Leslie West - Mountain album review

Solo blueprint for early-70s blues-rock behemoths

Leslie West Mountain album cover

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A sporting reference to his oversized girth gave New York singer-guitarist Leslie West the name for his first solo album, then the earth-shaking power-trio that emerged after he clicked with producer-bassist Felix Pappalardi.

In 1969, West was striking out solo after playing with rock and soul outfit The Vagrants. Working with drummer ND Smart and Pappalardi, he was overjoyed to discover the latter had produced Disraeli Gears, his favourite Cream album.

While Dreams Of Milk And Honey powers up in bombastic Cream fashion, much here captures a singer-guitarist still finding his feet, trying out deep-fried blues rock (Blood Of The Sun, Baby, I’m Down), baroque psych (Look To The Wind), southern rock (Better Watch Out) and Dylan’s This Wheel’s On Fire, but finding them with future Mountain stage fave Long Red.

With most tracks running around three minutes, West’s virtuosity on the guitar – which he put through a customised PA head to get its distinctive serrated tone – is confined to short bursts and solos, rather than the lengthy improvisations that would make his name.

By the end of that year, Corky Laing had joined on drums and Mountain commenced their climb to becoming one of the era’s biggest, loudest and, unfortunately, short-lived bands.

In conversation with Leslie West

Death & Mortality: Leslie West

Leslie West: First Time I Met The Blues

Kris Needs is a British journalist and author, known for writings on music from the 1970s onwards. Previously secretary of the Mott The Hoople fan club, he became editor of ZigZag in 1977 and has written biographies of stars including Primal Scream, Joe Strummer and Keith Richards. He's also written for MOJO, Record Collector, Classic Rock, Prog, Electronic Sound, Vive Le Rock and Shindig!