Leslie West ~ Soundcheck
Provogue/Mascot Label Group
OUT 20th November 2015
Leslie West’s Soundcheck is an album that curls around the blues with dexterity and poise. The opening track sets the tone with production that has the Soundcheck spot-on. Soundcheck from Mountain’s Leslie West is full of lyric driven nuggets that are enveloped in a soundscape of guitars that moan and chords that shape the mood. Leslie West has gathered around him a stellar cast but essentially this is an album that reflects the blues that West has drawn into the music including a mix of covers that receive a really distinctive re-shaping with always the hard edge of rock on this the sixteenth solo album. It is the magic of key and chord structure that emphasises the strength of the lyrics in the classics chosen by Leslie West ~ Soundcheck .
Opening with Left By The Roadside To Die immediately you are drawn into the soundscape being created; there are two musical narratives those of the lyrics and the tale being put down in words so we understand “Why I am singing the blues” and then the sonic shaping of the guitar work and this combination continues throughout the album. Then the mood changes as rock kicks in and fat guitar sound combined with a heavy distortion is the soundscape in this a power track and the guitar solo from Leslie is full of artistry as a paints a sound that celebrates the guitar and would stand as a piece of music on its own.
With Peter Frampton playing guitar alongside Leslie using slide the tone changes again for You Are My Sunshine, this slow, contemplative and moody take reflecting the use of a minor-key as Leslie said “…. I watch the television show, Sons of Anarchy, and during one episode, a minor-key version of this song was playing in the background. I thought, Whoa…that sounds so different! I recorded it and sent it to Peter, and we trade solos and then play harmony lines together at the end. …….. To take a song you’ve heard all of your life and change it around like this is very cool.”
Opening with a Honky Tonk piano is full of lightness of touch and then the guitar hits you right in the solar plexus with a guest appearance from Brian May. Goin’ Down is a full on sound with contributions from Bonnie Bramlett’s and Max Middleton’s vocals this is a full on exciting gritty track.
Soundcheck, the only consistent is – expect the unexpected – as the melodies and songs we know are beat and re-formed under the masterful touch of Leslie West, at the same time keeping the integrity of the orginal. These include Give Me Just One Reason the Tracey Chapman hit that fits like a glove on the album as does Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready, a regular in the live set then Eleanor Rigby, from the Beatles and is one of my personal favourites, this is a short instrumental a reprise and works I approve.
The only track that didn’t work for me is Stand By Me, done as a duet for me it didn’t quite connect, can’t quite put my finger perhaps to country for an album the is rock infused interpretations of blues, ballads and beyond.
Closing the album with a lengthy re-creation of Willie Dixon’s Spoonful with the enchanting bass of Jack Bruce combined with his vocals this is a re-incarnation of the spirit of Cream; this is a delight eight minutes of time well used! bringing the album to a close so that you just want to hear it all over again.
Soundcheck is a gold star album where classics are given energy and re-shaped so that the guitar and vocals have roles to play creating a rocky soundscape of emotions.
Bluesdoodles gives this CD NINE doodle paws out of TEN ….
1. Left By The Roadside To Die
2. Give Me One Reason
3. Here For The Party
4. You Are My Sunshine
5. Empty Promises / Nothin’ Sacred
6. A Stern Warning
7. People Get Ready
8. Goin’ Down
9. Stand By Me
10. Eleanor Rigby