photo & text by nacrowe
seriously, that GUITAR TONE!
not sure what else to say other than guitarist LESLIE WEST has one of the THICKEST, NASTIEST, TASTIEST and downright GNARLIEST tones in recorded ROCK AND ROLL history as evidenced on his band MOUNTAIN's debut album CLIMBING! (WINDFALL, 1970). i remember the first time hearing that ICONIC intro guitar lead in "MISSISSIPPI QUEEN" blasting from the stereo of my father's car stereo as a child. it was OTHERWORLDLY and completely TRANSPORTIVE to another psychic dimension of existence. it also had GROOVE and deep sense of DELTA BLUES SWING to it, as if it had emerged fully-formed from the SWAMPY depths of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. it wasnt until my late 20s that i learned that WEST was in fact from the TRI-STATE area, which seemed unbelievable to me at the time.
for years previous to CLIMBING!, WEST was involved in the INFLUENTIAL 1960s COUNTERCULTURE scene emanating form the GREENWICH VILLAGE. before his passing, WEST even spoke about this era on HOWARD STERN's radio show about an IMPROVISATIONAL jam with JIMI HENDRIX on bass at a small club. with everything calcified and formatted now with CLASSIC ROCK labels, its INTRIGUING to think about how FLUID and almost JAZZ-like things were back then in terms of impromptu collaborations without concern for commercial implications. that sort of thing would now be rehearsed and planned out in advance out of fear of shitty cell phone camera footage uploaded for posterity. just a different era.
other STANDOUT tracks besides the LEGENDARY "MISSISSIPPI QUEEN" include "NEVER IN MY LIFE" and "THEME FROM AN IMAGINARY WESTERN" with all share the DNA of those EXPANSIVE riffs with that inimitably MASSIVE P-90 PICKUP TONE through a GIBSON LES PAUL JR and SUNN COLISEUM amplifiers that is so indelibly embedded in the hearts and minds of generations of ROCK AND ROLL enthusiasts.
there is a reason WEST is so BELOVED and especially this record as songs from CLIMBING! have been covered the years by everyone from UFO, ACE FREHLEY and VAN HALEN to MINISTRY, OZZY OSBOURNE and even the late comedian SAM KINISON. to me his SINGULAR GUITAR TONE is the very EMBODIMENT and SPIRIT of ROCK AND ROLL bar none. cant help but listen and smile.