Leslie West? Wasn't that the husky, guitar-playing, lyric-shouting, maniac from the Woodstock-era rock power trio called Mountain? You bet. And 30 years later West is back, sans those dainty white gloves he use to wear on stage while playing guitar and barking out the likes of " Mississippi Queen" and "Never In My Life." From the look of his new CD, West also appears to have shed more than 100 pounds. But never fear, this lean, mean version is still rocking and also developed a taste for the blues if this offering is any indication. Mountain was America's poorman answer to Cream and while never quite measuring up to the British trio, they were a moderately successful band. West has drifted around, occasionally hooking up with several musicians (bassist /bandmate Felix Papalardi was shot more than a dozen years ago). On "As Phat As It Gets," West zips through a dozen rock-tinged numbers, several of them blues chestnuts like "Stormy Monday" and Otis Redding's "Respect" (which West performed pre-Mountain in a New York City bar band called The Vagrants. Of his half-dozen originals, standouts include "I Can't Shak," "Allergic" and "Raw Nerve" a track with a nice boogie feel to it.
He even slips in his own version of The Champs' 1958 instrumental classic "Tequila" -- and when was the last time you heard that, outside of a Pee Wee Herman movie? West is joined by a number of guest musicians on this effort, including some members of George Thorogood’s Destroyers and British bluesman Kim Simmonds. Make no mistake though, this is West's show, front-loaded with rough-hewn vocals and scorching guitar. It's nice to know that, like another Woodstock I survivor, Carlos Santana, West still has some fire in his belly.
Recommended for those who like a little rock with their blues.
For more information on Leslie West: www.mysticmusic.com
This review is copyright © 1999 by Mike Martindale, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.