Gamma - '1'

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Gamma - '1'

The truly great moments are impossible to ignore.

Put together in 1979 by guitarist Ronnie Montrose after disbanding the ground-breaking hard rock outfit named after him, Gamma was Ronnie's attempt to prove that you could have guitars and synthesizers featured in the same band. With Scottish vocalist Davey Pattison and a revolving door of associated Bay Area musicians, the band originally made three albums (we'll leave the patchy 'Gamma 4' reunion album out of this!), and whilst the first three all had a different slant, this debut album, whilst not their best, was the one that came closest to having guitar and keys sharing the limelight equally.

Montrose's classic rock riffs were still in evidence and there were even a few commercial numbers in the opening 'Thunder & Lightning', their cover of The Hollies 'I'm Alive' and the acoustic based 'No Tears' (the first two dated somewhat by the use of a vocoder!), with the instrumental 'Solar Heat's spacey keyboards hinting at Ronnie's 'Open Fire' album and even a bit of blues in their version of Mickey Newbury's 'Wish I Was'.

It was when the band stretched out that most of the highlights came, like the frenetic 'Ready For Action', the highly inventive 'Razor King' and the superb 'Fight To The Finish', with Montrose giving an awesome extended whammy bar solo over Jim Alcivar's ground-breaking sequencers. The rhythm section of session drummer Skip Gillette and future Night Ranger keyboard player Alan Fitzgerald on bass accompanied the songs well without ever taking the limelight away from Montrose and Alcivar, or indeed the raspy Lou Gramm-esque vocals of Pattison.

In our own Dave Cockett's sleeve essay, Pattison comments that they were all happy with the production of Ken Scott, but despite his high profile work with The Beatles, Bowie and Supertramp I always found the sound of 'Gamma 1' rather weak. Thankfully Jon Astley has done a fine job on the remastering front and the album now boasts a resonant bass and a lot of the clarity that it had always lacked. Not an all-round classic by any means, and rather short too, but the truly great moments are impossible to ignore.

Phil Ashcroft

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