Review: Leslie West – Legacy: A Tribute to Leslie West
Provogue Records (March 25th 2022)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
It’s been a little over a year since the great Leslie West passed away and artists who were influenced by him and his band Mountain have assembled to honor and cover his music with ‘Legacy: A Tribute to Leslie West‘. Admittedly, my musical knowledge of Leslie is limited to radio hits like ‘Mississippi Queen’ and ‘Silver Paper’ as well as the superb track ‘Dyin’ Since the Day I Was Born’ off one of his last albums ‘Still Climbing‘. The greatest mix of blues and heavy metal that you will ever hear (If you haven’t heard this song, check it out immediately). So, what would make me want to review a tribute album for him? The roster of spectacular talent on display.
Singers like Joe Lynn Turner, Dee Snider, and Ronnie Romero are here to pay respects along with guitarists Zakk Wylde, Yngwie Malmsteen, Slash, George Lynch, and even the Doors guitarist Robby Krieger. Quite an array of talent. The way the different musicians are assembled to perform together is very reminiscent of the covers albums that was pumped out by labels in the mid-90s, at least the ones that were good.
Right off the bat, if you’re looking for radical reworkings of Leslie’s music, you won’t find it here. Most of the players remain faithful to the original tunes, with the lone exception being Yngwie, who (in typical Yngwie fashion) simply can’t help himself. With that said, the question to ask for tribute albums like this is – Do the musicians who perform this material do justice and suit the material well? That answer is yes.
Zakk Wylde plays and sounds great singing on opener ‘Blood of the Sun’. The album is bookended with Slash’s take on ‘Mississippi Queen’ and does Mountain’s biggest hit the justice it deserves. It’s great to hear a slightly subdued Dee Snyder sing on ‘Theme for an Imaginary Western’. He still brings a powerful performance, but with a reduction to his trademark screaming. He also sings on ‘Never In My Life’ where he’s joined by George Lynch. However, the song falls somewhat flat as Dee doesn’t quite suit this song and there is nothing that stands out in the guitar playing that makes you think of George Lynch. If I didn’t know it was credited to him, I would have never guessed. It sounds phoned in, like a lot of his playing is these days.
Being a fan of Joe Lynn Turner, I was disappointed to find that he’s singing two of the weakest songs on the album. ‘Nantucket Sleighride (to Owen Coffin)’ and ‘For Yasgur’s Farm’ are not terribly exciting tracks from Mountain and Joe’s great voice doesn’t elevate the material from its droll origins. To be clear, the songs are performed well. It’s just the two least exciting songs amongst this collection.
With the upmost respect to Dee Snyder and Joe Lynn Turner, the artist who comes closest to capturing the gravitas of Leslie’s delivery is Italian powerhouse Ronnie Romero. All three tracks he sings on are my favorite on the album. It also makes me think that the label heard his take on the songs and loved what they heard so much they asked him to do three tracks, the most of any artist on this album. Hearing him sing songs with legendary guitarists like Steve Morse and Robby Krieger is something you don’t get to experience often and makes for a fascinating experience.
Finally, as previously mentioned, Yngwie Malmsteen does exactly what you would expect him to do on ‘Long Red’, whiddling away in every part of the song that did not contain vocals. What was impressive 35 years ago is now boring as hell and completely heartless.
If you’re a fan of Mountain or Leslie West, you’ll be happy to know these songs were handled with the utmost respect and it’s great to hear these songs with modern recording equipment performed by musicians who were directly influenced by Leslie and loved his work. In fact, some of these artists even had a chance to perform with him on prior releases. As stated earlier, don’t go in expecting to hear these artists rework his material to suit their stylings. This is truly a tribute album for one of the most powerful blues-based singers to ever grace this earth.