“Jump On It” was the band Montrose’s 4th and final album, and the second release after Sammy Hagar’s departure. This 1976 release followed the much darker, Deep Purple-influenced “Warner Bros. Presents”, which is also a fine piece of mid-70’s hard rock. After a series of solo projects and forming the great band Gamma, Ronnie Montrose reformed Montrose for a single album in the 80’s entitled “Mean”, employing a third vocalist.
Bob James was the vocalist on “Jump on It” and I feel that he does a fine job on it. His voice has a higher timber and somewhat less of a hard edge compared to Sammy Hagar’s classic rock voice, but I enjoy it all the same. The songs are well-written and feature some very fine guitar playing. I believe that this record was overlooked and saw relatively poor sales due to the controversial and somewhat tasteless album cover. It’s too bad, because the music itself is far more sophisticated than the cover would suggest. The fact that it has been reissued again on Wounded Bird I think attests to the quality of the music.
1. Let’s Go: Starting with a driving, tribal-sounding drum beat, this song features a very catchy chorus and melody, as well as Ronnie’s electric slide guitar used to very good effect. This is one of the very best songs on a great album and it was also featured in Rhino’s “the Best of Montrose” compilation.
2. What Are you Waitin’ For?: Listen for Ronnie’s guitar tone and the echo-drenched, melodic and expressive solo. Technically Ronnie is a great player, but I am probably most impressed by his incredibly tasteful note selection on all his solos. I feel that his playing here was near his peak (Gamma 1 may have been the peak) and his timing, phrasing, speed, and taste are always so impeccable. Guitar solos should only add to a song. On this album, Ronnie’s always do. In fact, they are an integral part of why each song is so great.
3. Tuft-Sedge: you may have heard this moody instrumental piece on public television, where it served as a theme song for a certain program for awhile. This is a unique piece of music that still sounds fresh today, combining a catchy sythesizer hook that almost sounds like a horn with bongos in the background and light, airy acoustic guitar accompaniment. It also breaks up the album nicely, adding some diversity to the otherwise straight ahead rock songs. Bravo!
4. Music Man: Wonderful rock ballad with some soulful, expressive singing by Bob James. I am glad that he was featured on this cut, and Ronnie seems wise enough to allow the song to be piano driven. Once again, it breaks up the album nicely. But guitar fans need not worry– Ronnie ends the cut in classic rock fashion with an expressive, soaring solo with wide, utterly controlled bends and just a beautiful, lyrical expression of longing and pain. This is what guitar solos are for. The break at the end gives me chills.
5. Jump On It: I believe this cut opened the second side of the vinyl slab back in the day. A fast-paced romp with a driving drum beat, this song once again features a guitar solo that starts with a classic hard rock tone and builds and builds as Ronnie works his way up the neck and at a certain point is presumably run through a special effects processor to somehow be transformed into a jittery, watery, blurry sort of sound.
6. Rich Man: Ronnie and Co. slow it down after that blistering number for another rock ballad, this one driven by melodic synthesizer and– as always– tasteful acoustic guitar accompaniment. As it was mentioned in an earlier review, this song was written by the late great Dan Hartman, who was one of Ronnie’s bandmates in Edgar Winter’s for “They Only Come Out at Night”. Ronnie wisely keeps it simple during the guitar break in the middle, and the song closes ascending on a mixture of synth, acoustic guitar, and wonderfully melodic guitar soloing for an emotional high.
7. Crazy For You: a driving, organically pulsing piece saturated with synth and a couple of guitar track accompaniments, this song is a classic example of how hard rock can be melodic and still rock. Ronnie’s solo is relatively simple, but so effective. He can play fast, but he knows that he doesn’t have to play fast all the time to be most effective. What was needed here is a simple, catchy, melodic solo with perfect, subtle bends and once again he delivered. This song may have been intended to be the pop hit the band was reportedly under pressure to produce. I don’t care. I like it anyway.
8. Merry Go Round: This song clocks in at over 5 1/2 minutes, opens with nothing but a beautiful acoustic guitar line and Bob James’ plaintive voice, and features an interesting middle break of carnival/circus noise before resuming its catchy main riff. I just love this song because it is a perfect example of melodic hard rock, with soaring vocals, overdubbed guitars, and an admixture of synth that holds it together and fleshes it out. It’s a dense, interesting song with a lot going on. Listen to his guitar tone on this one- the fuller, more distorted rhythm guitar track here is classic overdriven Les Paul. Hearing that sound is like going to church for me. Listen closely into the mix for how the bass line drops in and out of the riff, making for an interesting, varied rhythm accompaniment. Ronnie is also the master of the extended solo, tastefully and seamlessly going multi-bar with endlessly imaginitive, adroit, and tasteful soloing. Dig the symphony in the mix towards the end, too!
I love the first self-entitled Montrose album with Sammy Hagar. It’s a classic, classic piece of 70’s hard rock and it is rightfully iconic. In comparison, this album is not as straight-ahead simple rock, employing substantial synthesizer and even bongos and strings at times. But I love it even more than the first one. I feel that musically it is more sophisticated in arrangement and melody, but it still rocks. Bob James is a fine rock singer and I would argue is even more effective than Sammy Hagar would be on the ballads. I think “Jump on It” is criminally overlooked. Ronnie Montrose’s guitar playing on this is stellar, and both his and the rest of the band’s musicianship is evident.