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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Gamma

Gamma 3

Review by Larry Toering

Ronnie Montrose, along with Davey Pattison on vocals, Mitchell Froom on keys, Glenn Letsch on bass and Denny Carmassi on drums, made three records between 1979 and 1982. The first two were harder-edged melodic rock, much similar to that of Montrose, but with a creeping dominance in the keyboard department. That keyboard work from Froom came full circle on the third and final Gamma release.

By that time this proved to be a great thing because Ronnie Montrose was able to lay back and just add his amazing touch to an otherwise AOR – prog-oriented album that was a huge step beyond the norm. I don't like to critique reviews but while doing some research for good measure I noticed some accounts of which really amount to nothing but a few bitter folks who resort to bigotry to describe most music going around in the early 80s that wasn't of the Montrose persuasion. I urge MSJ readers not to pay attention to such narrow accounts, although there aren't many published, its just that the ones that are, could not be more wrong in their obviously narrow minded and insular remarks. One can easily tell by the positive reviews that some people are flexible and some people just aren't, but to rank on a disc like this just because it stepped outside the proverbial box is hardly worth absorbing and dangerous for consumers if you ask me. The positive reviewers simply get it, and the few extremely negative ones resort to admitting they cannot handle Montrose doing anything but straight forward hard rock.  Some of them even say the other two albums were great but this was a flop. I beg to differ one-hundred percent, while I still like the two previous outings. This, however, is a completely different animal altogether, and a fine one at that.  It has everything a radio friendly album should have; it's an absolute cracker of an experience to listen to, to this very day. Gone were the guitar hero vibes, and that proved to not be a bad thing after all this time, but probably hurt things a little at the time for their commerciality. I still don't see why things like that happen, but perhaps this release was just that ahead of its time, even though it still has a huge 80s vibe cutting through it. The vocals on the first two releases, to my ears, have nothing on this title, both in the singing and lyrical department. I'm not saying the fans should not have questioned the sharp turn in the already felt direction of Gamma, but it should stand apart all on its own as, by far, the best of the three Gamma albums. There is not one bad track to speak of, and I recommend picking up this lost classic that is much more in the Alan Parsons Project or even Genesis vein. To this day it remains at the top of my collection as far as that era goes.

A few of the tracks tend to rival one another for the best track, which keeps the consistency fully intact throughout. This can be called a very mellow record for that of Ronnie Montrose who did nothing like it before or since, but that is its massive strength. So if you don't that the idea of such a growth spurt, Gamma 3 is not for you. But if you like album oriented progressive rock at its finest, this belongs in your collection with the best of them all. What a sweet treat Gamma 3 is. If you ever take my advice, this would be one of the most guaranteed times to do so. If you already have this fine collection of tunes, break it out and revisit it, you will be glad you did. If you have never heard it, do yourself a favor and pick up the CD or find a vinyl copy and proceed to learn; your ears will thank you. I promise that with all of my heart.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
What's Gone Is Gone

This is certainly not the best track, but it is a fairly appropriate opener and goes a long way in establishing the mellow artistic atmosphere and concept of the whole thing. Vocalist Davey Pattison only hints at what's to come. He really shines from here out and there is no mistaking that, even if it takes some growing on the listener... one gets it sooner or later.

Right the First Time
Things start to pick up right here and Pattison shows major signs of where he is going. Some fine work by all gets underway and the rest is history. The guitar and keyboard work so well together that it’s like magic.
Moving Violation
This is probably the most well-known track on the album from the staunch Montrose fans and certainly one of the most commercially accessible numbers. If not for the heaviest vibe going for the disc which makes it most likely for the Montrose fans, then it would be for its catchy vocal. On this track there is much more of what  can be found on the first two releases, Gamma 1 and Gamma 2, but it’s one of the only moments that sounds leftover from them. If this doesn't register with the hard rock fans, nothing on Gamma 3 will. It’s great stuff!
Mobile Devotion
This is where the tracks start to compete for the number one position. It has to be my favorite moment on the disc. All kinds of diversity and bombast come out on this masterstroke of AOR genius. Things are all over the place as the whole band collide into one another until a killer guitar solo blasts through the arrangement. Then, all of a sudden, it’s over. This is an extremely unorthodox, but phenomenal, way to end a great cut. This goes directly into the next number and they play like one track altogether, very clever indeed. What a fantastic blend this is!
Stranger
Things go from the previous track directly into this very mellow, but slightly epic, tune that is sung with passion and conviction. This is very important, not only to the previous track, but somehow to the entire disc. There is such a smooth vibe and classic 80s groove that it’s infectious beyond the imagination - killer!
Condition Yellow
Keeping up the fight for the best of the record, this is most interesting indeed. It’s a sort of futuristic keyboard/synth dominated instrumental that is so akin to the Doctor Who series that it’s spooky. That is the only way to describe it as I have had it playing and everyone in the house at one time or another have asked if it came from the TV program. The music just blazes on until Ronnie  Montrose lets a stellar guitar solo fly in brilliant fashion as the track fades away. This is absolutely fabulous and highly contagious.
Modern Girl
This is where the said fight peaks with its pop perfect display of amazing vocals and catchy grooves. It’s the AOR sleeper of the album, for sure. Once the listener hears this it’s a done deal. This is what I'm talking about! I will never tire of this track as long as I live, it’s that awesome. In fact I'm at a loss for words as I write this because all I can do is proceed to hit “repeat” and do it over and over again. This is top notch and totally wild, but extremely mild!
No Way Out
On this track things get back to where the whole thing started, as it's similar in structure to the opening track. This is not the best, but certainly not the worst because there is no worst here, whatsoever.
Third Degree
A little more of the same takes the ride out, and like all good rides there is nothing left to do but get back in the super wagon and increase the volume and do it again.
 
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