One of the most ground-breaking bands ever to come out of America, Mountain never really got the full recognition they deserve, despite being lauded by their peers and critics. Having formed in 1969 and playing only their third show together at Woodstock, theirs was a seismic impact on the scene, and their boisterous mix of big riffs, thunderous drums, throbbing bass, and the blues was a key in shaping hard rock.
Legacy: A Tribute To Leslie West (Provogue Records)
Release Date: 25 March 2022
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Whilst the propulsive rhythm section of Corky Laing and Felix Pappalardi provided the mighty engine room, it was the guitar playing and vocals of Leslie West that really brought the edge to the trio and together, they produced albums and singles that would go on to be recognised as stone-cold classics.
Mountain continued on and off as a band until 2010 when, following surgery to remove part of his lower leg the following year, West both performed and recorded under his own name. With a number of Mountain albums under his belt, along with some sterling solo releases, the guitarist continued to tour until he passed away in December 2020.
Hugely influential, the guitarist’s bluesy style and distinctive, soulful vocals drew admiration from many of his peers and saw them lining up to play with him. When the idea of a tribute album to the late maestro was floated, a stellar line-up of musicians again came forward to put their own talents to tip hats to his mighty musical heritage.
Legacy: A Tribute to Leslie West is the result and brings together the biggest numbers and deeper cuts that his career was built on, performed by some of the great and good of the business.
Big, bluesy hard rocker Blood Of The Sun kicks things off. The guitar work and vocals of Zakk Wylde are a passionate, full force take that shows just how much the main man meant whilst Wylde throws in a little of his own stylings.
This sense of it being something that really matters to everyone permeates the whole project, elevating this to so much more than a covers album. Former Rainbow and Deep Purple singer Joe Lynn Turner and former Megadeth six-stringer Marty Friedman join forces on the classic Nantucket Sleighride and imbue it with the requisite atmosphere, its beauty, power and dynamics very much intact.
Dee Snider puts in a thoroughly committed performance in both Theme For An Imaginary Western and Never In My Life, the former blasted along with Mike Portnoy on the skins and the latter featuring some flying fretwork from George Lynch.
Another vocalist making more than one appearance on the album is Ronnie Romero, the attack that he and Purple guitar player Steve Morse bring to Why Dontcha breathtakingly feral. Things take a more southern country rock feel on the Charlie Starr fronted Silver Paper and the Bachman and Bachman medley of Money (Whatcha Gonna Do) / By the River, both sparkling diamonds that perfectly show the synergy of the album.
The only misstep of the release comes when Yngwie Malmsteen does his usual overplaying on Long Red, the overabundance of flashy notes centring the action on his dexterity, not the song or the man who created it. Yngwie can’t stop being Yngwie.
Fortunately, Slash and Marc LaBelle come in to save the day, and their closing Mississippi Queen is an explosion of punchy hard rock with dirt under its fingernails and sweat on its collar.
Given the talent on display here and the stellar material to choose from, Legacy: A Tribute To Leslie West is something that certainly does the late, great man justice. This will attract the attention of fans of the artists involved and hopefully encourage newcomers to check out this master musician.
If American rock music had its own Mount Rushmore, it would be carved from Mountain, and Leslie West would be a prominent face on its hallowed façade. Knowing just how respected and admired he was would certainly have made the great man smile, his work shaping so much of what came after him. This is his legacy, and something rightly celebrated here.