Leslie West - vocals, guitar; Corky Laing - drums; Felix Pappalardi - bass; David Perry - rhythm guitar
In a late 1998 interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins was asked to describe what his band's next album would sound like. Reluctant to give too much away, he replied "I will tell you that it's going to sound a lot like Mountain." No doubt this comment sent more than a few Pumpkin fans out looking for Mountain CDs; sadly, most of Mountain's albums are pretty hard to find, save for a few compilations. But every rock 'n' roll fan knows that the music is best heard live anyway, and this King Biscuit performance is a treat for both old fans who've been waiting for a legitimate live release and new ones looking to discover what made this band so influential.
The roots of Mountain reach back to three different bands: The Vagrants, Energy and Cream. Leslie West was the guitarist/singer for The Vagrants, a Long Island band whose claim to fame is having recorded "Respect" before Aretha Franklin. After releasing three unsuccessful singles, the band's label turned to former Cream producer Felix Pappalardi to deliver the fourth single, which also flopped. The band soon broke up, but West got Pappalardi produce his debut album (and later join the band), entitled Leslie West - Mountain, because of West's large size. The two then formed Mountain, the band, with drummer N.D. Smart, who played on West's album. After only a few performances (one of their earliest gigs was at the Woodstock Festival), Smart was out of the band. He was replaced by Corky Laing, formerly of Energy, a band who had a dance song called "Mississippi Queen," which Leslie later restructured into a mammoth rock song that Mountain would score a Top 40 hit with in 1970.
This King Biscuit Flower Hour concert was recorded in late 1973 at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey. By this point, the band had been through many of the cliche rock band phases: the breakup, the side-projects, a reunion with new members. The short version of the story is that the band split up, and Leslie and Corky hooked up with former Cream bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce to form the supergroup West, Bruce and Laing, with whom they put out a number of albums. Mountain later reunited, but during '73, the band went on a Japanese tour without Laing, because of an alleged dispute between him and Pappalardi.
Upon the group's return, West insisted Laing be invited back to the group, and this album documents one of the first concerts after the reunion. West says of this performance, "It wasn't the best thing we ever did, but the unique thing about it was there are some songs on there that we've never put out like 'You Better Believe It.' There's some good playing on it." Laing agrees, "It sounds pretty good. I'm very happy with the playing." Unfortunately, the band would split up soon after this show.
After 1974's Avalanche, the classic lineup would never again record another album, and all hopes of a new album by that lineup were squelched when Pappalardi was shot and killed by his wife in 1983. West and Laing have resurrected the Mountain moniker several times since then with various bass players, most notably and memorably Mark Clarke. West has released a string of solo albums and runs a music production company, Fatheads, with producer Jason Corsaro (who mixed this King Biscuit release and Laing assembled the band Cork, with Eric Schenkman of the Spin Doctors. Leslie and Corky are still friends, and continue to record and perform together.
Both guys are proud of Mountain's legacy, and the fact that bands still cite them as an influence, decades after their heyday. Days after joining '90s metal band Clutch on stage for a version of his "Dreams of Milk And Honey," West speaks proudly of Mountain's legacy and their influence: "The fact that these kids are playing this kind of music - it turns me on all over again." In 2002, they, as Mountain, released another album entitled Mystic Fire. Says Laing, "I love working with Leslie because the magic is always there." Indeed. There are countless numbers of fans who have, and always will, attest to the fact.