvious. The challenge is not so much what he is doing, but that he has been doing it with unvarying consistency for five albums and EP so far. The fact that he doesn’t vary the tone and pitch of his delivery much means it starts to get a bit wearing when you are five hours in. This is why the album instrumental closer ‘Of Strange People Talking Under Arabian Skies’ is such an eye opener. Not only does it bring back a layer of musical experimentation not seen since “Chemical Invasion”, but it’s got the benefit of a few years’ experience and willingness to undertake a more complex and intricate piece of music and pays off for the boldness (not to mention giving us a much needed break from the one-tone vocals) before the disk finishes off with a few more live tracks.

“Two-Faced” however starts to break a lot of the moulds. For a start lyrically, this is a dark and political thematic concept album, with bugger all in the way of drinking songs and a much richer and more mature style of delivery. Sure, they’re still a Thrash album but the conceptual content about the darker side of life, death, war and an overall long hard poke at US politics but for the first time this album has variety in tone and pace of the songs themselves  and more importantly, in the vocal delivery. This is still clearly Tankard, but it’s a much better and more rounded album than those that went before and stands tall in this set as a result and is the album I think I’m most likely to come back to again.

This mammoth set closes out with a combined copy “The Tankard”, their last full studio album for Noise and the slight eclectic Tankwart “Aufgetankt” release squeezed on the end for good measure. The main self-titled album part is a very different beast from anything else they’ve done up to this point. The journey towards quality production completes just in time for the band’s engagement with Noise to close and it was a constant source of frustration to so many a band on the label that Karl-Ulrich Walterbach was such a skinflint when it came to investing in quality in the studio. This is a man who spent time in jail in Germany for his association with anarchist / terrorist groups, before starting the label from a squat and managing the business courtesy of a public payphone in the street outside. Given those origins and his goal of pulling the rug out from under major labels, he didn’t half manage the label like a born accountant and it’s perhaps no coincidence that his journey to full on capitalist seemed to coincide with the disintegration of the label. But somehow Tankard fought their corner, and this record sounds magnificent in comparison to everything else here.

For a start it’s more Metal than Thrash and this comes first and foremost from the fact that Geremia has completely abandoned his forced high end screams. They were a source of frustration for me earlier, as although distinctive they lacked range and variety, but here he barely uses them and proves he actually has a lot more range than anyone suspected. This is a massive shame, as some of that tonal variety would have gone a long way to making some of the previous albums more varied and interesting. Added to which the guitar interplay seems to have stepped up technically by a couple of notches, there’s some folk instruments thrown into the mix on occasions and although it doesn’t sound like a Tankard record at all, it’s actually a thoroughly enjoyable Metal disk and a nice surprise to finish on. The problem for Tankard is that by this point in 1996, Thrash was officially dead and I suspect with Grunge, Punk crossovers and Alternative holding court very much in their minds, they decided to try something a little different. Obviously at the time it went nowhere, but Tankard got to live to tell the tale all these decades later.

They also got to have fun and whilst the rest of the world was treating Green Day or The Offspring’s version of commercially diluted and safe for America “punk” like the best thing since sliced bread, Tankard also squeezed out the “Aufgetankt” album under a Germanic version of their moniker. The nine tracks here are all cover versions of Neue Deutsche Welle German language Punk staples, done Tankard fashion. The speed and energy go right back to their roots, with the benefit of the later incarnation of the band having all the tricks of a decent studio, instrumental prowess and a singer who has learned to use his gifts. To put in context it does exactly what Guns ‘N’ Roses completely failed to do with “The Spaghetti Incident?” and nod to their musical roots whilst showing off how polished the band had now become. It’s a fascinating coda to this set and worth trawling through the previous seven hours to see how their journey took them to this point. 

This set stops as Noise International fizzled out as a commercial entity. In many ways that was a shame, but they are part of a landscape of independent labels that took on and beat the majors at their own game and totally changed the musical landscape and without them and their peers the world over Thrash would never have made it out of the underground. At seven and a half hours of runtime, this introduction to Tankard for me has felt like trying to run a marathon without the benefit of any training, but I’m grateful for the chance to finally get to hear a band that have a key part in the story of a musical genre that somehow passed me by. Despite the fact that a lot of the material is quite repetitive in tone and hampered by some appalling production in the early days, the experience is overall a positive one. Tankard of course survived the collapse of Noise and have been cranking out albums ever since, and seeing them live is now officially on my bucket list … as long as the bucket has beer in it, or course…

TRACKLISTING:

Zombie Attack
01. Zombie Attack
02. Acid Death
03. Mercenary
04. Maniac Forces
05. Alcohol
06. (Empty) Tankard
07. Thrash Till Death
08. Chains
09. Poison
10. Screamin’ Victim

Chemical Invasion
01. Intro
02. Total Addiction
03. Tantrum
04. Don’t Panic
05. Puke
06. For A Thousand Beers 
07. Chemical Invasion 
08. Farewell To A Slut 
09. Traitor
10. Alcohol
11. Outro

The Morning After / Alien EP 
01. Intro
02. Commandments
03. Shit-Faced
04. TV Hero
05. F.U.N.
06. Try Again
07. The Morning After
08. Desperation
09. Feed The Lohocla
10. Help Yourself
11. Mon Cheri
12. Outro
13. Alien
14. 666 Packs
15. Live To Dive
16. Remedy
17. (Empty) Tankard

The Meaning Of Life
01. Open All Night
02. We Are Us
03. Dancing On Our Grave
04. Mechanical Man
05. Beermuda
06. The Meaning Of Life
07. Space Beer
08. Always Them
09. Wheel Of Rebirth
10. Barfly
11. Wonderful Life (Bonus Track)

Stone Cold Sober
01. Jurisdiction
02. Broken Image
03. Mindwild
04. Ugly Beauty
05. Centerfold
06. Behind The Back
07. Stone Cold Sober
08. Blood, Guts & Rock ‘n’ Roll
09. Lost And Found (Tantrum Part 2)
10. Sleeping With The Past
11. Freibier
12. Of Strange People Talking Under Arabian Skies
13. Outro
14. Don’t Panic
15. 666Packs
16. Shit-Faced

Two-Faced
01. Death Penalty
02. R.T.V.
03. Betrayed
04. Nation Over Nation
05. Days Of The Gun
06. Cities In Flames
07. Up From Zero
08. Two-Faced
09. Ich Brauch’ Meinen Suff
10. Cyberworld
11. Mainhattan
12. Jimmy B. Bad
13. Space Beer

The Tankard / Tankwart “Aufgetankt”
01. Grave New World
02. Minds On The Moon
03. The Story Of Mr. Cruel
04. Poshor Golovar
05. Mess In The West
06. Atomic Twilight
07. Fuck Christmas
08. Positive
09. Hope?
10. Liebesspieler
11. Pogo In Togo
12. Hurra, Hurra, Die Schule Brennt
13. Herr D.
14. Sternenhimmel
15. König Von Deutschland
16. Elke
17. Skandal Im Sperrbezirk
18. Billiger Slogan

LINE-UP:
Andreas “Gerre” Geremia – Vocals
Frank Thorwarth – Bass 
Oliver Werner – Drums (1982–1989)
Arnulf Tunn – Drums (1989–1994)
Olaf Zissel – Drums (1994–present)
Axel Katzmann – Guitars (1982–1993)
Andy Bulgaropulos – Guitars (1983–1999)

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.