Montrose: Paper Money - Album Of The Week Club review

After announcing their arrival with a stone-cold classic, Montrose returned to the studio in 1974 to record an underwhelming second album. Perhaps they should have released them in reverse order

Montrose: Paper Money cover art
(Image: © Warner Records)

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Montrose - Paper Money

Underground Connection The Dreamer Starliner I Got the Fire Spaceage Sacrifice We're Going Home Paper Money

(Image credit: Warner Records)

The Dreamer
I Got the Fire
Spaceage Sacrifice
We're Going Home
Paper Money

Slick from the road and brimming with confidence, Montrose returned to the studio in 1974 to record their second album. 

Bassist Bill Church had left, and the no-frills approach of the debut vanished with him, supplanted by guitarist Ronnie Montrose’s musical restlessness. It made for a more varied listen than Paper Money, if not a more exciting one. What it does is offer more reasons to regret the fact they couldn’t make it last.

The opening track, Underground, was supremely radio-friendly hard rock, while keyboards were more prominent on We’re Going Home and The Dreamer, although the title track and I Got The Fire harked back to the debut album. Ultimately it would all add up to become the band’s biggest domestic Stateside success.

In a taste of what was to come later in his career, frontman Sammy Hagar butted heads with Montrose and walked out halfway through the tour for their second album, Paper Money.

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Other albums released in October 1974

  • Fear - John Cale
  • Walls and Bridges - John Lennon
  • Red - King Crimson
  • Todd Rundgren's Utopia - Todd Rundgren's Utopia
  • War Child - Jethro Tull
  • It's Only Rock 'n Roll - The Rolling Stones
  • Hotter Than Hell - Kiss
  • Borboletta - Santana
  • The Heart of Saturday Night - Tom Waits
  • Homeless Brother - Don McLean
  • The Impossible Dream - The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
  • It'll Shine When It Shines - Ozark Mountain Daredevils
  • Lost in a Dream - REO Speedwagon
  • The Mirror - Spooky Tooth
  • Mother Lode - Loggins and Messina
  • Not Just Another Bunch of Pretty Faces - If
  • Quatro - Suzi Quatro
  • Rock and Roll Outlaws - Foghat
  • Silk Torpedo - The Pretty Things
  • Slow Motion - Man
  • Smiler - Rod Stewart
  • Veedon Fleece - Van Morrison


What they said...

"Spaceage Sacrifice is little more than a poor cousin to the debut's barnburning monster single, Space Station No. 5, and We're Going Home was weak enough that Hagar reportedly refused to sing it, allowing Ronnie do the honours. In short, it didn't take a psychic to read the signs here: Hagar would soon say his official "adios" and Montrose would never be the same again." (AllMusic)

"As a follow-up to the band's landmark 1973 debut, Paper Money is a firm statement of artistic independence. Where Montrose remains rightly famous for its unrelenting eight-song hard rock assault, Paper Money is all over the map. Opening with the blatantly poppy Underground and the mostly acoustic Rolling Stones cover Connection was bound to raise a few eyebrows, as was Ronnie’s decision to take the lead vocal on the somber ballad We’re Going Home. (Daily Vault)

"This short album is capped off by the title track. Carmassi and Fitzgerald again show off their abilities – Carmassi with a Wipe Out/tribal rhythm that dusts off every corner of his kit, and Fitzgerald with a bizarre robotic funk line. Hagar is more impressive here than on most of the LP’s other cuts, with the emergence of the soulful delivery that he’d solidified in his solo career. Montrose, meanwhile, shows off memorable licks reminiscent of those he’d displayed during his stint with The Edgar Winter Group on such classics as Frankenstein and Free Ride." (Classic Rock Music Blog)


What you said...

Mike Canoe: It took me a few listens to determine what I didn't like about Montrose's Paper Money before I, pun fully intended, made the connection.

I think the title track is the best song and it's inexplicably the last song on the album. Has there ever been a more rocking critique of global monetary policy? OK, tongue firmly in cheek there, but I think it's the song that best displays all the band's strengths - and it's actually written by Montrose and Hagar.

Instead the album opens with two cover songs, one being the Rolling Stone's pop confection Connection stretched to almost triple its original length and played at what feels like one-third the speed.

So allow me to impudently suggest how producer Ted Templeman and everyone at Warner Records could have sequenced the album to far greater effect - and even allow Connection to, well, connect.

Side one
1. Paper Money
2. The Dreamer
3. Starliner
4. We're Going Home

Side two

5. Underground
6. Connection
7. I Got the Fire
8. Spaceage Sacrifice

Admittedly, the only thing I know how to play is the stereo but I play the stereo a lot, and I obsess over the playlists the way others might over their fantasy football team or dream car. As Jimmy Page says, it's all about light and shade. To my ears, Paper Money is a good album hampered by a mediocre track sequencing.

Bill Griffin: I find this to be a mediocre effort but admittedly, my opinion of the first album greatly influenced that opinion. I do like Connection though.

Chris Downie: Often lauded by a small but vocal minority of classic rock connoisseurs as the first great American heavy metal band, Montrose came racing out of the starting blocks in the early 70s, powered by the supreme guitar talents of Ronnie Montrose and future Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar. Yet while the debut is rightly lauded as an all-time classic, the band have gone down in history as one of a select few (think Boston, Steppenwolf and arguably Van Halen, among others) who unleashed a timeless first album, but never quite lived it down, or topped their opening statement.

Looking back at Paper Money, there is much to be admired here; I Got The Fire (later covered by Iron Maiden) and the title track are standouts and while many have misgivings about bands placing cover versions on an original LP, their version of The Rolling Stones Connection is creditable.

Like Boston soon after, there is a case to be made that, had their debut and sophomore efforts been switched out, history would perhaps view the band differently. Instead, the consensus is that Paper Money is the archetypal 'sophomore slump', from which an acrimonious split with Hagar quickly ensued and the band's early promise was never quite realised. They deserved better than that and indeed, taken on its own merits, this is a mighty fine hard rock album that deserves more credit than it ever received. 8/10.

Paul Murray: I got the Fire is a thunderous rocker that would grace any album ever! Love this band and this album, whilst not on the same level as the debut (but what is?), is a great listen.

Adam McCann: Bit of a curate's egg, I've Got the Fire is a superb tune and when Paper Money is good, it's superb, but equally when it's poor, it's very skippable. Unfairly judged against the debut though? Most definitely.

Ron Ostrander: Pales in comparison to the first album but still a great album. Best tracks being I Got The Fire and the title track Paper Money.

James Last: Don't believe what they tell ya, while it's true this doesn't quite come close to the debut (few rock albums do), aside from just one track that is actually rather dreadful (spoiler: its the one Sammy Hagar doesnt sing on), this is a pretty damn good record, deserves a reappraisal.

Fred Varcoe: Man, I'd forgotten just how good this album is. And yes, the problem when rating it is the first album, which is 11 on a scale of 10. This is a 9 and if it had been Montrose's first album, we'd be raving over it much more. It's a change of pace, but that change of pace with Sammy's great vocals really, really works. And the guitar solo on We're Going Home is just perfection. Man, I miss the 70s.

Gary Claydon: One thing I will say, whoever was in charge of designing Montrose's album covers did a truly terrible job. They are all bad. This one looks like something you'd doodle on the cover of a school book when you were about 13 years old.

Gilbert Terpstra: Great album. Mellow but great songs. Of course I Got The Fire set me in flames as a kid of 9.

John Waters: I prefer this album over the debut. awesome cover of Connection.

John Davidson: Paper Money is a decent album of mid-paced guitar rock tunes. There's not much to set the pulse pounding (certainly not compared to their debut) but I suspect it could be a grower.

Side 2 is definitely more interesting than Side 1, which immediately hits a sandbar with the torpid Connection. It's not a bad song, but it stops what little forward momentum the album had gained in Underground completely in its tracks.

Overall it lacks power, doesn't swing or groove and definitely wouldn't bite, but it kinda ambles along amiably enough. A competent 7/10 (but no heather was in danger of bursting into flames).

Richard Cardenas: Connection alone elevates this record.

Peter Barron: The first one is flawless, so choose the second? It doesn't even have the best version of I've Got The Fire – the Iron Maiden cover eats it alive.

Greg Schwepe: For the most part I review each week’s album as a standalone as I listen start to finish. In some cases, it’s the first time I’ve ever heard the band. In some cases, it’s another album in a familiar band’s catalogue that I either hadn’t heard before or one I listen to again with a fresh set of ears. With Paper Money I had a bigger task; pretend I’d never heard Montrose’s bombastic debut. “Don’t compare the two! Pretend the debut doesn’t exist” I kept saying to myself.

And yes, I had never listened to Paper Money before. After buying Montrose, because it was mentioned in a million articles where artists listed it as the one “that totally blew me away when I heard it”, I never bothered to go any further into their catalogue.

Overall, Paper Money is very much a rocking 70s album. You get the vocals of Sammy Hagar and guitar of band namesake Ronnie Montrose. A very listenable album. No song I didn’t like, nothing that made me turn it off. And this ended up being the last Montrose album album that Sammy was a part of. But we all know that leaving the band didn’t hurt him. He ended up being a great tequila salesman. Oh, and have a successful solo career and then front a little band called Van Halen.

The keyboard infused Underground starts this 35-minute venture. After that comes Connection, which wins the “Hide and Seek” award for not sounding like the original Stones version at all. Had I not done some internet sleuthing about the album and seen the “Jagger/Richards” writing credits I wouldn’t have caught that this was a cover.

The Dreamer comes next and here’s where Ronnie finally finds the gain knob on his amp. Straight up 70’s riff along with Sammy’s trademark vocal style. This is followed by the funky instrumental Starliner. Some of the keyboards are a little goofy at times, but it all works well with a kind of call and response with the guitar.

I Got The Fire I’m going to guess is going to get the highest marks from all the Album of The Week Club reviewers. It’s the standout track on the album.

The final three tracks find Spaceage Sacrifice slowing it down a little, Ronnie Montrose taking the vocals on We’re Going Home, and then Sammy taking the vocal on the title track.

In the end, this is a decent album. And what I had to do was pretend that this was their debut and that Montrose was the follow-up. All in all, Paper Money hit the marks for me. And I would’ve noted my calendar for when their next album hit the store, which would be Montrose in my little “Album Time Machine Reversal” scenario. Imagine how blown away you’d have been then with an album filled with Bad Motor Scooter, Rock The Nation, and Rock Candy after Paper Money whet your appetite.


Final score: 6.94 (52 votes cast, total score 361)

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