Though rarely mentioned in the pantheon of great rock guitarists, Mountain’s Leslie West is unquestionably one of the most influential and original players to emerge from the burgeoning late-Sixties rock scene.
Last month’s column was dedicated to the incredible and highly influential playing of Mountain’s Leslie West, whose beautifully melodic phrasing, signature slow, wide vibrato, and rich guitar tone set the standard for blues-rock–style guitar of the highest order in the late Sixties and early Seventies.
Leslie West grew up in New York City and started out as one of the original members of The Vagrants. Of course, he is best known as the guitarist for the hard rock group Mountain, who Rolling Stone once called “a louder version of Cream.” The band gave us classics like “Mississippi Queen” and “Theme from an Imaginary Western” and was credited with helping the development of heavy metal.
Leslie West will perform for three nights -- June 11, 12 and 13 -- at New York City's Iridium Jazz Club. These will be isolated dates with West headlining and performing a 75-minute set starting at 8 p.m. West will be joined by Bobby Rondinelli on drums and Rev Jones on bass.
The first thing would be, tune up. I hear a lot of guys who can shred and play fast, but they are out of tune. And it's hard for me to listen to someone that sounds out of tune. That is so important, and you know I can tell in two seconds. It's so important. And I wish I could tune my guitars. I have somebody who tunes my guitars for me. I'm not really good at doing that, but I can tell when they're not. If you practice, you know, I don't really play fast. It's like guitar: You don't have to play fast.
Here's part 2 of my recent interview with Leslie West. When we left off, Leslie was discussing his leg-amputation surgery -- and his wife. "They put me on Propofol, believe it or not, for two days, and she wanted them to wake me up so she could tell me, 'Listen, this is what's going to happen.' " West said. "She didn't want me to all a sudden one day say, “You cut my leg off." I made a joke with her. I said, you know honey, I meant to say, "Pass the salt” and it came out, “You evil bitch, you cut my leg off” (laughs).
Leslie West's new album, Unusual Suspects, hits stores today, and you can check out a clip of one of the songs below. The track is called "Mudflap Mama," and features the talents of none other than former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash.
"You can't get more basic and efficient than this," croaks Leslie West as he gestures at his brand-new Les Paul Junior. Gibson has given him the first of their re-issued line, in honor of all he did for that model by playing it to death-his earlier ones literally fell apart from use -- in Mountain and West, Bruce & Laing.
Guitarist Leslie West of Mountain will be releasing a new solo album, Unusual Suspects, in Europe on Sept. 19 via Provogue Records. The album, a follow-up to 2006's Blue Me, features several guest appearances by big-name guitarists, including Slash, Joe Bonamassa, Zakk Wylde, Billy Gibbons and Steve Lukather.