Review: Leslie West – 'Soundcheck'

Leslie West can only be described as a guitar god, simple as that. His reputation as one of the most respected guitarists still recording today has led to many of the latest generation of guitar slingers queuing up to record with him. Recent years have seen (amongst others) Slash, Mark Tremonti, Jonny Lang, Zakk Wylde, and Joe Bonamassa all bust a chop alongside West on some of the best Blues Rock heard in the last few years. Hell,even having part of his leg amputated in 2011 due to complications with diabetes has not slowed West down.’Soundcheck’ is the third solo album from West in four years. It’s a crying shame that when the forerunners of Hard Rock are discussed it’s the usual suspects of Deep Purple, Cream and Led Zeppelin that usually get the plaudits, but musos in the know will always tip their hat to the work of Leslie West and his pioneering band Mountain. Richie Blackmore is quoted as saying that it was the phenomenal playing from West on Mountain’s classic ‘Mississippi Queen’ that helped forge Purple’s new hard rock sound on the Deep Purple ‘In Rock’ album.

The brooding, swampy ‘Left By The Roadside To Die’ opens the album with some incredible slide work from West, as well as a face-melting solo mid song.West has a very unique vocal style, very raspy. A wag might call it ‘bourbon soaked’, but since I don’t know if the man likes a tipple, I won’t. ‘Give Me One Reason’ is a cover of a Tracy Chapman song that West was very keen to record…

I liked the tune, and I wanted to try to do something with it. I Liked the words, and the groove of the track is a great one to solo over.

After hearing it, it’s hard to imagine anyone but West singing it. The solos are raw and dripping in emotion. Blues Rock the way that Old Nick himself imagined it. ‘Here For The Party’ is pure unabashed, unfiltered Rock ‘n’ Roll that gets the head bobbing. The track leads nicely into a very stripped back and left field version of ‘You Are My Sunshine’, which features a stunning solo from guest guitarist Peter Frampton. West heard a similar version on the TV show Sons Of Anarchy (Samcro viewers will know that the soundtrack will often feature well known songs stripped and slowed down), and contacted Frampton, who was glad to trade solos with West on one of the albums real highlights.

The album has a healthy mixture of covers and original tracks, with a stunning cover of the Curtis Mayfield classic ‘People Get Ready’, as well as a heartfelt tribute to soul legend Ben E King, with ‘Stand By Me’.

“Ben E King lived not far from me, and I’ve always loved the words to this song.”

West also pays tribute to his late, great friend, and ex-Cream bassist, Jack Bruce by including a live recording of ‘Spoonful’, recorded at a low key gig in 1988.

“The first time that I listened to Jack’s voice and the tone of his bass on the recording, I had tears in my eyes. I loved Jack so much.”

There are some corking barroom blow-outs on ‘Soundcheck’, none more so than on ‘Empty Promises/Nothing Sacred’ and ‘Going Down’, two perfect slabs of beefy roadhouse music, where you can almost sense the chickenwire across the stage. The latter features a guest appearance from Brian May, who totally wails on some of his best work in years.

‘Soundcheck’ will not only appeal to serious guitar fans, who will analyse every little nuance of West’s incredible playing, but any fan of guitar driven Blues based Hard Rock will also find many treasures on this highly recommended album.

‘Soundcheck’ is released November 20th through the Provogue/ Mascot Label Group. For more info check out:


Review: Dave Stott


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