Gamma : 3
(MCA - 1982)
Gamma : 2
(MCA - 1982)
Gamma is the band that sort of rose out of the ashes of the renowned classic Hard Rock band Montrose. The reason why I think that these albums are underrated, is because most critics have always said that, although they were good or at least decent slabs of vinyl, the material was in general inferior to Montrose's output. This might have been the case for 'Gamma 1', as it had only one standout track (namely 'Ready for Action'). It was certainly true for 'Gamma 4', an album that was released much later and that didn't have anything but filler material on it. But 'Gamma 2' and 'Gamme 3'? I don't think so.
Another remark that was made sometimes, one that the critics made come across as something negative, is the fact that much of what Gamma recorded sounded like a cross between Foreigner and Bad Company (a remark that was in part brought on by the fact that vocalist Davey Pattison sounded like the brother of Paul Rodgers', the singer of Bad Company and The Free). In my opinion that isn't a negative remark at all. First of all, Gamma, by courtesy of main songwriter and guitar player Ronnie Montrose, added its own sauce to that mix, especially on the two albums reviewed here. Second, what's wrong with sounding like other great bands, as long as you managed to sound like them when they were at their creative peak?
Out of these two, I think 'Gamma 3' is the most underrated. True, 'Gamma 2' is the superior album, but 'Gamma 3' wasn't received nearly as good as it should have been by Rock fans and Rock critics alike. The reason for this quite simply was because it's a lighter, more commercial album, with a higher emphasis on keyboards and with a production that had a colder 80's feel than its predecessor. But 80's FM Rock albums can be good. Not everything commercial has to be bad.
With the release of 'Gamma 3' the band had shifted from melodic Hard Rock to a poppy and somewhat arty FM Rock that combines elements of Asia and early 80's Rush with, indeed, some Foreigner and a dash of Triumph. Things immediately set off in a good manner with 'What's gone is gone', an uptempo rocker that really benefits from Pattison's soulful voice (by rock standards). There are three more highlights. 'Mobile Devotion' is a synth driven slightly Progressive instrumental with a solo duel going on between the keyboards and an inspired Montrose. Halfway through it changes moods and slows down to a crawl to give Montrose room to show off his skills as a solo guitarist. He's not a shredder. Every note he plays has its place. 'Stranger' is one of the poppiest songs on the album, but that's not a bad thing as the feel is right and the chorus is memorable enough. 'Condition Yellow' is a playful and lightweight instrumental, with the guitars mixed way back (except for the guitar solo's) and the keyboards again taking centre stage. It's just a pleasant little tune.
There's no point talking about standout tracks on 'Gamma 3' as each song, incuding the Thunderclap Newman-cover 'something's in the air', sounds just right. The songs are just as good as the album cover is original. Nevertheless I'm very briefly picking out the three tracks I like the most to give you an idea of what's on the album. 'Four horsemen' starts off like a frantic Hard Rocker à la early 80's Judas Priest. After a minute it turns into a catchy bluesy rocker. 'Dirty City' is just as catchy, but has a poppier feel and is a bridge between the rest of the material on 'Gamma 2' and what can be heard on 'Gamma 3'. 'Skin and Bone' is a crawling rocker that sounds like a light version of Black Sabbath or a doom version of Bad Company.
If you concider yourself a Hard Rock fan, you simply owe it to yourself to at least listen to this album once to find out whether you like it or not.