Montrose – Mean (1987)

Montrose_Mean3.5 out of 5 Stars!

After leaving the band Gamma in the early ’80s, and prior to releasing a string of instrumental and experimental solo albums, legendary guitarist Ronnie Montrose joined up again with Gamma bassist Glenn Letsch, also snagged both drummer James Kottak (future Scorpions/Kingdom Come/Warrant) and vocalist Johnny Edwards (future Foreigner/King Kobra) from the band Buster Brown, and resurrected his famous namesake group from the ’70s. More importantly, he returned to his hard-rockin’ roots on 1987’s Mean.

And although the revamped group didn’t create another “classic masterpiece” to equal the original lineup’s stunning 1973 debut, it did produce a fairly enjoyable album nonetheless, with some stompin’, riff-heavy, and catchy tracks such as “M For Machine,” “Pass It On,” “Man of the Hour,” “Don’t Damage the Rock,” and “Flesh and Blood.” Although, in my opinion, the album contains a few filler tracks, the majority of the tunes feature pounding rhythms, powerful vocals, and the fantastic fretwork for which Ronnie Montrose was renowned, displaying the renewed lineup’s potential.

Unfortunately, however, the album dropped to almost zero fanfare, going by virtually unnoticed (and I can’t help thinking it had something to do with the horribly bland cover, the original version displaying only the giant “M”—the CD version at least had the group name added). Anyway, the foursome released no additional material after Mean, and Ronnie instead headed down the solo-album path, leaving behind (for the most part) the driving Hard Rock genre. Such a shame.

(RIP Ronnie Montrose, 1947-2012)

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Mr. Mister – Pull (2010)

MrMr_Pull4 out of 5 Stars!

Back in 1985, it seemed I couldn’t go a few days (even a few hours) without hearing music being played on the radio by Mr. Mister, the AOR/Pop Rock band that had just released its catchy sophomore album called Welcome to the Real World, which contained the wonderfully addicting tunes “Kyrie,” “Is It Love,” and “Broken Wings,” along with a host of other potential hits. Not only did the band include creative musicians and songwriters, but seemed destined for a long and lucrative career.

But when the band released its more innovative and somewhat-progressive third album, Go On, things suddenly went awry. Since the record label’s “mega hit machine” had stopped churning out instant Top Ten singles, RCA Victor was not happy, and amidst the fallout, the band lost its original guitarist, Steve Farris. And to make matters even worse, the group (with numerous guest guitarists, including Yes’s Trevor Rabin) recorded material for a fourth album planned for release around 1989/1990, with even more experimental AOR-oriented material included, and the record company executives (ie. royal and blundering noodleheads) decided to shelve the collection of tunes since it “wasn’t pop enough.” Morons!

Regardless, Mr. Mister’s remaining musicians—drummer Pat Mastelotto, keyboardist Steve George, and bassist/vocalist Richard Page—ended up disbanding in frustration when other labels also refused to accept the material.

Therefore, the eleven-song collection named Pull is an “archival” album that finally saw the light of day twenty years after its original creation. And yes, the album as a whole is indeed more experimental than 1985’s best-selling Welcome to the Real World, but it’s also a top-quality release, with intriguing melodies, lush instrumentation and harmonies, and Richard Page’s warm, pitch-perfect, and instantly recognizable voice front and center. Okay, so tracks such as “Close Your Eyes,” “Learning to Crawl,” “I Don’t Know Why,” “No Words to Say,” “Waiting in My Dreams,” and “We Belong to No One,” might not be instantaneous hit-single material, but the collection of tunes makes for an often-riveting AOR album, beautiful Pop Rock melodies with Prog-Rock leanings when it comes to song arrangements and keyboard instrumentation. Although the overall sound still has Mr. Mister’s undeniable stamp on it, the style is also not too far afield from the material artists such as Toto were recording in the late-’80s/early-’90s, and it’s occasionally similar in scope/style to Page’s 3rd Matinee project, the material he recorded with keyboardist Pat Leonard (Trillion/Toy Matinee) for the 1994 album Meanwhile.

So, although a previously “shelved” album might be considered by some people as being made up of “undeserving/poorly produced/low-quality material,” that is so far from the truth in the case of this particular album. In fact, many of the tunes on Pull are what I would deem as some of Mr. Mister’s best work, and any fan of the original group looking to hear this ultra-professional band delving into more adventurous sonic territory may enjoy this “archival” gem as much as I do.

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