Flowers Of Evil
Windfall Records, 1971
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/24/1997
Have you ever found yourself in a position where you like something, but you can't explain why?
I'm in that position with today's selection from the depths of the Pierce Memorial Archives (don't sneeze, you'll disturb the bats), and this slab of Woodstock from Mountain. Flowers Of Evil is outdated, simplistic, overblown, and at times pompous. But I can't help liking this one, despite the scars of time that it bears.
This four-piece (who did play at Woodstock, thank you very much) was led by guitarist Leslie West, a humongous man with a powerful voice and an equally powerful guitar style. Also leading the band was bassist/vocalist Felix Pappalardi, whose style could be compared to that of Cream, a band he co-produced before their breakup. Keyboardist Steve Knight and drummer Corky Laing round out the band.
The title track of this one is a bombastic piece of work, with West's booming vocals and leads taking over the verses and Pappalardi's nasally backing vocals filling the chorus. The playing is flawless, though the hidden drug theme is out of date today - now our artists are out in the open about the stuff. Still, the pure power of the playing makes this one a track I love to go back to again and again.
The other standout track on this one is "Crossroader," a song that brings to mind the ghosts of Cream. Pappalardi takes over the lead vocals (as he does for the remainder of the first side), though his vocals prove he's no Eric Clapton - or Jack Bruce, for that matter. (Sadly, Pappalardi was gunned down by his wife, Gail Collins, in 1983.)
Pappalardi's moment of glory is the overblown "Pride And Passion" - if you're patient enough to get through the first two minutes of experimental doodlings, you won't be disappointed. The same can't be said, though, for "One Last Cold Kiss," a song about swan love - today's word of the day is "pompous."
The second side, for the most part, is s throwaway - a live set featuring a portion of "One Last Cold Kiss," a rambling and pointless cover of "Roll Over Beethoven" and a good performance of "Dreams Of Milk And Honey." The closing track is a live version of the band's best-known song, "Mississippi Queen." This was a funny decision, seeing that their next album was a live one.
But Chris, you're saying, if you're so critical about Flowers Of Evil, how can you say you like it? The answer, chilluns, is simple: the first side has so many good performances that make this one worth the effort - and it earns a place in the Archives near the door, allowing me easy access to it.
Is this album dated? Oh, yes. Is Mountain for everybody? I don't think so. Is Flowers Of Evil worth checking out? Well, at least the first side is. (The album has recently been re-released on Legacy / Columbia Records.)