CD Reviews

Leslie West - 'Soundcheck' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     March 31, 2016    
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There's enough greatness here to make it worthwhile.

Before I was given the task of reviewing Leslie West's powerful 'Still Climbing' album from 2013, I had been largely ignorant of the man other than knowing he was the leader of seminal US Rockers Mountain, the band responsible for the classics 'Mississippi Queen' and 'Nantucket Sleighride'.
The axeman who inspired artists as diverse as Eddie Van Halen, Ritchie Blackmore, John McLaughlin and Johnny Ramone has been recording since the mid-sixties and has just turned seventy, but despite losing the lower part of his right leg in 2011 due to complications with diabetes, he shows no sign of slowing down his relentless recording and touring schedule just yet.

I must admit that I did cringe when I saw the track listing for 'Soundcheck' as some of these songs I either don't like or they've been mercilessly overdone through the years, but some neat arrangements and inspired guest musicians have made it much better than it could have been.
His sixteenth solo album kicks off with the straight-ahead Blues Rocker 'Left By The Roadside To Die', a great song with West's whisky-soaked vocals, legendary guitar vibrato and some synthesizer bleeps and impressive dynamics keeping it fresh. Of his own songs 'Here For The Party' is a quite ordinary upbeat workout, 'A Stern Warning' is a cool acoustic piece dedicated to his friend Howard Stern and the lively 'Empty Promises/Nothin' Sacred' is a punchy Rocker tipping its hat to AC/DC.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Now to the mixed part of the programme, the covers. On the plus side there's a great version of Tracy Chapman's 'Give Me One Reason' with a superb vocal, great guitar fills and nice piano, and Curtis Mayfield's 'People Get Ready' is a really cool version that surprisingly almost matches Jeff Beck's rendition of the same song. Similarly, 'Goin' Down' gets by on the strength of West's vocal duet with Bonnie Bramlett and guest appearances by Brian May on guitar and Jeff Beck sideman Max Middleton on excellent keys. Willie Dixon's 'Spoonful' is a rough and very long 1988 live recording with Jack Bruce on bass/vocals and Good Rat Joe Franco on drums.

Slightly less successful are an acoustic 'Stand By Me', a solo bass version of 'Eleanor Rigby' (presumably by West's regular bassist Rev Jones, it doesn't say!), and while I'm a huge fan of both Peter Frampton and Wigan Athletic FC, a minor key version of our terrace anthem 'You Are My Sunshine' is a waste of both guitarists time, even though the extended solos are great.

Expertly produced by Mike "Metal" Goldberg, 'Soundcheck' is a good album that sadly isn't as consistent as '...Climbing' or the previous 'Unusual Suspects', but there's enough greatness here to make it worthwhile.

Phil Ashcroft

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  • SeaDog57 : just an observation. I just got Issue 89 at the Bookstore and when i looked at the spine of the magazine it says "Fireworks Issue 85 Winter Jan - Mar 2019" Was this a misprint? The rest of the Magazine is Issue 89. Was just wondering did anyone else notice this?
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  • Berny : @SeaDog57: The links are in the Fireworks menu. Have you tried scrolling down? Maybe your screen size is too small...
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  • bpomper : Thanks didnt of that. I still have not heard about fireworks 88 was it sent out. Thankyou
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  • bpomper : Thanks for the reply. I see download but can you confirm that hardcopy was or is sent ou .thanks.the email i used is inder the contact me info of the website
  • Berny : @bpomper: Apologies for your troubles. Where did you send the email to? We haven't received anything. I will send you a longer reply via mail. Also, you can download the free CD from the "Fireworks" menu on top, but the CD links are only shown if you are logged in.
  • bpomper : 3rd email inquiring about my purchase of fireworks #88. i purchased on the 2oth of sept and today is the 24 with no response...paypal has taken the payment. should i have a down load of the cd for mu usa magazine. Looking forward to an answer
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