Leslie West - 'Unusual Suspects'

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Leslie West - 'Unusual Suspects'

A great blues rock album.

West's wife said, "It's his leg, or his life", when explaining her decision to give the go ahead to have his leg amputated above the knee. It's certainly the kind of calamity that gives West the credentials to be a bluesman. Not that West needs such a disability to verify his status as a genuine blues legend. His work with seminal blues rockers Mountain had already done that. His new album has found its way onto the Provogue record label and their "Where rock meets the blues" slogan is a perfect description of the music West makes.

Lyrically, this new album sounds like a man who's back from the brink, and is reflecting on his lot on the likes of the ruminating 'To The Moon' or 'Legend'. While this theme might suggest middle age ore old age, the record rocks like a young rapscallion. His voice has grown richer over the years and is as impressive an instrument now as his guitar playing, which as you would expect from West, is big, hard hitting slabs of bluesy rock.

The album title refers to the all star cast he's managed to rope in to lend a hand. 'One More Drink For The Road" is a Texan style blues number that recalls Michael Katon, and features Steve Lukather. A lot of the material has ZZ Top undertones so it comes as no surprise to see ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons guest on 'Standing On Higher Ground', which has that whistling ZZ Top guitar sound on a blues chugger that's so cool it hurts. Gibbons and West have history together, sharing tours in the past. Gibbon's beard was probably only a five o'clock shadow the first time their paths crossed. 'Mudflap Mama' also has a ZZ vibe with its thick swampy riffing, which Slash pops up on to add some extra muscle to. Zak Wylde appears on the storming 'Nothing's Changed', a heavy blues boogie with a touch (but not a touch too much) of early AC/DC about it. The ever brilliant Joe Bonamassa impresses on the old blues chestnut 'Third Degree', indicating West's legacy will be left in good hands. 

The rocked up homage to the Beatles, 'I Feel Fine', feels less essential, and the poorly produced, off kilter bonus track detracts rather than adds anything to the record. However those missteps aside, this is a great blues rock album. Thank goodness West is still with us.

Duncan Jamieson

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