CD review: Leslie West – Still Climbing
Leslie West is back, bigger and badder than ever. On his latest, Still Climbing, on the Provogue/Mascot label October 29, West sounds as good vocally and instrumentally as he did back in ’69 on his debut Mountain.
He kicks it off with a bang on“Dyin’ Since the Day I Was Born.” West says that he wanted his guitars to “sound as big as I look,” and he nailed that sound from the opening chords. The guitarist is proud of not using any pedals for this outing and rightfully so. He generates plenty of action and tons of soul with nothing but his fingers and his Blackstar amps turned up to 11.
He’s got a bunch of guest stars sitting in. Teaming up with Johnny Winter for “Busted, Disgusted or Dead,” Winter turns in some slippery, twisted solos in between West’s bellowed autobiography: “It’s amazing when I think of how I survived this life,” West roars. “It’s not like I was gonna listen to anything anybody said/but I was lucky enough not to have ended up/ Busted, disgusted or dead.”
Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider stops in for “Feeling Good,” a raw throated scream fest celebrating West’s rejuvenation after a battle with diabetes that cost him a leg, surviving bladder cancer and giving up drugs and smoking.
Johnny Lang chimes in on Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves A Woman.” West provides the bombast, with Lang’s vocals smoothing out the rough edges with plenty of soul. The guitar duet is a searing, high-strung duel like lightning bolts crackling under and around Sledge’s lyrics.
After having it sampled by Jay-Z, Common and Kanye, West rejuvenated ’69’s “Long Red” for this outing. The original sounds a bit wimpy, Grateful Dead-ish, compared to West’s other offerings on his Mountain debut. “It has a lot more balls,” West says of the new version, which he roars out with his usual gut punching ferocity on vocals and guitar.
This doesn’t sound like a comeback record. It’s like he never left. Hopefully there’s a lot more Mountain left to climb, and if future ascents are this good, there’ll be a long line waiting to go up with West for his next trip.