Friday, 4 March 2016

"Climbing!" by MOUNTAIN (2003 Columbia/Legacy 'Expanded CD' – Bob Irwin/Vic Anesini Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Mississippi Queen..." 

"...His crime was a passion..." - Felix Pappalardi sings on "The Laird" and that kind of sums up this most American of Rock bands for me – loud, proud and ear-splitten-louden-boomer. They couldn't give a rat's ass who out there in radio-land thinks its aural hedonism turned up to 13 on a scale of 12. MOUNTAIN rocked and this cool little CD reissue of their second platter "Climbing!" from 1970 shows why these New York boys with Mississippi in their veins are remembered with such affection and loyalty. And in Leslie West they had an ace axeman - geometrically over-sized for sure but charismatic and great fun too. Here is 'The Great Fatsby' and Rocking Friends...

UK and USA released April 2003 – "Climbing!" by MOUNTAIN on Columbia/Legacy 510719 2 (Barcode 5099751071921) is an 'Expanded CD Remaster' and plays out as follows (36:56 minutes):

1. Mississippi Queen
2. Theme From An Imaginary Western
3. Never In My Life
4. Silver Paper
5. For Yasgur's Farm [Side 2]
6. To My Friend
7. The Laird
8. Sittin' On A Rainbow
9. Boys In The Band
Tracks 1 to 9 are their second album "Climbing!" – released March 1970 in the USA on Windfall 4501 and May 1970 in the UK on Bell Records SBLL 133 (both in Stereo only). Bassist and Studio Wizard Felix Pappalardi Produced – the album rose to No. 17 in the US LP charts (didn’t chart in the UK). All songs are band originals except "Theme From An Imaginary Western" which is a Jack Bruce cover version.

10. For Yasgur's Farm [Live] – recorded prior to 1972

LESLIE WEST – Guitars and Vocals
FELIX PAPPALARDI – Bass on all Tracks except 6 and 7, Keyboards on Track 1, 2 and 9 and Rhythm Guitar on Track 7
CORKY LAING – Drums and Percussion
STEVE KNIGHT – Keyboards (Mellotron on Tracks 2 and 9, Organ on Tracks 2 to 5)

The 12-page booklet has new liner notes from CORKY LAING and LESLIE WEST (dated November 2002) - and as well as band photos (supplied by the group) features reminiscences on the making of their 'loud' 2nd album with the line-up most feel had that classic hard-rocking Mountain sound, their former band Energy, songwriting/lyric collaborations between Laing and West and more. The CD reflects the original Windfall Records label logo and there's even a Leslie West photo beneath the see-through tray. But the big news is the new BOB IRWIN/VIC ANESINI Remaster from original tapes done at Sony Music Studios in New York. The last time "Climbing!" saw CD reissue was in 1993 as part of Sony's 'Rewind' Series – it was a good stab at the record but this variant is a whole lot better and features a live track as a bonus. As the line on the rear cover famously announced 'This Record Was Meant To Be Played Loud' - you quickly find out that none of the band's players are joking. This mother rocks – vibrato, fuzzy, grunge guitar noises emanate from Leslie West's speaker stacks and threaten to cause a public disturbance with your docile Laura Ashley stereo. The album was never an Audiophile event – so expect some hiss on cuts like the slowish "The Laird" and the gorgeous "To My Friend" – but also expect presence and 'in-the-moment' feel. After my battered copy on Windfall – this CD sounds revelatory to me...

It opens on a rasper – the brilliant snotty Boogie Rock of "Mississippi Queen" – co-written by West, Laing, Pappalardi and Ohio songwriter David Rea. Huge riffage accompanies soloing guitars as Leslie West roars on about a Cajun gal from Vicksburg in Louisiana who isn't exactly unfamiliar with the ways of the world. At 2:32 minutes it was an obvious single and popular too. Released March 1970 with the album - Windfall 45-532 climbed to a respectable No. 21 in the US singles charts with the album cut "The Laird" on the flipside. After two failed sevens from the first album "Mountain" in September 1969 – it became Mountain's first real 45-impression on the charts and remains a huge fan fave to this day. Blighty tried the same combo of tracks on Bell BLL 1113 in May 1970 - but it sold naught and was deleted quickly. "Theme From An Imaginary Western" is a cover of a track from Jack Bruce's debut solo LP after Cream - 1969's "Song For A Tailor" on Polydor (UK)/Atco Records (USA). Bruce co-wrote the tune with Avant Garde British artist Pete Brown (Harvest Records). Mountain take the song's Soulful-Rock feel and layer it with more guitars and organs so that it sounds very Cream in ways – or even Derek & The Dominoes.

Both Laing and West agree that "Never In My Life" is probably the best track on the album – a great riff played at almost "Fireball" speed (they slowed it down in concert because it adds more muscle to it). It's a fantastic piece of American 'Rawk' and odd that Windfall Records went instead to the less catchy "For Yasgur's Farm" for the next single (Windfall 45-533) – a tune that isn't nearly as immediate as "Never..." They paired it with the fabulous Leslie West solo instrumental "To My Friend" - an Acoustic tour de force that shows off West's considerable playing chops and is almost Indian Sitar in some passages. But despite both sides being strong in their own right – "Yasgur's..." didn't follow "Mississippi Queen" into the charts (no British release either). "Silver Paper" is basic rock and similar in vibe to "Theme From An Imaginary Western" in its assembly. Far more interesting is "The Laird" that is co-written with Gail Collins (did the artwork, wrote lyrics) that has touches of the more melodic acoustic side of Uriah Heep and Led Zeppelin (circa 3) – sweet little tune that I couldn't stop playing at the time. How cool is it to hear it with such clarity - even if it is hissy. Massive Corky Laing drums open the driving-down-the-highway riffage of "Sittin' On A Rainbow" – a very Mountain good time rocker that stills sounds beer-belly-rowdy after 45 years on camomile tea. It ends on the piano melody of "Boys In The Band" - pretty hissy it has to be said and probably my least favourite song on the album (the vocal is all over the mix)...

The live version of "For Yasgur's Farm" runs to 4:19 minutes and is plucked from the band's own archive (bit hazy on exact dates). In truth I'd say it's good rather than being great (much like the song itself) and you can't help thinking that at four seconds short of 37-minutes – this entire CD reissue could have done with a few more choice bonus cuts in the live vein to bolster up matters...

Still - what you do get with "Climbing!" is fabarooney – a ballsy American Rock Band in the same vein as Cactus and Grand Funk Railroad – groups that somehow never seemed to gain the recognition they deserved beyond fanatical fan circles. In some ways Mountain's loose 'rawk' feel and gutbucket style recordings remind me of that fabulous sloppiness FREE used to get - effortlessly cool too. And isn't that the best compliment. So lodge your grappling hook and throw out your musical rope...because it's time to abseil bare-bottomed down the barroom underpants of this particularly boozy digital rock face. And I mean in that in the nicest possible way...

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