Gears keep grinding away down at the Wounded Bird mill; the prolific reissue label tosses us another bone, one with a lot of meat on it. Open Fire was Ronnie Montrose's first solo album, released in the interim between the dissolution of his first band which introduced the world of rock & roll to the voice of Sammy Hagar and the inception of his excellent '80s band, Gamma. In the producer's seat was Edgar Winter how's that, you say? Well, Ronnie played in the Edgar Winter Group yes, They Only Come Out At Night, that record before he formed Montrose (and before the EWG, Ronnie was invited by Herbie Hancock to play on Mwandishi). So, if "shred" albums had yet to be en vogue, is Open Fire just a set of riff-driven cuts with quarter-note backbeats & serviceable basslines providing "templates" for the guitarman to pick over
Hardly. Rather, these textured rock instrumentals cast a blissfully calescent glow evocative of the good ol' pre-digital Seventies. Every note is premeditated, every solo as sharp as anything Ronnie has ever recorded. People will recall that Alan "Fitz" Fitzgerald (who played keyboards in Night Ranger) played bass for Sammy Hagar years earlier; Fitz is here, along with drummer Rick Shlosser, and future Gamma keyboardist, Jim Alcivar. Edgar Winter gets in some piano and harpsichord licks on a few tracks, and supplies the sleek Moog bass on "Mandolinia." Bob Alcivar father of Jim penned the stately orchestral prelude called "Openers" which emulates the style of classic Elmer Bernstein or John Barry. The title track subsequently bursts open like an electrified chrysalis, a rock anthem that shakes off the sands of time with fiery chordings and a blistering groove.
Ronnie breathes new life into Gene Pitney's "[A] Town Without Pity," in a version that bests the original in terms of execution, grace, and expressiveness. "Leo Rising" is a sweet, multi-tracked acoustic guitar piece with synth added for more texture. "Heads Up" returns to revvin' things up with a quasi-bluesy electric lead that takes you down the white line in the middle of the road; add another great solo to the mix, along with a percolating organ line that bubbles to the foreground. "Rocky Road" is, without a doubt, one of the top two or three tracks, here. Instead of an unwavering beat, a bit of a shuffle makes its way across the rhythmic poles, and this allows Rick Shlosser to spice things up with quite a few complementary fills while Edgar Winter doubles Fitz's bass line on the low end of the piano. "My Little Mystery" is another marriage of acoustic and synthetic~analog tones, with a subtle melody that drives the ball home. Another piece sans percussive or bass-ic accompaniment. "No Beginning/No End" opens with a gentle serving of electronics and journeys from a gradual crescendo to a full-blown orchestral ballad, though never quite reaching that summit. Sometimes it's best to leave things implied rather than spell it all out, and a veteran musician like Ronnie knows this.
Open Fire is a primo slice of rock history, and it's worth the effort to track down other Montrose discs like The Speed Of Sound or The Diva Station (might want to wait on the former to be reissued, as it's a bit of a collectible now, and commands a few bucks).
2. Open Fire
4. Town Without Pity
5. Leo Rising
6. Heads Up
7. Rocky Road
8. My Little Mystery
9. No Beginning/No End
Total time: 34:43