Paper Money (1974) is the second album by the California-based hard rock band Montrose. It was produced by Ted Templeman and is the band's final recording with original vocalist Sammy Hagar. It marks the arrival of new bass player Alan Fitzgerald, replacing original bassist Bill Church.
Already disenchanted with what he perceived to be the one dimensionality and commercially-waning popularity of his band's hard rock/proto-metal sound, Ronnie Montrose insisted on changing the formula for the group's sophomore release by broadening the stylistic, compositional, rhythmic, and sonic range of the band, and generally toning down the high-energy intensity and metallic crunch that defined the group's 1973 debut.
Musical diversity is the driving force behind Paper Money, which opens with the pop-flavored and radio-friendly "Underground", an unlikely cover of a song released the previous year by eccentric Warner Bros. labelmates Leslie speaker cabinet instead of a conventional guitar amplifier and given a major musical makeover that obscures the song's dark, death-obsessed lyrics ("Take me now or let me die... change me into a maggot pie"), "Underground" sets the tone for an album that is unpredictable at every turn and covers a broad musical spectrum which includes an acoustic ballad cover - the piano-laced "Connection" by the Rolling Stones) - and an upbeat 1960s-influenced instrumental, "Starliner". Ronnie Montrose heightens and expands his own presence by contributing lead vocals on the sparse and pensive ballad "We're Going Home", which features mellotron provided by guest keyboardist Nick DeCaro who would later join Ronnie Montrose's post-Montrose 'Open Fire' band.
As cited in both contemporaneous and later reviews of the album, only the hard rocking energy and sexual swagger of "I Got the Fire" echoes the trademark qualities that characterized the band's explosive debut. "The Dreamer", a low-tuned downtempo dirge reminiscent of Masters of Reality -era Black Sabbath also retains something of the first album's metallic essence, but with a twist: Instead of the expected guitar solo, the band drops out completely to give way to a swelling synthesizer interlude provided by Alan Fitzgerald.
While Ted Templeman's production lacks the overall brightness, presence, and immensity found on Montrose, the album still manages to maintain an overall cohesion with its seductive unpredictability. The band's sophomore outing closes strongly with the galloping uptempo "Paper Money", a sermon about the worthlessness of materialism and the almighty dollar that is underscored by Ronnie Montrose's eerie Hendrix-like feedback. As the last recorded musical statement from the original Montrose lineup, the song has an urgent and troubled feeling—almost apocalyptic—and Sammy Hagar's lyrics seem to foretell the global economic meltdown of the mid-2000s some thirty years before the fact.
Despite its significant stylistic departure from the band's iconic debut, lukewarm response from critics, and mixed reactions from fans, Paper Money initially sold twice as many copies as Montrose and was the band's highest-charting release, reaching #65 on Billboard's Hot 100. To promote the album, the band appeared live on The Midnight Special television show, performing "Paper Money" and "I Got the Fire".
After building acrimony between Ronnie Montrose and Sammy Hagar reached a peak during the band's 1974-75 European tour to promote Paper Money, Hagar parted ways with the band in early February 1975 and was replaced by vocalist Bob James.
Although the liner notes for the CD edition of Paper Money state that Ronnie Montrose was offered the lead guitar slot for Mott the Hoople when he left the Edgar Winter Group, the guitarist has stated that this never happened and was just a rumor.
- "Underground" (I. Rappaport / Chunky, Novi & Ernie cover) - 3:33
- "Connection" (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards / Rolling Stones cover) - 5:42
- "The Dreamer" (Sammy Hagar, Ronnie Montrose) - 4:05
- "Starliner" (Montrose) - 3:36
- "I Got the Fire" (Montrose) - 3:06
- "Spaceage Sacrifice" (Hagar, Montrose) - 4:55
- "We're Going Home" (Montrose) - 4:52
- "Paper Money" (Hagar, Montrose) - 5:01
- Sammy Hagar – lead vocals on all songs except on "We're Going Home"
- Ronnie Montrose – guitar; lead vocals on "We're Going Home"
- Alan Fitzgerald – bass guitar
- Denny Carmassi – drums
- Mark Jordan – piano on "Connection"
- Nick DeCaro – mellotron on "We're Going Home"
- Montrose; Paper Money liner notes; Warner Brothers Records 1974
- All Music Guide