Three years after Blind Faith, and two years after the zoo that was Ginger Baker's Air Force -- Denny Laine essentially replacing Eric Clapton in Blind Faith with six more musicians added for good measure -- Jack Bruce mixes the blues of Cream with the hard rock of Mountain while the label gave them maybe a third of the Blind Faith hype. The verdict? West, Bruce & Laing's Why Dontcha has aged gracefully as an authentic signature of what these artists were doing, but it lacks the staying power of Blind Faith, the fault being the choice of material. There is no "Theme from an Imaginary Western" here, there is no "Sea of Joy," just a relentless hard rock assault best exemplified by the track "Shake Ma Thing (Rollin Jack)." Here Leslie West and Jack Bruce share vocals, so you get Mountain-meets-Cream, but where they played "Sunshine of Your Love" in concert, there is no riff that awesome here. And that's all it would have taken, a great riff and tune to carry this project from point A to point B. "While You Sleep" shows this wild bunch as creative and having fun, and it's a great album track, but not the thing to find them a new audience. The title tune, "Why Dontcha," is pure Leslie West, but it doesn't reinvent Mississippi Queen, and these gentlemen had to pull a rabbit or two out of their hats. If anyone doubts Jimmy Miller's ability to make a record album rock, just listen to his protégé Andy Johns fail to follow in his mentor's footsteps. Miller had three days to put Blind Faith together after months of Steve Winwood and Clapton trying not to step on each other's toes, and he came back for part two, the Royal Albert Hall concert that became Ginger Baker's Air Force. Why Dontcha, on the other hand, despite the pluses, falls short because it tries too hard, while not putting the effort where it belonged -- in the songwriting and production. Bet these great talents wish they had this moment in time back. If these were ex-Grand Funk Railroad members Flint, this would be a great record. It falls far short of what Jack Bruce, Corky Laing, and Leslie West were capable of.
In an interview with Corky Laing, that legendary quote from Flo & Eddie was brought to his attention -- their opinion that Mountain keyboard player Steve Knight was "the most useless man in rock & roll." Laing quickly came to Knight's defense and said that he played rhythms that were essential to Mountain. A Steve Knight on keyboards, or even better, a Steve Winwood, was what was needed to bring West, Bruce & Laing to another level, maybe even to superstar status. Cream's vocalist brought that hit potential to the table. The sleeper track on the album is "Love Is Worth the Blues," with Leslie West on violin, guitar, and a suitably painful downtrodden vocal, while "Pollution Woman" is, finally, what everyone was waiting for: Cream-meet- Mountain, with Jack Bruce on synthesizer and vocals, Leslie West and Jack Bruce on acoustic guitars, and a brilliantly solid Corky Laing. This was the direction they should have taken, and there just isn't enough of it -- a wildly charging modern sound that elevates the whole, proving it could be greater than the sum of its parts.