The album was named The Unusual Suspects because very rarely do you get an assemblage
of this pedigree of players on one album. West’s legacy as a musician was built
by injecting rocket-
“I like writing songs on the piano, if only I could actually play the instrument. It makes me think more melodically when I’m playing the guitar and singing. I get different ideas for melodies than I do when I’m playing guitar. Most people think I prefer the organ, because Mountain had an organ, but even then the sound I really wanted to hear was the piano.”
Another unexpected spin is West’s take on Willie Nelson’s “Turn Out the Lights.”
On The Unusual Suspects, West, Slash and Wylde weave a triple-
“Standing On Higher Ground,” which Gibbons brought in to the studio, was then completed
with West and producer Fabrizio Grossi, and recorded standing toe-
But despite its stellar guest turns, the heart and soul of The Unusual Suspects lies with West’s own wildly original playing and singing.
“Dustin Hoffman has a saying about acting,” West says. “It’s ‘Knowing how much to say without saying too much.’ For me, as a player, my motto is ‘Knowing how much to play without playing too much.’”
“As far as my voice goes, when I open my mouth, that’s want comes out — period. Plus, I’ve always loved the great soul and blues singers, so that’s instinctively how I got my phrasing,” he explains.
“But when it comes to the guitar, I could never play fast so I learned to make every note count — to be sure every lick has something to say. I believe in having a big sound and leaving space between notes, and that space is like the point where the music stops in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. It builds tension and raises the question, ‘What’s gonna happen now?’ Plus, I love to feel the speakers move the air. The heavy sound it takes to make that happen really does it for me.”
West’s tonal awakening came when his first group, soul-
As luck had it, West’s upstairs neighbor in the Manhattan apartment building where
his family lived was Waddy Wachtel. Today Wachtel is one of the world’s top-
“The bottom line is, I think of myself as a blues player,” West adds. “I can play
a lot more than the blues scale, but that’s what I enjoy hearing and the emotions
“That doesn’t mean I’m depressed all the time,” West continues. “In fact, I’m happy because I’ve kept evolving. My singing has gotten better and, as a player, I’m more melodic and have a better vibrato. As I get older, I think I’ve gotten better.”
Leslie West -
Nobody sounds like rock ‘n’ roll legend Leslie West. Absolutely nobody.
West has been in command of one of the biggest, boldest electric guitar tones known to man or beast from 1969’s Woodstock festival, which introduced his group Mountain to the pages of music history, through his riveting new album The Unusual Suspects. And his voice is even more recognizable — a powerful mix of honey and gravel that falls somewhere between Otis Redding and King Kong.
At age 65, West stands entirely undiminished on The Unusual Suspects, a proud mix of boogies blues, rockers and ballads that puts his songwriting skills at the fore in tunes like the hard rocking “Mississippi Queen” flashback “Mudflap Mama” and the sweet, soulful love song “You and Me.”
West’s title for the album was inspired by his handpicked roster of A-
“These guys don’t show up to play on everybody’s albums,” West declares. “They’re all stars in their own right, and fantastic players — every one with their own sound and style, and about as far from ‘the usual suspects’ as it gets.”
They also have deep musical and personal connections to West. He and Mascot/Provogue
labelmate Lukather, who adds acoustic guitar to the piano-
As for Gibbons, he and West met during Z.Z. Top’s first major tour, when Gibbons’ band got its big break opening for Mountain. Slash — of Velvet Revolver, Snakepit and Guns N’ Roses fame — has cited West as an influence on his own brawny playing. Ditto for Wylde, who affectionately refers to West as “Dad.” And Bonamassa was so moved by West’s earlier recording of Willie Dixon and Eddie Boyd’s blues standard “Third Degree” from a West, Bruce and Lang album that he requested they cut it again for The Unusual Suspects.
Image courtesy of Paul Natkin / Fret 12