Monday, December 28, 2020

Leslie West (1945-2020)

Leslie West died last Wednesday, December 23, at the age of 75.

West formed the band Mountain with bassist Felix Pappalardi in 1969. Mountain lasted for only three years, releasing three studio albums — Climbing! (1970), Nantucket Sleighride (1971), and Flowers of Evil (1971), though they regrouped a couple of years later (Avalanche (1974, live)) and played on and off for decades. Pappalardi was also a producer, with Cream's Disraeli Gears on his resume.

Mountain was versatile. They were one of the forerunners of heavy metal (Rolling Stone magazine called them "a louder version of Cream") and a song written by West and Pappalardi, "Long Red", from West's pre-Mountain solo album, featured a drum break that has been sampled on more than 700 hip-hop songs. They also featured two accomplished vocalists. Where West was gruff and forceful, Pappalardi was softer and soulful.

West was a large man (the name Mountain referred to his size and he later named a solo album The Great Fatsby), with a gruff, forceful voice and a thick, monstrous guitar tone to match. On their impeccably-produced albums, it was a perfect combination. (Corky Laing's frenetic, propulsive drumming was also a standout element.)

I didn't play fast — I only used the first and the third finger on the fingering hand. So I worked on my tone all the time. I wanted to have the greatest, biggest tone, and I wanted vibrato like somebody who plays violin in a hundred-piece orchestra.
Never In My Life


 Don't Look Around


You Can't Get Away


The Great Train Robbery


Flowers of Evil

Theme From An Imaginary Western


Mississippi Queen

The song's got three chords. Any idiot can play it. I just happen to play it better than anybody. [It] has just everything you need to make it a winner. You've got the cowbell, the riff is pretty damn good, and it sounds incredible. It feels like it wants to jump out of your car radio. To me, it sounds like a big, thick milkshake. It's rich and chocolatey. Who doesn't love that?

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