Leslie West

Collection

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The blues has informed Leslie West's work since the earliest days of Mountain, but Collection, which cherry-picks from his output for the Blues Bureau label (1993-2006), is the most concentrated assemblage yet of the guitarist's covers within the blues idiom. It's easy to imagine West putting plenty of muscle into classics like John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom," Robert Johnson's "Crossroads," and Muddy Waters' "Baby Please Don't Go," and he does. The latter especially burns, with West unreeling a screaming solo and strangled vocals, ably abetted by drummer Aynsley Dunbar, bassist Tim Bogert, and rhythm guitarist Kevin Curry. But some of the most surprising moments occur where you'd least expect them. The album ends with two songs that couldn't be more opposite in tempo: a rowdy take on Procol Harum's "Whisky Train" and a "Summertime" that puts more soul into the George and Ira Gershwin standard than anyone has since Janis Joplin. And Ray Charles' "Hit the Road Jack," stripped down to a core of West's guitar and Brian Mitchell's piano, and devoid of its familiar jumping rhythm, recasts the song in a mournful mode befitting of its finality.

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