Leslie West - 'Still Climbing'

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Leslie West - 'Still Climbing'

Good in parts, great in others.

Despite life-saving surgery two years ago that resulted in the loss of his right leg below the knee, irrepressible Mountain guitarist Leslie West wasted little time feeling sorry for himself and got back to touring in support of that year's star studded 'Unusual Suspects' CD as soon as he was able. 'Still Climbing' follows in the same vein, with guest appearances from luminaries and friends on ten hard blues-based tracks (and a short bass solo from Rev Jones??) that show exactly why West has been such an influence on generations of American musicians.

Good in parts, great in others, 'Still Climbing' only really covers two directions but still manages quite a bit of variety between the gritty hard rock end of the blues spectrum and its lighter, R&B-influenced cousin. At the heavier end, 'Dying Since The Day I was Born' pairs West's trademark drawl and lyrical guitar work with the denser guitar sound of Alter Bridge's Mark Tremonti, whilst 'Hatfield Or McCoy' sees West excel on slide guitar and the slower, but none less gritty, 'Busted, Disgusted Or Dead', has him trading leads with the great Johnny Winter. Versions of classic songs include a guitar and vocal duet with Johnny Lang on 'When A Man Loves A Woman', some very noticeable Dee Snider howls on the perennial 'Feeling Good', and a new version of Mountain's own 'Long Red' that manages to be sharper and more contemporary without losing the original vibe.

At the mellower end, 'Tales Of Woe' is a good acoustic-based song and 'Fade Into You' may well be the disc's pinnacle with its subtle electric and acoustic work and smooth(er) vocal, although confusingly there are pop sensibilities at work on penultimate track 'Don't Ever Let Me Go' and the album ends with the aforementioned bass solo.

Whilst not as instantly appealing as 'Unusual Suspects', West retains his contemporary edge and I hope there are a few more albums like this in him yet.

Phil Ashcroft

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