Album review: LESLIE WEST – 5 Originals, Got Live

LESLIE WEST - 5 Originals

5 Originals (3CD) Voiceprint [Release date 21.05.21]

The late great Leslie West is, perhaps, best known as the founder, guitarist and vocalist of the legendary American rock band Mountain, also pioneers of heavy metal and blues rock. The band took their name (in the late 60s) from the title of West’s 1969 debut solo album, which itself describes the man-mountain West well.

Mountain had success from 1970 to 1975, and reformed a number of times (I saw them live at Knebworth, 1985), and had some notable successes; the tracks Mississippi Queen and Nantucket Sleighride the best known. West also recorded two studio albums and one live as West Bruce and Laing, featuring Jack Bruce.

But here we get 5 of Leslie West’s solo albums across 3 CDs, and luckily the first two discs feature two whole albums apiece (I’m always worried about carrying an album over from one CD to another with these sets, but panic over here). Mixing blues and rock, West’s solo career is often overlooked by Mountain but there is plenty to enjoy. And with 5 albums here, it’s a great value package.

The albums included here are solo albums 2-5 (1975’s The Great Fatsby, 1976’s The Leslie West Band, 1988’s Theme and 1989’s Alligator), perfectly logical, and 2005’s Guitarded. All great albums, four obvious choices and one from a while later; but I’m complaining as I’ve been after all five on CD for a long time. Guitarded also features a number of guests, including Ian Gillan. Nice.

Disc 1 oddly has albums 2 and 3 the wrong way around, but we’ll work in date order. The Great Fatsby, a play on the famous book title, is as essential listening as West’s debut, and here features a mix of originals and covers. Mick Jagger guests on rhythm guitar and co-writes High Roller, and there’s a decent cover of the Stones’ Honky Tonk Woman. I like the arrangement of House Of The Rising Sun, and other covers include Free’s Little Bit Of Love. The blues credentials are there and amongst the plethora of guests is Mountain’s drummer Corky Laing. The rest of the CD is West’s 3rd album The Leslie West Band. Another wonderful rock/blues album, and again Laing is present, and the band also features former Spooky Tooth guitarist Mick Jones, who later that year would form Foreigner. Some solid songs from the band, and excellent though it is, the previous album does overshadow it. Two decent covers, in the Beatles’ Dear Prudence and the Animals’ We Gotta Get Out Of This Place; the album’s almost a bit short (under 35 minutes) but still a very enjoyable listen.

Disc 2 and 1988’s Theme, which also featured bassist Jack Bruce. There’s a fine cover of Theme For An Imaginary Western, a Jack Bruce song covered by Mountain in 1970, and also of Hendrix’s Red House, modern bright production makes for a solid rock album, but I’m not sure about the minute or two of Presley’s Love Me Tender. 1989’s Alligator is, again, wonderful in terms of the guitar. The production is solid if a little too bright, but the mix of the rhythm section is poor and synthetic (and in places sounds programmed).

The 3rd disc is Guitarded, originally released in 2004, is a bit of a mixed bag and really only of interest to hardcore West fans. An album of covers, there are some tracks such as Theme For An Imaginary Western that West has covered previously; here the track is live from the Night Of The Guitars. Much as I love Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild, this is not a great version and again the rhythm section has a programmed feel. Honky Tonky Woman is true to form, nothing new here but a fine sound. The best track of the album by more than head and shoulders, is Hang Me Out To Dry, featuring Ian Gillan. This track originally appeared on Gillan’s 1991 Toolbox album.

Overall a fine collection and a decent package, nice booklet and a lot of excellent guitar work.

Nothing new but five albums on CD that are otherwise not that easy to find. ****

Got Live (4CD box) Voiceprint [Release date  21.05.21]

The man mountain and Mountain guitarist and frontman Leslie West had a long and noted solo career alongside various Mountain reformations, and spent long periods of time on tour. His brand of hard rock and blues rock was always popular, as these live shows prove.

Originally released several years ago, in individual ‘Official Bootleg’ style, this box brings together 3 shows over 4 CDs.

The first set, recorded in Brierly Hill in 1998, features a mix of solo and Mountain material, and showcases the man’s power on stage. Theme For An Imaginary Western features some heartfelt vocals, and with Third Degree/Dreams Of Milk & Honey running to over 12 minutes, there’s plenty of room for a jam or two. The far from polished sound (that authentic bootleg quality) makes some parts sound a little jumbled. Two covers in Voodoo Chile and Whole Lotta Love go down well, and excellent versions of the Mountain classics Nantucket Sleighride and Mississippi Queen make for a very enjoyable listen. The second disc (dubbed New York State Of Mind) is equally good, if equally ropey sounding in places) and although the track list is similar, the arrangements are slightly different, here Nantucket Sleighride running to over 11 minutes. Wonderful take on Whiskey Train, some great guitar work.

The 1975 show at the Electric Ladyland studios is spread over 2 CDs and will be of most interest as it was recorded as West’s post Mountain solo career was launching. House Of The Rising Sun is given a workout, and there’s a couple of versions of the West Bruce & Laing track Why Dontcha. Mississippi Queen is amongst the Mountain tracks played. Roll Over Beethoven sounds a little muddy but a lot of fun, and it is medlied with Crossroads so some excellent blues on show here, and with several alternate versions of some tracks you get a good dose of West and is solid guitar work.

Again well annotated, a good package making some rare material available again. Not for the casual listener but Mountain fans will love it. ****

 Reviews by Joe Geesin

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 12 September 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

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