Fireworks

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One of the strongest Rock Candy re-issues.

In my humble opinion, the latest trio of Rock Candy re-issues by Le Roux, Harlequin, and this album by heavy pomp-rockers Gamma, are three of the strongest on a label that has issued well over a hundred well-respected discs. However, unlike Le Roux and Harlequin, Gamma had some well known musicians in their ranks and managed to get their albums out to the rest of the world. They even played some headline shows in the UK back in the early 80's, their Manchester Free Trade Hall performance having since become the stuff of legend in these parts.

Gamma saw the long awaited return of guitar hero Ronnie Montrose after the demise of the ground-breaking band that bore his surname, bringing with him Montrose drummer Denny Carmassi and keyboard player Jim Alcivar, as well as Robin Trower singer Davey Pattison and unknown bassist Glenn Letsch. Their UK label missed the boat with their 1979 debut - imaginatively titled '1' - by issuing it months after it had topped the import chart for quite some time, the result being that UK sales were disappointing. No such worries with '2', which was the subject of many magazine ads, interviews and the aforementioned UK tour.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Musically '2' was far heavier, better produced and less eclectic, built around Montrose's formidable guitar and the superb gritty vocals of Scotsman Pattison, with Alcivar's synths playing more of a supporting role this time out. At times it rocks surprisingly hard, with the opening three songs 'Mean Streak' , 'Four Horseman' and 'Dirty City' amongst the most straight-forward the band ever did whilst still having those quirky time changes that give you the impression that musicians of this standard would get bored by playing it straight. Alcivar plays a big part in the frenetic closer 'Mayday', even using that most maligned of keyboard player's toys; the vocoder, whilst 'Cat On A Leash' and 'Skin And Bone' are swaggering bluesy rock with exceptional vocals. At a mere eight tracks, the side is let down a little by an unnecessary cover of the Thunderclap Newman hit 'Something In The Air', but perhaps the best song of all is 'Voyager'; a laid-back bluesy twelve bar that hooks you in and has fabulous vocals and simply mesmerising guitar solos.

The remaster sounds great and the album was particularly well recorded and produced by Gary Lyons anyway, with each instrument sounding like you're sitting in on a Gamma rehearsal. Our own Dave Cockett has done a sterling job with the sleeve notes and his interview with bassist Glenn Letsch conveys the incredulity the bassist still has at being chosen to play with such legends. His revelation that 'Voyager' was recorded live in the studio shows just what talent this band had, so hopefully this will be followed by reissues of their flawed gem of a debut and vastly underrated third.

Phil Ashcroft

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