Monday, May 16, 2011
The story of Mountain begins with the breakup in 1968 of a rock and blue eyed soul (there's that phrase again) band called The Vagrants .After this band dissolved, the former guitarist, New York City-born Leslie West recorded a solo album entitled Mountain, a reference to the guitarist's immense bulk. (he has since lost a considerable amount of weight) The album was produced by Felix Pappalardi, a former producer of and collaborator with the British supergroup Cream and a bass guitarist. Pappalardi played on the album along with former Remains drummer N.D.Smart. On this lp West's growling bluesy vocals and distinctively heavy-yet-melodic guitar style was showcased,along with the elegant bass playing of Pappalardi. Both West and Pappalardi wrote songs on the album.The result was impressive.
West suggested that they take to the road, and they did ,with the line-up that appeared on the album and the addition of keyboardist Steve Knight. Getting Knight in the band was a conscious attempt to forestall any comparisons to Cream. Adopting the name Mountain, they began to tour, their fourth appearance being at the 1969 Woodstock Festival in Bethel,New York. They appeared on volume 2 of the Woodstock live recording release.Soon after Woodstock,N.D. Smart was replaced on drums by Laurence "Corky" Laing. Their first album as a band, Climbing, was released in March of 1970 and led off with what was to become the band's signature song,"Mississippi Queen",which reached #20 in the Billboard Hot 100. The album also contained an exquisite performance of the Jack Bruce-Peter Brown composition "Theme From An Imaginary Western" featuring an outstanding guitar solo from West.
In the middle of a hectic touring schedule to support Climbing, the band recorded it's follow-up Nantucket Sleighride, which was released in 1971. It reached #16 but failed to produce a hit single.At this point while continuing to receive widespread critical acclaim, the band would not again attain major commercial success.Next came Flowers Of Evil, an album containing one side of studio tracks and one side of live songs. For reasons including Papalardi's road weariness and increasing hearing impairment, and the toll of heavy drug use in the band, Mountain broke up. A live album, The Road Goes Ever On, was relesed shortly thereafter in May of 1972.
Pappalardi returned to studio work, while West and Laing joined up with former Cream bassist Jack Bruce and the trio toured and released two studio albums and one live album over the next two years.
Pappalardi and West re-formed Mountain in 1974 with Allan Schwartzberg on drums and Robert Mann on guitar and keyboards. the ensuing tour produced a live double album, Twin Peaks. Corky Laing returned to the band soon after to record a studio album, Avalanche, with David Perry replacing Mann on guitar. This would be the final Mountain album with Pappalardi.
On April 17,1983 Felix Pappalardi was shot dead by his wife, Gail Collins Pappalardi in their East Manhattan apartment.
Leslie West and Corky Laing reunited, along with Mark Clarke on bass and recorded Go For You Life as Mountain in 1985, dedicating the album to Pappalardi's memory. West would go on to alternately tour and record solo and with Laing as Mountain until 2008. West is still active in the business today.