Mike Montgomery fans are prepping for the release of a new album. It’s titled Crawling Spider: A Tribute To Mike Montgomery Vol. 1 The L.A. Sessions and has a drop date of October 30. The new release is a tuneful tip of the hat to the late and largely unsung hero of music history Back Street Crawler songwriter and keyboardist Mike Montgomery.
Mike Montgomery was a native Oklahoman who grew up in California, Kansas, and Oklahoma. According to a recent email, his first “musical memories” included the work of Ray Charles, Floyd Cramer, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, and “the gospel quartets at Kansas tent revivals.” At the age of eight, he knew he, too, wanted to perform the music that most strongly impacted on him — “the blues, country and rock and roll.”
His career began at 15 with his first band and recording session at American songwriter Glen Sullivan’s Oklahoma City Studio. The following year he was performing on local TV shows and performing live at various venues across the state. He studied music at Oklahoma City University then moved to Texas and signed on with the blues-rock band Bloontz, which relocated to New York after scoring a recording deal.
While there he also worked as musical director for singer Johnny Nash and recorded with Blood, Sweat & Tears, and David Bowie and Lulu. In 1975 he turned down the chance to replace Ian Hunter in Mott The Hoople to move to England and form Back Street Crawler with guitarist Paul Kossoff. He left the Atlantic Records act the following year and recorded a solo album with acts such as Blood Sweat and Tears, Meatloaf, and Thin Lizzy.
During the 1980s Montgomery returned to New York. He scored the movie “Vice Squad”, worked with Roy Buchanan, Rick Derringer, and Johnny Winter, and founded the band Rough House. He died of lung cancer in 1991.
This compilation includes special appearances from a number of different acts. Thus, there the signature sound is not always constant. However, there is a unifying element in that all the material is written and/or inspired by the late American performer Mike Montgomery. The listener will discover a mix of multiple music genres including blues-rock, British hard rock, and rock n’ roll.
Crawling Spider: A Tribute To Mike Montgomery Vol. 1 The L.A. Sessions
This disc includes 15 tracks. The release features adaptations of songs from Back Street Crawler and Montgomery’s blue-tinged R&B band Rough House. Executive Producer Marlon Montgomery, Micheal’s son, personally selected faves from his late father’s catalog including unreleased tracks and demos too.
Track by Track
The album opens on “Survivor.” The music rocks and the lyrics are clever enough to keep you listening. Some suspect that Slash’s “Sweet Child” riff was lifted from this song too. The track features Robbie Wyckoff on voca ls, guitarists Billy Watts and Johnny Lee Schell, drummer Tony Braunagel, bassist/background vocalist Terry Wilson and keyboardist Adam MacDougall. This group performed the following five songs as well.
The second selection is “Rock & Roll Junkie.” Despite a change in vocalists, the Montgomery music and overall attitude are still present. The music still rocks and the vocals remain strong. Here Mark Campbell replaces Wykoff at the mic and John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick replaces MacDougall on the keys.
The next number is “It’s A Long Way Down To The Top.” This one focuses on the double-edged sword of making it in the music industry. Here Wyckoff returns on vocals. Bundrick remains on keys.
Singer Teresa James handles lead vocals on “Pale Fire.” It’s a slower, slightly sad but smoky song that offers a nice change although perhaps placed on the playlist a bit early. Naturally, her strong vocals make this one sound like something off a Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps platter.
Things pick up again with “99 Days.” This raw rocker is one of the earlier “perils of playing on the road” pieces. Campbell returns once more on vocals and MacDougall is back on keys.
“Stealing My Way” is an almost soul-tinged track. It is highlighted by a duet by Wyckoff and James. It just plain works.
“Jason Blue (Live 2019)” This is a more recent live track. It is a powerful performance and features Terry Slesser on vocals, John Buckton on guitar, Clive Edwards on drums, Rick Hunt on bass, and Mark Taylor on keys.
“All The Girls Are Crazy” is a noteworthy rock-funky adaptation of the Back Street Crawler’s premiere single. It features Flood The Engine’s guitarist Bill Leverty (Firehouse) and singer Jimmy Kunes (Humble Pie, Savoy Brown, and Cactus).
“You’ll Never Take Me Alive (Demo)” marks yet another significant musical moment in Montgomery’s career. This and the following four tracks are all original band demos. They feature vocals by Mike Montgomery guitar work by Bob Kulick, Brian Robertson, and Scott Gorham, drums and percussion by Paul Thompson, bass by Jimmy Bain, and keys by Mike Montgomery and Morgan Fisher.
Montgomery handles vocals and keys on the “King Of The Mountain (Demo).” You can certainly hear both the era and then more recent influences impact on his music.
The band line-up remains the same on the “Porcelain Figurine (Demo).” The group’s signature sound remains consistent.
“You Put The Magic (Demo)” reveals yet more of the artist’s capabilities and the band’s abilities to work as a tuneful team.
Also included here is “Sidekick To The Stars (Demo)” which is definitely a fun, effective demo obviously recorded for the market.
“Just A Son Of America” follows here. The Texas-based act Omar & The Howlers contributed this previously recorded cover. This one has its own little identity making it a standout track with commercial possibilities.
The album endnote is “Can’t Be So Bad (Demo).” This simple but memorable demo is nothing more than Montgomery doing his thing on the keyboards allegedly sharing vocals with Andy Chapman. It harkens back to his days of listening to Ray Charles on the radio.
Overall . . .
Overall, this album is an effective and interesting tribute to the work of Mike Montgomery. His fans will most certainly love it. You can hear the impact of the influencers even in the cover cuts. In a recent email, Marlon Montgomery concluded: “This project (5 years in the making) has been a dream for many years, and is a labor of love for myself and all those involved.” So check out Crawling Spider: A Tribute To Mike Montgomery Vol. 1 The L.A. Sessions and experience the work of a real “Rock & Roll Junkie.”