CD Review: Leslie West “Soundcheck”

“Soundcheck”
Leslie West
Provogue
Tracks: 11

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Soundcheck” is the newest solo offering from legendary Mountain front man Leslie West. The album is the much anticipated follow up to West’s 2013 release “Still Climbing” which featured guest performances by Mark Tremonti, Jonny Lang and the late Johnny Winter. “Soundcheck” follows in the same suit as “Still Climbing” while taking things to the next level with brilliant performances on all 11 of the albums tracks by West and company.

From start to finish Mr. West and his assembled group of musicians are in top form as they blast through a variety musical styling’s covering everything from gritty rock ‘n’ roll to heart wrenching acoustic tinged ballads that echo to the inner most points of the listeners musical soul. The albums opening track “Left by the Roadside to Die” works perfect in its placement by setting the stage for what the listener is in store for. Mixed in with a handful of original tracks are a plethora of re-worked covers including Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” a rawkus rendition of Gretchen Wilson’s “Here For the Party” an eerie instrumental version of the Beatles track “Eleanor Rigby” and a one of a kind rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” featuring Peter Frampton. Other guest performers include Queen’s Brian May on the track “Goin’ Down” and the late great Jack Bruce on the live recording of “Spoonful” a recording which until now has never been released.

If you are a long time Mountain/Leslie West devotee then “Soundcheck” will fit perfectly in to your music collection. For the more casual listener you will be hard pressed to find a track on here you won’t like. The production on each of the 11 tracks is really on par and even though the last track is a live track recorded in 1988 it still sounds crisp and in line with the previous 10 tracks making this a great album to listen to over and over.

Track Listing:
1.) Left by the Roadside to Die
2.) Give Me One Reason
3.) Here for the Party
4.) You Are My Sunshine
5.) Empty Promises/Nothin’ Sacred
6.) A Stern Warning
7.) People Get Ready
8.) Goin’ Down
9.) Stand By Me
10.) Eleanor Rigby
11.) Spoonful

Mountain’s Leslie West talks about new solo album “Still Climbing”

Leslie West the legendary front man for the band Mountain is back with a brand new solo album titled “Still Climbing”. The album features 11 tracks and is classic West through and through. The album also boasts an amazing line up of guest musicians ranging from Johnny Winter to Creed/Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti. Media Mikes had the pleasure of speaking with Leslie recently about his work on the album and his career in the music business.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the new album?
Leslie West: I started on the album about a year ago in June. I took my time deciding which songs I wanted to do and who I wanted to play with me on them. I was able to just take my time which kept things from getting jumbled up and eliminated the idea of having a deadline. Things really worked out well.

AL: What was the band line up for this record?
LW: My bass player is Rev Jones; on drums we had my engineer/co-producer Mike Goldberg. Once the album was all recorded we sent it to Mike Frazier in Canada for the mixing. Mike has worked with everyone from AC/DC to Metallica. It was good sending the album to someone we knew could do a really good job mixing it. Mike was able to come in with a fresh set of ears as he wasn’t there during the initial recording process. There were also a bunch of guest musicians like Mark Tremonti, Jonny Lang and Dee Snider who came in and played on some tracks.

AL: When the guest musicians would come in did you have an idea what it was you wanted them to do or did you let them play what they wanted?
LW: With Jonny Lang I knew what I wanted and had the song down. Jonny was doing a show in New Jersey so we picked him up at the airport and brought him over to the studio. Johnny Winter who also is on the album was the same way. My co-producer recorded Johnny in Connecticut but when the track was all finished it sounded like we were right next to each other. Dee Snider came down to do his part for the song “Feeling Good” and we had a really great time.

AL: Are the songs that make up the album ones that you and your band worked on collectively?
LW: No. I wrote the original songs and the others I did all the arrangements. I ended up writing some song with the help of my wife despite my reluctance to have her involved. I would start writing songs on my iPad and then via iCloud things would be popping up that she had added. I asked her if I could use some of that stuff as I had some songs that didn’t have words and some words that didn’t have music. That’s basically how it went. I would go in the studio and we would just build the songs. I used my guitar layout and played to a click track. That could be why it took so long. The song “Fade In to You” is one I originally heard on the television show “Nashville”.  I really liked the song so we reworked it and gave it my sound. I think it turned out great.

AL: Having been in the music business since the 1960’s what do you feel has been the biggest change personally from when you started in the business to where you are now?
LW: I had two legs when I started. (Laughs) Digital was something that really changed things. When I started you had to make edits with a razor blade and some tape. Things would take forever but now you can just move things around very quickly. I think it’s just amazing. When we were recording to analog if you didn’t like an edit you would have to redo it by un-taping it and then re-taping it. You had to find a spot where there was no noise in order to make that edit.

AL: Some artists are very opposed to the idea of digital but you seem quite open to it. Is this true?
LW: I have been very accepting both with this new album and the previous one as well. With digital you have a lot more time to create the music. You can make changes very easily. As far as sounds go I use what comes directly out of the amps. We may have added a little reverb or whatever but for the most part what you hear is what you get. Mike did a great job of capturing the actual sounds coming from my amp.

AL: Has there been any talks of touring in support of the release?
LW: There are a few scheduled for November that we are currently working on. It will most likely be a run of select shows. The biggest thing is I haven’t been able to find a tour bus that is built to handle a wheel chair. It’s hard to believe but there really isn’t anything out there that will allow me to tour like I used to. For now we hit select venues. I can’t quite get used to prosthetics yet as I have been working with them at rehab. They strap the guitar on me and then have me stand to see how long I can balance. The most I have been able to stand for is 40 seconds. I don’t want to have to worry about falling down on stage so I sit now. That’s just the way it is. I am still able to play without that worry of falling.

AL: Other than the standing aspect has the loss of your leg changed the way in which you perform?
LW: Yes. I am no longer able to walk around obviously so when I find a spot that works for me on stage that’s where I stay for the rest of the performance. Having just the one foot also makes it a little more difficult to hit my floor pedals so we have some on a small table next to me and one or two on the floor. I don’t really use a lot live now as I have started using Blackstar amps which have a great tone straight out of the head.

AL: Can you tell us about your new website?
LW: We have the Mountain website still but they are currently working on one for my solo stuff. It will be located at www.Lesliewestofficial.com so people will want to be watching for that.

 

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CD Review: Leslie West “Still Climbing”

Leslie West
“Still Climbing”
Provogue
Producer: Leslie West/Mike Goldberg
Tracks: 11

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Legendary Mountain front man Leslie West is back with a new solo album titled “Still Climbing”. The 15th release from the 68 year old West is probably his most progressive yet as the album covers everything from hard rock and soul to straight up rhythm and blues.  The album which was co-produced by West and Mike “Metal” Goldberg is being released via Provogue Records and features 10 brand new tracks along with a cover of “When a Man Loves a Woman” which was originally recorded by Percy Sledge in 1966.

Right out of the gate Leslie and his guitar grab you with the track “Dyin’ Since the Day I Was Born”.  The song is a down and dirty hard rocking tune that is the perfect stage for West’s grainy vocals and signature guitar style. As the album progresses Leslie takes you on a musical journey hitting a wide genre of sounds which make this album appealing on a number of different levels. The song “Tales of Woe” is a semi acoustic number that seems to tap in to the darker side of West’s life experiences. The haunting slide guitar featured on and off through the song does a great job playing of the song’s lyrics adding an almost weeping type effect. The song “Don’t Ever Let Me Go” features a catchy guitar line that that gets stuck in your head in the same way a pop song might. One other track worth mentioning is “Feeling Good” which features some impressive dueling vocal lines courtesy of Mr. West and Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider. Even though the pairing may sound a little out there it works.

Fans of Leslies work will certainly want to pick up “Still Climbing” as part of their collection however the album is more than just for West’s devoted fans as it features great arrangements and performances by West and company that any music lover will be sure to enjoy

Track Listing:
1.)     Dyin’ Since The Day I Was Born
2.)     Busted, Disgusted or Dead
3.)     Fade Into You
4.)     Not Over You At All
5.)     Tales of Woe
6.)     Feeling Good
7.)     Hatfield or McCoy
8.)     When a Man Loves a Woman
9.)     Long Red
10.)   Don’t Ever Let Me Go
11.)    Rev Jones Time