Leslie West - guitar, vocals; Felix Pappalardi - bass, vocals; Steve Knight - organ; Corky Laing - drums
There is no better example of Mountain at the height of its powers than this New Year's Eve concert at Fillmore East. The band was based out of Forest Hills so they were surrounded by friends, family, and an extremely enthusiastic audience. They had recently released their strongest and most cohesive album, Nantucket Sleighride and this great new material combined with the success of their previous album and single, "Mississippi Queen," inspires the group to play at peak capacity.
Following the Happy New Year introduction, the recording begins with a powerful take on "Never In My Life," featuring Leslie West's massive guitar tone and the pummeling rhythm section of Pappalardi and Laing. They follow with a new song off Nantucket Sleighride called "Don't Look Around," which continues the intensity level. The hard rock crunch of "Mississippi Queen" is next and they have some fun with the arrangement, expanding the guitar solos and doubling the length of the album version.
Mountain next treats the home-town audience to a pair of relatively rare performances of "Baby, I'm down" and "Long Red," both sourced from Leslie West's first pre-Mountain LP. Considerable jamming occurs in both and West's screeching voice never sounded more appropriate or passionate. Felix Pappalardi steps up to the microphone next for one of the best tracks from their previous album, Silver Paper, taking a more melodic approach, but still maintaining the bands distinctive crunch. An intriguing 10 minute guitar solo by West follows. This remarkably fluid solo electric guitar performance is quite captivating and shows that West, although highly influence by Clapton and Hendrix, was breaking ground and developing into a truly great and imaginative guitar player in his own right.
Two of the most intriguing new songs follow. "The Animal Trainer And The Toad" (named after a critic's description of Felix and Leslie) proves the band had a sense of humor that they could translate instrumentally and the new album's title track, "Nantucket Sleighride," shows the group's melodic and dramatic side. It's a step forward in dynamics and control and at its tight six minute length, contains none of the overindulgence that often marred Mountain's later-era performances of this song. (By the following year, this song was expanded to half an hour or more!)
The group's heartfelt ode to the Woodstock Festival, "For Yasgur's Farm" is up next, followed by another compelling new song, "Traveling In The Dark." They close the set, with the powerful riff driven "Blood Of The Sun," another vintage track from Leslie's first LP.
They cap things off by returning for a lengthy jam on the encore. The highly expanded improvisational treatment given to "Dreams Of Milk and Honey" pummels anyone left standing into submission. This is classic Mountain at their best, featuring a memorable call and response section between West and Pappalardi. Corky Laing's drumming is always spot on and powerful without being overindulgent. The energy level is astounding and the performance remains imaginative throughout its 23 minute length. This comes to a close and West belts out "Old Lang Syne" before the group signs off on 1970. Few hard rock bands of the era had the sheer power or raw energy level of Mountain in their prime. This recording captures the classic lineup at the peak of their powers and out of all the existing live recordings of this era, remains one of their finest performances.