Mystic Fire

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Although singer/guitarist Leslie West and drummer Corky Laing, two of the four musicians who were known as Mountain on such hit recordings as 1970's Mountain Climbing!, have released several albums under the band's name since its nominal demise in the 1970s, their legal right to do so is somewhat belied by their inability to fully re-create the group's style. The absence of keyboard player Steve Knight isn't that much of a problem (even though it reduces the sound to that of a power trio with the addition of bass guitar played by different session men or West overdubbing), but Felix Pappalardi, who not only played bass, but also brought his arranging and producing skills to Mountain, is a key omission that cannot be replaced; he was shot to death by his wife, occasional Mountain lyricist Gail Collins, in 1983. West was always the lead vocalist and lead guitar player, so the most identifiable elements of the sound are in place. But without Pappalardi, Mountain is really a West solo project released under a more marketable name. That said, Laing makes his presence felt on Mountain's 2002 reunion effort, Mystic Fire. He is the co-author of several songs, gets drum solos on "Marble Peach/Rotten Peach" and "Johnny Comes Marching Home," and is responsible for the strings on a remake of "Nantucket Sleighride." Still, West dominates the record, his always gruff voice having deteriorated, but his guitar playing still recalling late-'60s/early-'70s peers Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page. The songs are often rudimentary compositions that serve as excuses for the guitar excursions; they lack the poetic lyrics formerly contributed by Collins and Pete Brown. So, old fans can welcome back a group that sounds like Mountain, while recognizing that it is not what it once was.

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