Snapper Music 2004 / Liberation Hall 2022
Two decades apart, the Great Fatsby and his compadres carry on dreaming of milk and honey.
Not a lot of those who took part in the most prominent of rock festivals maintained their profile unchanged through the years – MOUNTAIN did. Not that Leslie West didn’t try to go along with the temporal flow but the core of what he pursued with his friends remained the same, and “Eruption” is the best proof of it. This couple of discs, capturing two of the trio’s many line-ups in different eras, in front of the audience, paint the American force of nature in action – in a passionate flight of fantasy.
When the ensemble graced the stage of “The Ritz” in NYC in June 1985, as preserved for posterity on CD1, they had been on the road for almost six months, touring for the first time since Mark Clarke came onboard and presenting the “Go For Your Life” album to the public, so the group’s leader demonstrated frayed pipes. It’s a testament to West’s stamina as a vocalist, then, and to the strength of his songs in a concert setting – yet there’s nothing new in this for the stalwart of Woodstock stories. But, of course, for Leslie performance always was less about voice than about guitar tone that does the talking, constructing monumental passages in an epically raw rendition of “Nantucket Sleighride” and quoting “Hall Of The Mountain King” and “Layla” before rollin’ and tumblin’ the momentum into “Mississippi Queen” to land the show on the roaring cover of Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way” where the audience eagerly join in on the refrain.
However, rarer aired tracks from the recent record – the hair-raisingly contagious opener “Hard Times” which, lasting thrice as long as the studio cut, is supplied with a serrated six-string riff and a muscular four-string groove, and the synthesizer-enhanced boogie “Spark” with its molten solo by West and chorus harmonies by his colleagues – bare much harder edge in the collective’s delivery. These offerings reveal the team’s no-frills relevance in the hair-rock decade, quarter-century after they hit the headlines, while “Never In My Life” from the veterans’ 1970 debut platter sees the band swing wildly, Corky Laing’s percussive assault stoking their fierceness all along. Still, “Theme For An Imaginary Western” – a piece Clarke used to play in COLOSSEUM to have the right to magnificently sing here – gets a fresh, English delicacy and finish on a note that could make Gary Moore swoon.
Documenting the trio’s European tour of 2003, the second disc may reprise “Sleighride” in its eternal glory, yet several of the selections on display – such as the pulsing “Why Dontcha” or the the 22-minute finale “Dreams Of Milk And Honey” from Leslie’s LP which provided his group with the name and gives each of the three musos a chance for a tremendous improv on this live report – are surprising choices. Being in fine fettle vocal-wise, West will wax romantically, over tenderly insistent strum and echoing twang, on “For Yasgur’s Farm” until “Crossroads” finds him and bassist Richie Scarlet lock instruments into frenetic, if rough, filigree that Corky’s chugging drums propel forward, towards “The Sea”: a translucent, vibrant number off the ensemble’s latest album, “Mystic Fire” from 2002. As a result, when, recalling his old combo THE VAGRANTS, the legendary artist’s fingers pull “House Of The Rising Sun” to the surface, mists of time roll back to rock the majestic panorama to the fore.
Now that the Great Fatsy is gone, “Eruption” proudly stands as a reminder of West’s stature and stance through his career, Leslie sweating blues in the fruitful and the lean years of the rock era.