Dee Snider, Slash, Zakk Wylde, George Lynch, Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Morse are among a host of Heavy Metal stars who have contributed to Legacy: A Tribute To Leslie West, an album set for release by Provogue / Mascot Label Group on 25 March 2022.
Leslie West passed away on 23 December 2020, leaving a legacy of epic recordings. “There was nobody on earth quite like Leslie,” says the guitarist’s widow, Jenni West. “The second you heard him play, you knew it was him. He loved playing the guitar and making music. He lived to make people feel good – it was his passion.”
The album was originally intended to be a retrospective collection of West’s music, where the guitarist himself would perform some of his best-loved cuts with notable guests, along with a collection of new tracks, but West passed away two weeks before recording was due to commence and the decision was made to turn to a tribute album.
“We really didn’t have to reach out to many people,” Jenni says. “They came to us. What’s really amazing is, if Leslie himself had whispered into my ear and told me who he would want on this record, these would be the people he would have requested.”
West’s longtime rhythm section of bassist Rev Jones and Bobby Rondinelli laid down most of the basic tracks for the guest artists to contribute their parts. Theme For An Imaginary Western, however, features Mike Portnoy on drums and Rusy Sarzo on bass, with the pair joined by Dee Snider and guitarist Eddie Ojeda.
“Leslie was a hero, friend, amazing guy and a guitar god,” says Snider. “I always wanted to sing this song. It’s my favourite Leslie West guitar solo. It resonates with me and speaks to me on so many levels. I’m honoured to have gotten a chance to do it on this record.”
Mississippi Queen, West’s most famous song, finds Slash joined by Marc LeBelle, from Dirty Honey, while Joe Lynn Turner appears on two tracks. “It was an honour to do this tribute to Leslie,” says Turner, “especially to sing Yasgur’s Farm. I’ll never forget seeing Mountain at the Fillmore East. Felix had done the verse, and when it came to that B section, Leslie was hit with a white spotlight in his buckskin. It still chills me to the bone today.”
West left his band The Vagrants in 1969 to pursue a solo career, but the album Mountain became the unofficial debut of the power trio. Blood Of The Sun was chosen by Zakk Wylde.
Charlie Starr, singer and guitarist for the band Blackberry Smoke, selected Silver Paper, taken from Climbing. “I love Silver Paper,” Starr said, “and it’s got one of the coolest guitar licks of all time. Leslie played exactly what the song needed. His timing was impeccable. He played way back in the pocket, and it was so nasty and so great – the kind of things that you aspire to. I’m very proud to be part of this project. God bless Leslie West.”
Doors legend Robby Krieger remembered Leslie from numerous shared stages over the years. “The coolest thing about Leslie was the way he played blues,” Krieger says. “It was just very natural. He and Clapton were the best at the time. They just had the feel for the blues. Maybe in their former lifetimes they were blues guys.” Krieger chose The Doctor, taken from ’72s Why Dontcha by West’s power trio supergroup West, Bruce and Laing.
“He was famous to his fans throughout the world,” Jenni West says, “but he was adored by other musicians. Everybody from country stars, rappers and Heavy Metal players – they all loved Leslie. He found it surprising, but I think he was also pleased to know how much he inspired other musicians.”
“Leslie could take a simple two and three-note phrase and just sell it with that gritty determination,” Steve Morse says, who is joined by Ronnie Romero for Why Dontcha. “What was not to like about him? He knew everything to do. Just the phrasing of the solos and the commitment and the tone. It was really awesome to stand next to him and experience that.”
Jenni West, John Lappen and West’s longtime manager Bob Ringe are executive producers. “I’ve worked with some of the greatest guitarists on the planet,” Ringe said, “and nobody could hold a candle to Leslie. He was so unique and special – his sound, his style, his power and warmth.
“Any guitarist I talk to has been influenced in some way by him. They broke the mold when they made him, and he took it with him when he passed away. He was a true one of a kind.”
“Nobody in this world has ever made me feel loved as much as Leslie, and I feel so honoured and grateful that I could give him this gift.” smiled Jenny. “He would often say, ‘If it doesn’t make my balls rumble, it’s not right.’ And I think there are some balls-rumbling tones on this record.
“When you’re listening to it, you might even think it’s Leslie playing – and that’s a good thing. He really believed that the adage of imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. Even when some of the players do their own twists on the music, they’re still doing it in a way that’s authentic and respectful, and Leslie would have appreciated that.”
- Blood of the Sun (feat. Zakk Wylde)
- Nantucket Sleighride (To Owen Coffin) (feat. Joe Lynn Turner, Marty Friedman)
- Theme for an Imaginary Western (feat. Dee Snider, Mike Portnoy)
- For Yasgur’s Farm (feat. Joe Lynn Turner, Martin Barre)
- Why Dontcha (feat. Steve Morse, Ronnie Romero)
- Sittin’ On a Rainbow (feat. Elliot Easton, Ronnie Romero)
- Never in My Life (feat. Dee Snider, George Lynch)
- The Doctor (feat. Robby Krieger, Ronnie Romero)
- Silver Paper (feat. Charlie Starr)
- Money (Whatcha Gonna Do)/By the River – medley (feat. Randy Bachman & Tal Bachman)
- Long Red (feat. Yngwie Malmsteen & Teddy Rondinelli)
- Mississippi Queen (feat. Slash, Marc Labelle)