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'Unusual Suspects'
Released: 26th September 2011

Pippa Lang

pippa lang

Leslie West has been putting his unique twist on the blues for the past forty-plus years. Manhandling its gritty old heart into a shape that suits his 'inimitable' personality, he delights in catching his audience unawares with unexpected lil' tricks and turns. But don't expect him to catch you when he leads you astray and sends you freefalling to some inglorious blues hell, it's just not in his nature.


In the sixties, Leslie built a Mountain round his complex character, hollering from the top with a voice that can curdle milk and, well, move mountains (of course). Since then, his indefatigable spirit has mooched onwards, consistently rocking the foundations and booting out at least a couple of albums a decade.

Now, despite diabetes and the loss of half a leg, he's still pumping away like an old engine, undeterred and immovable. If you can't take Mohammed to the mountain, well you know what you can do.

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With 'Unusual Suspects', he's enlisted a little help from his friends to throw some cunning curves and shed light on his fearless blues manoeuverings. Steve Lukather hangs onto his coattails when he spits out the delightfully uplifting 'One More Drink For The Road' with crushing efficiency, before Slash joins in for 'Mud Flap Momma', squealing and grinding like a biker's whore on the back of a low-slung Harley.

So far, so safe: blues, rock, engine oil and sex. Oh, and lyrics for the latter written by his wife…what a lady! Indeed, Jenni has, apparently, turned him from irascible genius to pussycat-with-heart-full-of-joy in one fell swoop, and a few songs tell this tale: the sweet 'My Gravity', bluesrocker 'Love You Forever' and, even, The Beatles' cover, 'I Feel Fine'.

When the distinct and glorious instability of his character cracks the paint, it's kinda subtle, yet throws you nonetheless. The beautifully dark 'To The Moon' reveals a more ominous side, ruminating with mellifluous power, before abruptly slamming on the brakes in frustration. Pushing himself to a place he'd already arrived at, he was never going to make it any further: 'As I lay out my cards, am I trying too hard?/I was already there on the moon'. Do I need to spell it out?


Even the blues cover, 'Third Degree', behaves like an unruly child. A magnificent guitar and vocal duel with Joe Bonamassa screaming agonizingly 'It's KILLING me!', it ends up drifting out on a winsome outtake, and it seems like we're trespassing on a private jam.

There are standard bluesrockers like the aforementioned 'Love You Forever' and 'Standing On Higher Ground', the latter written with Billy Gibbons, guitar in hand, chugging away in distinctive ZZ Top style; but always there's Leslie's insatiable need to throw in the bitterest slice of lemon, in this case a sudden off-kilter lurch into downward minor key territory. Like, where did that come from?

Indeed, where did 'I Feel Fine' come from, apart from that lovestruck heart? Gorgeous Westy guitar break, but a bit like throwing The Beach Boys into the moshpit at a Metallica gig. 'Legend', too, is a tad schmaltzy, and even Leslie had reservations about its egotistical connotations, but it does at least have the potential to move past those, to something paradoxically humble. Hey, another twist.


Leslie turned down an offer by The Stones to replace guitarist Mick Taylor...

He also turned down Lynyrd Skynyrd, just before the fatal plane crash that killed most of the band…

And when the party's nearly over, Slash stamps his 'lectric fingers indelibly all over 'Turn Out The Lights', with a lil' help from Zakk Wylde - and, well, 'yeehaa' is all I can think of to say about this one. It is, indeed, the end of the party, apart from the screwed-up 'I Don't Know (The Beetlejuice Song)', featuring a vocal sample from one of DJ Howard Stern's freaky 'Whack Packers', nicknamed (naturally) 'Beetlejuice'. (There's a story here: check out 'Howard Stern, Beetlejuice' on You Tube.)

Yep, Leslie West is that last suck of lemon after the Tequila at the end of the party. Just when you thought it was safe to drift off into that comfortable, intoxicated sleep, that bitter tang wakes you up, yep, in freefall.

Like I said, a unique twist of blues from a unique twisted soul.





Wacken Winter Nights 2018 takes place between February 23rd and 25th 2018 and the great news is that you can now experience a full-on, top class German Metal Festival easily and affordably.

It only takes an hour to fly to Hamburg from London and we've had longer journeys than that within the capital and they were certainly more expensive than the £33 air ticket that just appeared in our 'flights to Wacken Winter Nights' search.


Wacken Winter Nights is organised by the same team who are responsible for the world's greatest Metal festival, Wacken-Open-Air and the 2018 bill includes Skyclad, Orphaned Land, Elvenking, Finntroll, Grave Digger, Aeverium, Comes Vagantes, Coppelius, Corvus Corax, Die Pressgëng, Elvellon, Heimataerde, Hell-O-Matic, Ignis Fatuu, Ingrimm, Irdorath, Johnny Deathshadow, Krayenzeit, Letzte Instanz, Mr Hurley und die Pulveraffen, Pampatut, Pat Razket, Schandmaul, Sündenrausch, The Aberlour's, The Moon And The Nightspirit, Torfrock, Visions Of Atlantis, Vroudenspil, Wind Rose and more.

Besides this rich billing of superb Metal bands, there is so much more to see in the festival area including the medieval market and also the walking acts and jugglers you will meet at the theme worlds, including Robert Blake, three-time World Cup winner of street magic.

Wacken Winter Nights is something not to be missed and you can check out the amazing ticket and accommodation prices right here.

We just priced up the whole four day trip with hotels, flights, shuttles and festival tickets for less than £300 and we don't think you will get a better value festival than that, anywhere.


MetalTalk recently sat down with Wacken founder and owner Thomas Jensen and that interview will be online next week and it's a fascinating insight into how Wacken originated from nothing to become the world's premiere Heavy Metal event.


Wacken 2018 takes place from 2nd to 4th August 20218 and as with Wacken Winter Nights, if you have never experienced all it has to offer, then you owe it to yourself to remedy that.

Already announced for Wacken 2018 are Judas Priest, Nightwish, Running Wild (exclusive), Arch Enemy, Dirkschneider, Doro (Special Anniversary Show), In Extremo, Sepultura, Amorphis, Amaranthe, Firewind, W.A.R., Belphegor, Mantar, Knorkator, Deserted Fear, Watain, Night Demon, Epica, Knorkator, Belphegor, Firewind, Deserted Fear and many more and we'll have more Wacken 2018 announcements during December.

As well as being the greatest Heavy Metal festival in the world, it is without a doubt the Mecca of Metal and the one thing that every single person who loves our music should have on their bucket list.

For 2018, MetalTalk have joined forces with Wacken-Open-Air to help you get to Wacken easily and inexpensively and you can peruse the ticket and travel options right here.

If you are interested in going to Wacken 2018 and have questions, please fill out the form below and we will contact you with answers to all your enquiries. You are under no obligation whatsoever by filling this form out. We won't add you to any mailing lists or send you loads of spam - all we will do is help you get to Wacken as easily and inexpensively as possible.



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