Avalanche

Mountain

Windfall / Columbia Records, 1974

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_(band)

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/25/1998

When Mountain broke up in 1972, they should have stayed apart.

They had put together a rather impressive catalog in just two years, and had fan favorites in numbers like "Mississippi Queen," "Theme From An Imaginary Western" and "Nantucket Sleighride". But in 1974, Leslie West and Felix Pappalardi put Mountain back together for Avalanche, an album that never should have been made, but for one song.

The "classic" lineup of Mountain was only three-fourths back on this one; keyboardist Steve Knight was gone, replaced by rhythm guitarist David Perry. (Drummer Corky Laing, guitarist/vocalist West and bassist/vocalist Pappalardi made up the remainder of the band.) Not only were the keyboards sorely missing from this one, but Perry's presence is hardly felt at all.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

And you know that Mountain was gasping for air when they did not one, but two covers on Avalanche. Their versions of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and "Satisfaction" are pitiful; some songs were not meant to have amps turned up to 11 and vocals screamed into microphones. True, "Satisfaction" is partially a slow shuffle, but even this doesn't work.

Of the original songs, many of them fail on the scale of the covers. "Back Where I Belong" is a number that sounds like it was a leftover from the West-Bruce-Laing days, and is a waste of time. "Swamp Boy," featuring Pappalardi on vocals, never gets off the ground, and "Thumbsucker" is a poor attempt to re-capture the feeling of a group like Cream.

Of the remaining songs, one stands out as being incredible: "Alisan," an instrumental performed on acoustic 12-string guitar. West's work on this left my jaw dropping the first time I ever heard it, and over a decade later, even after I've been able to figure out a rough translation of the song on guitar, it still is one of the prettiest guitar pieces I've ever heard.

Some of the other tracks on Avalanche either work or they don't, depending on what kind of a day you're having. "You Better Believe It," I seem to remember, was a minor hit off this release, but the last time I listened to it, I couldn't understand why. "Sister Justice" is a surprisingly good track with Pappalardi on vocals (and the hint of keyboards in the song - wonder who supplied those). The closing track, "Last Of The Sunshine Days," is a poor Dr. John knockoff that is supposed to be a tribute to the good Doctor.

There are many reasons why Avalanche didn't work, but the biggest was the fact that the bloom was off the rose for Mountain. After two years apart, there was a musical chasm that had formed, and they weren't able to fill it, much less jump over it. What worked in 1971 wasn't working just three years later - and it doesn't translate that well 24 years later.

Avalanche is worth searching out just for the song "Alisan"; I don't know if it was re-released on any compilation album. Otherwise, this album just served to bury Mountain as people knew them.

Rating: D

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Windfall / Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.