Monday, March 14, 2016

Mountain - The Best Of (1973) plus Bonus Track

(U.S 1969–74, 1981–85, 1992–98, 2001– present)
The Best of Mountain is the first compilation by American hard rock band Mountain. It consists of material recorded throughout 1970-1971, culled from their first three LPs. On April 15, 2003, the album was remastered and reissued in an expanded edition with new liner notes and four bonus tracks, two of which are taken from Leslie West's first solo album, 1969's Felix Pappalardi-produced "Mountain", the project which eventually led to the formation of the band.
Between 1969 and 1971, when the US spawned a wave of bands playing in the loud and proud mould of blues rock/psychedelic hard rock/proto-heavy metal - Grand Funk Railroad, the James Gang, Iron Butterfly, Steppenwolf, Blue Cheer, Alice Cooper, the Amboy Dukes, Cactus etc - it was Mountain that stood loudest and proudest. For a start the band boasted the mighty Leslie West (born Leslie Weinstein, 1945, in Queens New York), owner of a roaring, barrel house vocal bawl and a phenomenal guitar style that allowed him to switch with ease from heavy riffs and rampaging power chords to passages of remarkable grace and melodic flair.

The second part of the equation was multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger and producer Felix Pappalardi (born 1939. m the Bronx New York) who not only contributed a thick, cranked-up bass sound but also co-wrote (with his wife Gail Collins) and sang in a conventional, tuneful voice the band's more sensitive and complex songs. Thirdly, drummer Corky Laing (born 1948, in Montreal Canada) laid down a titanic beat that also relied on an adroit sense of time change and polyphonic rhythm to help set the band apart. With added keyboard colouration from Steve Knight, West and Pappalardi were able to combine all these elements into a unique whole. The band's studio work was tightly focused while in the live situation their forte was the extended improvisation that could see a song like 'Nantucket Sleighride' extrapolated beyond 30 minutes as the mood arose.

The classically trained Pappalardi initially worked as an arranger and session musician around the Greenwich Village folk scene before finding fame as producer of the Youngbloods' 'Get Together' and finally international recognition as producer for Cream on their Disraeli Gears (1967), Wheels Of Fire (1968) and Goodbye (1969) albums. Pappalardi had also produced the final (flop) single for West's soul/R&B band the Vagrants in late 1967. By 1968, West had fallen under the spell of Eric Clapton having seen Cream play at the Fillmore East (then still known as the Village Theater).

Ironically, as Cream broke up and Clapton eschewed the heavy blues rock route. West was determined to maintain the tradition. Pappalardi recognised West's vast talents and agreed to produce and play on his debut album, Leslie West - Mountain. Issued in September 1969, it boasted many fine examples of Cream inspired blues rock. West and Pappalardi had already decided to form a band, their fourth gig being an appearance at Woodstock that August. Straight after that, original drummer Norman D. Smart was replaced by Laing in time to record Climbing!  Laing immediately hit his stride by not only delivering in the drumming department but also contributing lyrics for 'Mississippi Queen', 'Silver Paper', 'Never in My Life' and 'For Yasgur's Farm'.

Pappalardi & West
The    band    entered    New   York's Record Plant towards the end of the   year.  Ever   the   perfectionist, Pappalardi   would  rehearse   them for ten hours a day, forcing them to   complete   multiple   takes   in order to get the best out of the songs. For such a relatively new band, 'Climbing!' proved to be an   incredibly   mature   and   cohesive   album. Released in March 1970, it reached #17 on the Billboard album chart, going on to sell over 500,000 copies.
"Mississippi Queen" kicked off the album in a blaze of hard rock fireworks. Featuring an instantly recognizable cow-bell intro leading into a driving, heavy beat which is matched by one of the great gonzo guitar riffs of all time, it peaked at #21 on the Billboard chart when issued as a single. A prime slice of loud, raucous blues rock, the song secured Mountain's position at the forefront of the American hard rock tradition. "Mississippi Queen" further attained cultural immortality when heard in the classic Simpsons' episode Homerpalooza (1996).

"Theme For an Imaginary Western" was a cover from Jack Bruce's recent solo album Songs for a Tailor (produced by Pappalardi), with Pappalardi taking the lead vocal. Although originally listed on each album as 'Theme For an Imaginary Western', this song has subsequently often been billed as 'Theme From an Imaginary Western'. Whatever the case, lyricist Pete Brown has been quoted as saying the song "was a romantic soundscape of music, full of longing and sadness", and indeed Mountain do justice to its beguiling and elegiac tone.

In a similar vein is "For Yasgur's Farm", a kind of tribute to Max Yasgur (whose farm provided the setting for Woodstock), framed in a universal message to love with a strong English traditional feel.

In the heavy rock corner, Mountain turned over more slabs of riff-rock in the shape of 'Silver Paper','Siting on a Rainbow'/Boys in the Band' and in particular the magnificent 'Never in My Life'. This is the kind of rampaging rocker that Mountain did best, full of West's huge downbeat riffs and crashing open chords. Furthermore, it comes on like a runaway steam train with Laing's driving double bass-drum kick and ingenious Latin feel. Like 'Mississippi Queen' and 'Nantucket Sleighride' it remained in the Mountain live set for years to come, and there's a particularly crushing version featured on the double live album Twin Peaks (1974).

With Mountain's tame arid popularity spreading fast, and a heavy year of touring out of the way, they were back at the Record Plant in early 1971 for their next album, Nantucket Sleighride did even better than the debut by reaching # 16 on the Billboard chart and approaching a million sales; it's probably the highpoint of the band's career. Monumental tracks such as "Don't Look Around", "Travelin' in the Dark (To E.M.P.)" and 'Nantucket Sleighride (For Owen Coffin)' - the epic tale of searching "for the mighty sperm whale" - were Pappalardi masterstrokes, with lyrics by his wife. They boasted odd melodies, jazz-like syncopated rhythms, a massive drum sound, Pappalardi's innovative and propulsive bass lines and West's trademark riffagc in equal measure.

'Nantucket Sleighride' was heard extensively in the UK as the theme tune for ITV's long running World in Action series, Nantucket Sleighride was almost an album of two halves, with West taking control on tracks like 'You Can't Get Away!', 'The Animal Trainer and The Toad' and the slide guitar showpiece 'The Great Train Robbery'. 'The Animal Trainer and The Toad' is how Rolling Stone magazine described the relationship between Pappalardi and West at the time.

Flowers Of Evil, the second 1971 album, was notable for its terrific ride track which I've added as a bonus cut. It's one of the band's great rock and roll tracks, with Pappalardi's vocals in the chorus fed through a Leslie cabinet which gives the whole a distinctly psychedelic edge.

In 1972, Mountain split for the first time; they reformed and then split again in late 1974.There are many more tales of high adventure to be told about Mountain - reformations, more albums, continual touring, alcohol and drug abuse - but we'll leave the history for now. West and Laing have continued to work together as Mountain periodically over the ensuing years. Sadly, Gail Collins shot Felix Pappalardi to death on 17 April, 1983. The music world lost one of its true visionaries. As West has said, "Felix changed the face of rock, alright". [lan McFarlane - Melbourne]
This post consists of FLACs ripped from my Australian Pressing (Image Records) which I bought as a teenager when the album was first released. Since then I have accumulated most of their albums on the Windfall and CBS labels, but my trusty Image Labels are still the best !
Full album artwork for both Vinyl and CD are included. I was in two minds whether to keep the track listing true to the original release, but the absence of "Flowers of Evil" was too much to endure so I've added it as a Bonus Track.  The live version of Nantucket Sleighride on their live set 'The Road Goes Ever On' (1972) is probably one of the best recordings Mountain ever made, and it is my intention to post this album in the near future, so stay tuned.
Track Listing
01 - Never In My Life
02 - Taunta (Sammy's Tune)
03 - Nantucket Sleighride
04 - Roll Over Beethoven
05 - For Yasgur's Farm
06 - The Animal Trainer And The Toad
07 - Mississippi Queen
08 - King's Chorale
09 - Boys In The Band
10 - Don't Look Around
11 - Theme From An Imaginary Western
12 - Crossroader
13 - (Bonus Track) Flowers Of Evil

Mountain are:
Leslie West - Guitar, Vocals
Felix Pappalardi - Bass, Vocals
Corky Laing - Drums
Steve Knight - Keyboards

Mountain FLACs link  (284Mb)


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