Windfall Records, 1970
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/10/2004
It is one of the great tragedies of rock and roll that Mountain is best known for one song - "Mississippi Queen". With that sole exception, the bulk of today's fans of rock have forgotten about Leslie West and company -- about their appearance at the original Woodstock, their anti-drug song "Flowers Of Evil," the interplay between guitarist West and bassist Felix Pappalardi.
All people would have to do would be to invest in the re-issue of Climbing!, the 1970 release from Mountain (and, technically, their first release as a band -- Mountain was really a Leslie West solo album in 1969). Yes, "Mississippi Queen" is here in all its regalia, but this disc proves that Mountain was more than one song -- and many of the songs on this disc dwarf their hit in terms of quality.
Granted, the overall sound of Climbing! is a tad dated, going for the bombastic sound that was rock in the early '70s. But in a sense, that makes the music on this album all the more enjoyable. Tracks like "Never In My Life" and "Silver Paper" just wouldn't have worked had they been toned down a notch or three, and the all-out charge the band -- West, Pappalardi, drummer Corky Laing and keyboardist Steve Knight -- leads into these songs is the spark that lights the blaze.
Likewise, the band knows when to tone things down a bit -- and tracks like "Boys In The Band" and "Theme For An Imaginary Western," while still rich with the guitar work, display a different side of Mountain, one which combines muscle with tenderness. A weird combination? Sure -- but it works.
West's guitar skills have been all but forgotten in this day and age -- though one listen to the acoustic instrumental "To My Friend" should re-awaken interest in his playing. (I do still prefer the track "Alisan" off of Avalanche -- maybe because I learned how to play a close facsimile of it.) The middle-eastern style of this work is especially noteworthy. It was one thing to do a guitar solo; it was another to try and tackle a different style musically, and West nails it.
The truth of the matter is that Climbing! might just be Mountain's best album, and is one which is desperately in need of re-discovery. Mountain is a band who have been passed over with the winds of time. Well, enough, I say. Take ten dollars out of your wallet, pick up this CD, and discover a band who deserve a lot more attention than they ever received.