Old school rockers will remember Mountain from their early days nearly four decades ago. After only three gigs, the bluesy hard rock band made its mark at Woodstock. There amongst the musical prowess of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, Mountain’s axeman Leslie West cranked out powerful riffs and a soulful, raspy wail that was to become his signature sound. From 1969 to 1971, they produced two certified gold albums, Climbing! and Nantucket Sleighride and then suddenly disbanded. Yet, in three short years they produced hits that would long outlive the original band. “Mississippi Queen”, “Never In My Life” and “Theme From An Imaginary Western” are just some of the majestics that have made Mountain legendary.
Leslie West and drummer Corky Laing re-emerged and continued to tour and record into the 2000’s. The band’s latest release, Masters of War is a Bob Dylan tribute album with original mountaineers West and Laing, Ritchie Scarlett, Brian Mitchell, Kenny Aronson and Todd Wolfe. The CD arrives with uncanny timeliness – in the same way Dylan used his songmenship to protest against the Vietnam War, the very same lyrics could apply to our current state of affairs. The only difference is that West has completely rewired the sound, sending new electricity through the tracks.
The title track is a slow-burner that West powers up with eerie fretwork. Guest vocalist, Ozzy Osbourne lends his scowls, perfectly counterbalancing West’s gruffy gnarls. The leadman jumpstarts “Serve Somebody” with impressive slide guitar work while Warren Haynes adds his southern-fried acoustics, making this a gospel revival of sorts.
Included are two renditions of “Blowin’ In The Wind” – the heavy acoustic one is a stomping powerhouse while the soft version is a memorable closing ballad that demonstrates how West’s vocal bite can be tamed by his supple guitar.
Masters of War reinvents the wheel, putting Mountain’s soulful signature on some of Dylan’s most memorable songs.