Lou Montesano is a name recognized from the early decade and his blockbuster band, Status Green. From the 2006 release of Status Green’s Greatest Hits Vol. 1, until their demise sometime in August of 2012, they ruled the roost. You’re talking about a band that could quickly put 800 people into the Stone Pony. But like all good things, they eventually ended. Personal reasons and industry fickleness were probably the reasons why, but in the end, I never found out what or why. Band members went their separate ways, but I always kept in touch with Montesano. Our combined love of guitar collecting and Jameson made sure we stayed fast friends and confidants. And when he told me about his latest project I was more than thrilled that he was coming back to be as rowdy as he was in the past with a brand-new outlook and band to boot. The Morgan Freemasons played their share of shows before heading into the studio to put it down for the masses, and that gathering of talent has led to their first 7-song self-titled EP, The Morgan Freemasons.
Montesano recently dropped off the disc, and I wanted to go through it and give my opinion (for what that’s worth) on the music and the guys that play real rock ’n’ roll music in 2018.
The first song on the disc is called “Love’s Back.” Traffic and construction noise percolate the beginning’s background with Eastern-styled George Harrison guitar riffs as the band gears up and releases, very much like early Janes Addiction. When I say Jane’s Addiction, I’m talking early years when the band dwelled more on style and originality than they did on making hits. Montesano’s vocals shine with tons of reverb and echo as the band cranks in the vein of Social Distortion.
Compositionally speaking, Montesano writes like a master bandit, lifting the best parts of everything rock music has to offer. Verses remind me of The Goo Goo Dolls while his bridges team with the reminiscent sounds of John Lennon and Jellyfish. The middle-eight lead work is pure Earl Slick, and the guitar tone is all Montesano. His co-guitarist, Bootsy Martin, works well with Montesano and makes for a gigantic sound. A consummate collector of guitars and amps, there’s no way Montesano would let anything sound bad in his hands. The chorus rolls perfectly and leads back to the bridge and verse like clockwork. The sounds are produced in a gritty, real way that lends believability and addiction, “Love’s Back” is a top-notch winner and a hell of a CD starter.
The next song up is called “Wait So Long.” Clean electrics serenade the opening as Montesano croons to the masses. Lyrically speaking, Montesano utilizes life experience to get his point across, and he does it well. When the band kicks in, it’s pure rock ’n’ roll pandemonium. Vast washes of chord work meld with drums and bass before coming back down only to kick large again. The bass work is courtesy of Jason Lorentzan and drums by Joey Bones. The Morgan Freemasons are a bit different than Status Green, as Montesano opted to join with guys from the old school of rock, and it shows. Bass and drums pulse and thump like the heady days of the late Seventies punk days. Actually, Joey Bones and Bootsy Martin were part of the original lineup of Jersey staple, Last Perfect Thing. Jason Lorentzan was also a vocalist for the hardcore band Strength in Numbers back in the mid-2000s. All three members have also been in English and the 40 Ouncers as well. Mix this with Montesano’s 1950s melody sensibility, and you have a fabulous concoction of rock goodness.
“Coast Is Clear” is up next. If you love Sam Cooke and The Gaslight Anthem, you’re gonna love the melody and attitude of “Coast Is Clear.” One of the best choruses I’ve heard all year, “Coast Is Clear” mixes smooth melody with raucous rock and roll guitar moxie and heavy-duty rhythms. Montesano promises superior love to the one he implores to “Come Back Here” and it’s believable as hell. I especially love the way Montesano and company combine old-school R&B with modern day rock ‘n’ roll actions. Montesano’s vocals are entirely up to snuff and better than ever. The fact that he co-produced this record with engineer marvel Joe Dell ’Aquila of Exeter Recordings and followed his own vision is part of what makes this record, so goddamn great. It’s gnarly, gritty and filled with raw emotion and soul and that’s what a record should be made with. Great job and a terrific song.
“The Bottom” comes up next and follows a great 1980s styled pop-rock feel similar to Rick Springfield. Springfield is someone I’ve met and someone I respect, and this song follows that immaculate method of pop-rock goodness to a proverbial T. Chugging electric guitars start thing off as Montesano sings his heart out. Bass and drums nail this sucker to the proverbial floor as Montesano, and Martin hammers their six-string work to the roof. I like how things quite down without losing vibrancy before returning to that forever memorable chorus that Montesano is famous for coming up with.
“Generation” is a free and reggae-inspired number that features Montesano’s vocal dominance over precise bass, drums and guitar licks all supplied by the boys. This one should be popular with the girls in the bars, and I’m sure that more than one or two guys will find love (or something similar to it) when listening to this song live. Compositionally speaking, Montesano and the band hit at 100 percent as they shift midway into rock ‘n’ roll and finish up with a flair all their own.
The next song is called “Dragonfly.” Montesano hits the listener with echo-driven distorted vocals as the band heats up with a funky, R&B vibe. Bones and Lorentzan percolate as Martin and Montesano upstroke and throw tremolo vibes into the mix. Montesano sings about adulterated love and the after-effects of that act. Their style reminds me of the Trash Mavericks or The Godfathers, which is all good stuff. Once again, Montesano works his chorus to the point of being memorable for days on end, and that’s what it’s all about here. Great big choruses scream hit-song as the band comes back down into the next verse. Once again, the production is dead on and reminds me of the early nineties. The middle-eight guitar lead is a searing and blistering salvo of pentatonic brilliance that leads back into that stupendous chorus.
The last song on this too-small-disc is called “Without Delay.” Montesano and crew take the listener on a funky, upstroke journey of ‘50s influenced soul before blowing into a fill out barrage of rock ‘n’ roll chorus magic. Montesano sings about the loss of love and the girl that, “Gets ahold of your soul.” Guitars harken back to the days of Jason and The Scorchers or Live, and the bass and drum work is as solid as a brick wall in Fort Knox. Once again, Montesano takes the listener along for the ride, showing his deepest and darkest secrets and magical moments in life. The chorus is a golden mix of rocks best platinum, and this is another song that’s probably a favorite live number. Guitars in the middle-eight twang and sings like Cheetah Chrome from the Dead Boys or Patterson Hood from Drive-by Truckers.
All in all, The Morgan Freemasons have hit on a brilliant live sounding record that is easily replicated live. The songs all rank high on the memorable meter, and I can’t wait to see them play these songs live. Speaking of performing live, you’ll be able to see the band on Feb. 16 at the world-famous Saint in Asbury Park. Come early for Nashville’s own Griffin House and stay for the Morgan Freemasons! For more information on the show, head over to thesaintnj.com for the show schedule. To find out more about the Morgan Freemasons and their brand-new record, head over to themorganfreemasons.com and get the info.