Thursday, October 17, 2013

LESLIE WEST: "Still Climbing"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Provogue/Mascot/Warner 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Leslie West - stand up next to a Mountain and chops it down with the edge of his hand - pick up all the pieces and make an island. Might even raise a little sand? It's hardly the Hendrix tribute and even though the title may refer to Mountain's debut album, 'Climbing', this platter might just be slightly heavier than your ordinary West release. Strong as steel and stubborn as a mule - the man fought off cancer, seriously bad diabetes (they eventually had to amputate his leg), drug addiction, and several wind-mills to come up with this fine effort at the mere age of 68?

I believe this to be a very fine effort actually, since it combines raw guitar rock, blues and nice songs nearly throughout the album. Merely a couple of dodgy moments. The first three are simply flawless and opener, "Dying Since The Day I Was Born" isn't particularly far removed from the raw and heavy blues rock of ZZ Top. Lovely gritty vocals and West really goes to town here, all dressed up and ready to knock much younger kids to the ground. "Busted, Disgusted or Dead" with special guest as well as legend Johnny Winter is my definition of cool blues rock including excellent slide work. "Fade Into You" is the very powerful slow-tune, R&B ballad with a catchy hook.

The rural "Tales Of Woe" fit West like a glove and the mix of acoustic guitar and electric lead is a perfect match. The Traffic cover of "Feeling Good" with special guest Dee Snider of Twisted Sister is another goodie where Dee steps up to the plate to hit a homerun with his Rambo-like vocal performance. "Hatfield or Mccoy", rootsy, swampy, roadhouse. "Long Red" is the re-recording of the Mountain song and I guess it's only fair that Les takes another shot at this when you consider that it's been sampled by everybody from Kayne West to Jay Z. I'm however not too keen on the cover of "When A Man Loves A Woman" simply because it's difficult to do justice to the original and Percy Sledge (one helluva singer). It's the duet with contemporary soul/R&B singer Jonny Lang and I guess the result is better than your average cover version.

The gritty voice, borderline savage but never really a problem. Emotional intensity is the key word and the same goes for the man's guitar playing. Mountain is often described as USA's answer to Cream and West worked together with Jack Bruce between the years of 1972-74 in a band simply entitled 'West, Bruce and Laing'. 'Still Climbing' proves that this U.S. Woodstock veteran is still alive and kicking.

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