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Mighty Mountain not just a Woodstock flashback

The band reunites and rekindles an amped-up sound that will take classic rockers back to their colorful youth.

By LOGAN NEILL
Published June 1, 2007


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It seems fitting that many pop music historians pinpoint the origin of heavy metal rock to the power trio Mountain. Launched in the flower-power-drenched late 1960s, the Long Island, N.Y., band had both an aural and physical presence unlike any band before it.

Headed by 400-pound guitarist Leslie West, Mountain's chord-crunching style served notice to the rock world that things were about to get much louder. Fueled by a wall of amplifiers, West, along with drummer Corky Laing and bass player Felix Pappalardi, made beat-laden music that was both imposing and melodic. Songs like Mississippi Queen, Nantucket Sleighride and Theme for an Imaginary Western became some of rock's best-known anthems. But by the mid 1970s, Mountain was effectively finished as a band. Its members drifted in different directions, with West retreating to produce other bands and his own occasional solo album.

Thirty years hence finds Mountain with West and Laing once again sharing the stage, with bassist Richie Scarlet. The band's current tour makes a stop June 8 at the Bourbon Street Concert Club in New Port Richey.

At age 61, West is still forging ahead both personally and professionally. He's a lot trimmer now, thanks to a penchant for playing amateur baseball. He's involved in guitar design, music production and, of course, performing.

West's influence as a premier guitarist can be found in the music of such luminous contemporaries as Eddie Van Halen, Richie Sambora and Joe Perry, all of whom were just picking up their instruments as Mountain was beginning its musical odyssey before one of the greatest rock audiences of all time.

The group had just finished its second gig in 1969 when Mountain's manager informed band members that they had been hired to perform at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. As the guys arrived at the festival by helicopter, they peered out the window to see a throng of more than 300, 000 below them.

West began to wonder whether the gig was more than they had bargained for. In an interview with rock writer Clyde Bradley, he recalled the chaotic backstage scene.

"I remember when we landed, my manager didn't want us to stay together because if they saw a group all together, they got you on right away. And we wanted to go on at nighttime. So he said just scatter around and come back when it gets dark."

Though the band's performance didn't make it into the Woodstock movie, several songs were included in a second film soundtrack album.

Given Mountain's legacy, bringing the band back to life seemed a logical move, West told the Northern Express recently.

"I still love to play the guitar. It's my job," West said. "So, yeah, I am busy. But I don't mind."

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or 352 848-1435.

If you go

Mountain concert

When: 9 p.m. June 8.

Where: Bourbon Street Concert Club, 4331 U.S. 19 in New Port Richey.

Tickets: $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

Information: (727) 843-0686

[Last modified June 1, 2007, 00:17:53]


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