His career began with the Vagrants, one of the few teenage garage rock bands to come out of NYC. But Leslie West is probably best remembered as a founding member of Mountain. He has also played with just about anyone who is anyone, and inspired even more. He told me personally about the infamous Who's Next recording session he was on in Los Angeles when he and Al Kooper recorded early versions of some of the songs, including "Won't Get Fooled Again," because, as West explained, Pete Townshend didn't like his own lead playing. Apparently, West heeded Townshend's advice and asked everyone but the Who guitarist to appear his solo record, Unusual Suspects.
With a cast of characters like Steve Lukather, Slash, Billy F. Gibbons and drummer Kenny Aronoff, Unusual Suspects is just about as sparkling as you'd expect for a guy with such a rich history. The opening "One More Drink For The Road" features Steve Lukather and we get West screaming from his throat as well as his guitar in this boogie-woogie number. Slash joins the Mountain man on "Mudflap Mama" with some excellent slide work from the ex-Guns and Roses guitarist, and a fantastically fun lyric sung by West, who has never sounded better vocally than he does on this CD. "To The Moon" is a slightly quiet tune (save for the bridge) that sees another amazing vocal turn from West.
It sure is easy to pick out ZZ Top's guitarist Billy Gibbons on the nasty and loud "Standing On A Higher Ground," while the equally distinctive blistering of Zakk Wylde (who refers to West as 'Dad') is featured on "Nothing's Changed." Kenny Arnoff truly shows off his chops on an inspired, bluesy cover of the Beatles' "I Feel Fine." Another gem is West, Slash and Wylde all playing together on Willie Nelson's "Turn Out The Lights." Even in Nelson's thickest pot smoke revelry would he have ever dreamt up this open, hand-clapping version where all three guitarists interweave their talents? I love it when you can hear the musicians have so much fun. When I spoke to Leslie West a year ago, he mentioned some stellar future plans and I am sure glad he made Unusual Suspects. Even weathering a recent amputation of his right leg, Leslie West maintains a positive attitude: "As I get older I think I've gotten better." It doesn't get much better than this.
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.