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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Mountain

Eruption

Review by Gary Hill

This live collection is a good album that probably could have been a great one. I have read reviews where people have full on trashed this one. My guess is that they listened to CD 2 directly after the first disc. Frankly, this probably would have been better off released as a single album rather than double. The performances and recording quality on the first disc leave a lot to be desired. While that one has a song or two that are of merit (Mountain's cover of "Rocky Mountain Way" comes to mind), most of that disc could be done away with. Another problem with this release is the shoddy notes. There is an extra song on each CD that isn't listed. Add to that fact that I believe the actual information regarding the shows from which these performances are drawn (and even the lineup of musicians) is wrong. Proof of that comes when on one of the tracks Leslie West introduces Felix Pappalardi. The date listed for the earliest of these recordings is 1985, but Pappalardi died two years before that.

With all of these considerations, though, there are certainly enough strong moments on this collection to make it worthwhile for more than just completists. It would have been nice if they had taken a little more care in putting this one together.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Hard Times
An extended intro leads into a smoking bluesy jam that rocks out pretty well. This feels a bit like Nazareth's "Beggar's Day" at times. This is stripped down, gritty working man's rock. It drops to just bass and drums for a time, then a screaming new segment enters taking the song through a killer instrumental segment. It drops back to just drums and the vocal line comes overtop of this. Then it moves into another extended instrumental segment. They use this to transition into a new section (one of the best on the CD) then they move through another chorus. A funky bass line serves as backing as Leslie West lays down an extremely tasty solo. They move it back into the stripped down take on the track. West gets in another smoking solo as the piece continues - this time as part of a very extended jam.
Never In My Life
This one comes in fast and pretty crunchy with a killer groove. It stays pretty true to its origins as a tasty hard rocking number. They wander thorough some interesting reworkings of the theme, but never really move away far from the one main riff, instead making it a twelve bar jam for the duration of 4 and a half minutes. A West solo gives way to a crescendo to end it.
Spark
This is another straightforward hard rocking jam, this one with some very cool overtextures. This is both bluesy and proggy, while still rocking out hard. This is another that doesn't stray far from its roots, but still manages to allow for plenty of room for the musicians to explore the potentials of the main riff. West really soars on this one.
Theme for an Imaginary Western
This one comes in slower and more melodic, almost like a ballad. As it shifts gears it becomes a pretty full on rocking ballad. They turn it more anthemic on the chorus. This one is a nice change of pace. It gets quite powerful and expansive and is one of the most effective cuts on show here.
Nantucket Sleighride
Percussion starts this. Guitar comes in tentatively at first, then launches into a bit of a neo-classical riff. Then this riff is carried forward and echoed harmonics take it for a short time before a plodding segment enters and moves forward. The band drops the volume down, but carry the cut forward, then West lets loose with some nearly unaccompanied soloing. They eventually shift this into a hard rocking mid tempoed grind, West laying down more meaty guitar lines over top. They move through a couple of changes and after a time drop it to the bluesy ballad mode that makes up the verse. Then an anthemic grind overlaid with West's soloing takes it. The cut moves back to the balladic. After running like this a new verse segment, a bit countrified, takes it for a short time, then Leslie West brings the crunch and a "Hall of The Mountain King" segment. The guitar weaves the familiar classical jam with distortion and fury. It moves out into a different jam for a time, then a new dramatic ballad like structure takes it. Then a riff straight out of "Layla" by Derek and The Dominoes, complete with solo takes over. This modulates into another new metallic jam, then rips out in new directions from there. Then a Nugent like section takes the cut until it gives way to a take on "Crossroads". Eventually vocals enters in a new blues rocking stomp. They crank this out into a new direction, West building on more musical themes before moving it into an extended crescendoing romp. Noisy chaos gives way to a drum solo that ends the track.
Mississippi Queen
A metallic riff gives way to the familiar cowbell intro to this classic. They extend the intro here, but finally kick into this, the band's best-known number. This stomper rocks out quite well here. As is to be expected they turn this into a major extended jam live, extending and reinventing the various themes. They drop it to just drums then turn it into a singalong. This becomes quite a smoking exploration later as the band flies into a frantic excursion. Then they reform it into an old school rock n roll jam for a while before West moves it out into a new guitar solo. Then a noisy cacophonous crescendo ends it.
Rocky Mountain Way
A cover of the Joe Walsh classic, this bluesy grind starts tentatively and builds gradually. Then it drops to drum and bass, the bass laying down some cool lines in a solo. They jump it back up to carry forward with this classic rocker. While Walsh's version is obviously the best known version, Mountain throws out a killer version of a cut that I've always loved. As they are so often wont to do, they turn this into quite an extended jam and West finds plenty of opportunity to show off his fretboard skills. They drop this to a singalong, too.
Unlisted track
While this CD officially only has 7 songs on the first CD, there is another cut here that is not credited. Another bluesy hard rock jam starts this one off and moves forward gradually. Unlike much of the other material, this is a more pure blues jam, though. The vocals are very distant and a bit distorted, though. My guess is this is due to a poor live sound on this one. It doesn't really take away from the performance, though, but rather seems to add an authenticity to it. West at one point throws out one of the longest guitar notes I've ever heard, and then the band launches into a faster paced excursion. They work this through for quite some time, then drop back to the main blues riff of the earlier section of the cut. That then takes it through to its conclusion.
Disc 2
Why Dontcha
This starts off with a fairly long crowd sounds/band talking to them segment. It kicks in as a metallic romp. This opening grind carries on a bit too long, but as it kicks in full it rocks out pretty well. This rocker drops to the more stripped down and bluesy for a while later. This one never goes too far from its roots, and is just a bit weak.
For Yasgur's Farm
A fairly intricate ballad like approach starts this, and the cut grows ever so slowly. This is a very effective bluesy ballad and a highlight of the disc. It turns heavier a coupe minutes in, but then drops back won. This is a pretty killer number. It is very dynamic and includes some extremely tasty guitar work. For those not in the know, Yasgur's Farm was the location of the original Woodstock festival.
Crossroads
Hinted at in the version of "Nantucket Sleighride" on the first CD, this is Mountain's take on the Robert Johnson song made famous by Eric Clapton. This classic bluesy rocker smokes and the band are showing off far better on this one and the last one than they did on anything that is featured on the first disc. West's guitar work is impeccable here, and they make one heck of a killer jam out of this.
Sea
Percussion starts this and echoey guitar comes in. Then it drops to another potent balladic approach. This turns heavy, but still retains the drama and power. As most hard rock ballads it alternates between the mellow and the heavy.
Nantucket Sleighride
The only track featured on both discs (other than the snippet of "Crossroads"), this one is much stronger here. With an extended introduction chronicling the story, this starts heavy and oh so weird, but cool. They eventually kick it into the fast moving, almost prog jam. Then it drops to the awesome ballad phase of the track. This works through various incarnations of the balladic section before they ramp it up to another frantic excursion. They move through one of the coolest hard edged jams I've heard with the vocals a hold over from the ballad segment. Then a new instrumental excursion takes this into more strangely cool territory, first wandering into space. Then it builds into a new high-energy jam. This becomes the triumphant sounding expansive segment of the later parts of the song. While good on CD 1, this is purely incredibly here.
House of the Rising Sun
Another cover, this time they hit the standard made famous by The Animals. This has always been a song that I have really enjoyed, and Mountain's take is one of the best I have ever heard. An extended spoken intro starts it. Then they move into another meaty balladic segment. It takes a while to recognize this classic (that word just doesn't do this song justice). If there were no other songs on this set, Mountain's version here would make it worth the price of the CD. That is how strong this one is. They even add a cool ascending riff-based section near the end. Without question this is my favorite cut on the whole set.
Dreams of Milk and Honey
A very late '60's early '70's styled riff starts this one off. Retro keys add to the texture. As the vocals enter the bouncy arrangement calls to mind Hendrix just a bit. This one is a very creative and potent jam. It runs through several changes and West scorches all over this psychedelically based hard rocking jam. There is a killer fast paced extended instrumental break a few minutes into the 20-minute plus number. This even includes something that could be called "scat singing" and a very tasty distorted bass sound (much like Grand Funk). They move it into something that feels like a psychotic, freaked out over powered surf music at times. This is an exceptionally dynamic and incredibly powerful instrumentally dominated powerhouse. It features some of West's best guitar soloing on either of the two CD's. This even moves into a bit of early Hawkwind like spaced out rhythmically dominated music right before an energetic, if not earth shattering, bass solo takes over. That gives way to a duel between the bass and drums which is quite cool. The whole band eventually works around this section, weaving various rhythmic and melodic lines over one another for quite some time. This whole instrumental jam even seems to take on the musical progression of Hawkwind's "Brainstorm" for a few measures. This excursion in its whole makes up nearly the entire length of this epic with only five or six minutes devoted to the vocal segments of the cut. This is one of the most effective extended jams of its kind I have ever heard, though. It never seems to lose direction or get noodly or annoyingly repetitive. It includes an extended full on drum solo, too. The drum solo, in fact, fades down to end the piece.
Unlisted track
Another uncredited piece, this comes in as a blues rocking cut. The vocals are too far down in the mix, but this still works reasonably well. While this isn't bad, there was certainly stronger material available to close out the set. Still, the tasty extended guitar solo is rather cool.
 
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