Guitar veteran Ronnie Montrose snarled and rampaged throughout this 1988 instrumental release, easily one of his most brilliant displays of his six-string prowess and meaty tone aside from the early Montrose and Gamma albums. From the opening notes of "Mach 1", it's clear that Ronnie had this album in mind as being his "guitar hero" album, with players like Joe Satriani, Tony MacAlpine, Vinny Moore, and of course Steve Vai starting to make strong names for themselves on the instrumental shred guitar scene. While The Speed of Sound is by no means a "shred" album, Montrose lays down plenty of wicked solos, melodies, harmonies, and riffs throughout this release, an album long out of print and recently reissued by Wounded Bird Records.
You gotta love Ronnie's thick tone and flowing legato licks on tunes like "Black Box", "Hyper-Thrust", and the fuzz-stomp of "Zero G". The latter has perhaps Montrose's most soaring playing on the album, with a huge beefy tone supported by the right amount of distortion and wah-wah effects. It's Montrose at his most powerful and certainly most lyrical. Helping out on the album is Glenn Letsch on bass, Johnny Bee Badanjek on drums, and Pat Feehan on synths. While the arrangements for the most part aren't anything complex or adventurous, they serve a tight and melodic backdrop for Ronnie to work wonders with his six-string talents. On "Telstar", the guitarist conjured up a memorable melody that could easily become an anthem for sporting events in a perfect world, and whips out the wah-wah for some juicy Robin Trower-like blues rock on "Sidewinder". Prog fans should like the atmospheric meets electronic nature of "Monolith" and "VTOL", while "Outer Marker Inbound" features some stunning lines in a jazzy setting.
Plain and simple, The Speed of Sound was a damn fine guitar record back in 1988, and it still rocks now in 2006. For one of the better guitar instrumental albums that relied more on tone and melodies than pure technique, they don't get much better than this.
1. Mach 1
2. Black Box
5. Zero G
10. Outer Marker Inbound