By Steve Newton
Dedicated fans of guitar great Ronnie Montrose know that, after he made his mark on the hard-rock scene with Montrose, he formed a more prog-oriented band called Gamma with singer Davey Pattison that continued making great music.
I snapped up the group’s debut album, Gamma 1, as soon as it came out in the summer of 1979, and loved it. It boasted fine riff-driven numbers like “I’m Alive” and “Razor King”, but the track that really struck me was the ballad “Wish I Was”. When the clinically depressed Ronnie took his own life in 2012 that was the sad-sounding song I thought of the most.
Gamma 2–with that crazy cover depicting shark fins cutting through somebody’s back lawn–came out in 1980, and I also glommed onto it. It was maybe a little heavier than the debut, and featured the return of original Montrose drummer Denny Carmassi to the skins. I think my fave tune on that one was the Montrose/Pattison-penned “Dirty City”.
Gamma released one more album in ’82, Gamma 3, before disbanding, and when I interviewed Ronnie back in 1994 he revealed that Gamma had had an offer to make another album, but that he didn’t want to do it because it “didn’t seem like the chemistry was right”. That fact that Montrose wouldn’t make a fourth Gamma album just for the money alone speaks volumes about his artistic integrity, I reckon.
Have a listen:
Note: Gamma did finally record Gamma 4, but not until 2000, when Montrose and Pattison reunited for one last kick at the can, releasing it on Montrose’s own label, RoMoCo.