Leslie West and Mountain helped to shape my love of music during my early teen years and I remain a huge fan of him all these years later. West has also influenced many artists over the years, from early contemporaries like Jimi Hendrix, Jethro Tull’s Martin Barre, John Mac Laughlin and Deep Purple’s Richie Blackmore to Eddie Van Halen and so many more. The little, fat Jewish kid with the big guitar and vocals (that Felix Papallardi discovered with West’s band The Vagrants) remains solid in his guitar playing and appreciation for doing things in a big, musical way. Papallardi produced West’s solo album Mountain,* which gave rise to the band and subsequent albums which he and West were instrumental in making legendary. After Papillardi’s passing in 1973, West has done a lot of different things; his solo work is probably some of the best music he’s done over the years.
“Left by the Roadside” gives us some gutsy vocals and nicely done acoustic resonator slide guitar as an intro before breaking into the big electric sound. West demonstrates the massive guitar sound he made famous in his Mountain Days on the solos here. “Give Me One Reason” gets a gritty makeover with West growling out the lyrics and playing a guitar lead and solos with real bite. He turns the Tracy Chapman from a somewhat sedate classic into a big rock song. “Here by the Party” is a typical 70’s rock anthem that West goes over the top in his exuberant way. “You Are My Sunshine” gets shifted to a minor key and the tempo gets slowed way down to turn it into a blues song. Interesting take with Peter Frampton sharing the guitar work as West takes the slide side. “Empty Promises/Nothin’Sacred” is something west calls his tribute to AC/DC. I think little else is needed here to describe that!
“A Stern Warning” is a solo acoustic piece and refers to Howard Stern. Stern apparently called West one day to ask the meaning of the Mountain Song “To My Friend,” a song that West paid tribute to Felix Papallardi after he was given a 12 string guitar by Felix. West pays tribute to his friend Howard here. Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” gets made over with lots of laid-over guitar riffs and completely Westiified. Queen’s Brian May appears on “Goin’ Down” along with Bonnie Bramlett, Max Middleton, David Hood, and Bobby Whitlock. West starts with the guitar lead and May finishes it here on this cut. West intentionally states he had Middleton reprise his intro from the song that he did on The Jeff Beck Group album. “Stand By Me” pays tribute to Ben E. King who passed in April. Arielle Pizza adds here vocals to Wests’; she’s a 16 year old with great chops! West’s bass player Rev Jones is featured on “Eleanor Rigby,” it is a staple on West’s tour and Leslie made sure he included it here. “Spoonful” concludes the set, done live in 1988 with Jack Bruce and originally from their album Theme. West edited it down and pays tribute to Bruce (who also recently passed) by including it here.
This is not a purist blues album. There is a lot of big rock here, too. The songs get some very different takes. It may turn some people off while it certainly will also turn some people on. If you are a big, ballsy, rocking blues fan or a fan of Leslies’, you will find something that you like here! It’s got some blues and it’s got a lot of rock. If that’s your cup of tea, then drink deeply!
*The one-sheet that comes with the CD talks about West first gaining notoriety with his band Mountain, but it really was his earlier solo album of that name that launched his fame and his fantastic career.