MOUNTAIN-WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEEN.
Mountain-What Might Have Been.
Mountain were the band who could’ve and should’ve become one of the biggest hard rock band of the seven tie but left the field clear for the unholy trinity of hard rock. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple continued to write their way into musical history while Mountain would only play a walk-on part in the history of hard rock. However, things might have been very different.
The Mountain story began in Long Island in 1969, when former Vagrants guitarist Leslie West, decided to form a new band, which would allow him to further hone his sound. Initially, the new band was called Leslie West Mountain, and featured drummer Ken Janick, keyboardist Norman Landsberg and guitarist Leslie West. Initially, the band played which played blues and R&B around Long Island, and quickly became a popular draw on the local live scene. However, Leslie West who was heavily influenced by Cream, soon, became disillusioned with blues and R&B, and preferred the sound of their classic album Disraeli Gears.
When Leslie West looked at Disraeli Gears, he realised there was a familiar face in the credits, Felix Pappalardi. He had produced Leslie West’s first band The Vagrants, and was now producing Cream. This inspired the members of Leslie West Mountain to go and see Cream in concert at the Filmore East.
When the members Leslie West Mountain arrived at the Filmore East, they took all dropped LSD before the curtain rose. Even in their altered state, the members of Leslie West Mountain realised that compared to Cream, they weren’t in the same ballpark as the legendary British power trio. That night, the members of Leslie West Mountain realised that they needed to practise.
That was what they spent the next weeks and months doing. Meanwhile, the British blues bands like Fleetwood Mac and John Mayall Bluesbreakers plus Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton continued to influence American music. So did the British Invasion bands, including The Kinks, Rolling Stones and The Who. They inspired and influenced Leslie West Mountain, and so did the British blues explosion.
Leslie West Mountain wanted to move away from blues and R&B, towards a much heavier, hard rocking sound. This took time and practise, but the band were getting there. Especially when bassist Felix Pappalardi joined the band and became its vocalist. The lineup was almost complete.
Before that, Mountain was asked to play at The Woodstock Music and Art Fair on Saturday, August the ’16th’ 1969. This was only Mountain’s third gig, but when they took to the stage 9:00 pm and played for hour nobody had any idea that the group was in its infancy. Especially as Mountain left the stage at 10:00 pm, having written their name into music history.
The only thing that let Mountain down was their drummer, who was the weak link. Many within the music industry who had run the rule over the band realised this, and eventually, Corky Laing replaced Ken Janick. Mountain’s classic lineup was complete.
With a lineup of drummer Corky Laing, bassist and vocalist Felix Pappalardi, guitarist Leslie West and keyboardist Steve Knight who had replaced Norman Landsberg, Mountain hit the road. The new lineup of Mountain began honing their sound, and Felix Pappalardi was already looking like an inspired choice for frontman.
It was no surprise when blues Mountain signed their first recording contract in late-1969. What was a surprise was it was a small label like Windfall Records. The would release Mountain’s debut album in 1970.
Mountain spent late 1969 and early 1970 recording nine compositions at the Record Plant Studios. The four members of Mountain combined elements of blues rock, hard rock and psychedelic rock on what later became Climbing! It was produced by Felix Pappalardi and released in March the ‘7th’ 1970.
Before that, Mississippi Queen was released as a single in February 1970, and reached twenty-one on the US Billboard 100. Mississippi Queen is now regarded as a classic rock single, and has been covered by many bands. However, Mountain’s original is regarded as the best, and was just the start. However, this wasn’t the end of the commercial success for Mountain.
Meanwhile, Mountain released Climbing!, to widespread critical acclaim and critics praised songs of the quality of Mississippi Queen and Theme For An Imaginary Western. They were part of what was a hugely successful album.
Climbing! charted on the US Billboard 200, and continued to climb until it reached seventeen on the US Billboard 200 in 1970. This was enough for Climbing! to be certified gold. Little did Mountain realise that they had released a rock classic, Climbing!
Buoyed by the success of their debut album, Mountain began work on their debut album Nantucket Sleighride. Eventually, the members of Mountain had written nine new songs including the title-track dedicated Nantucket Sleighride.
It refers to the experience of being towed along in a boat by a harpooned whale, and the song Nantucket Sleighride is was dedicated to Owen Coffin. He was a teenage sailor who was on the whaler Essex when it was rammed by a sperm whale and sank in 1820. After the sinking, Owen Coffin was shot and eaten by his shipmates.
Nantucket Sleighride was joined eight other songs, including Tired Angels a homage to Jimi Hendrix and Travellin’ In The Dark (To EMP), which was written for Felix Pappalardi’s mother Ella. Felix Pappalardi even wrote Taunta (Sammy’s Tune) for his pet poodle. These songs and the rest of the album were recorded at The Record Plant, New York, and were produced by Felix Pappalardi in late 1970.
In January 1971, Nantucket Sleighride was released to plaudits and praise and hailed a classic as Mountain fused blues rock and hard rock with psychedelic rock. Given the critical response to Nantucket Sleighride, things were looking good for Mountain.
The Animal Trainer and The Toad was chosen as the lead single, but stalled at seventy-six in the US Billboard 100 in early 1971. However, Nantucket Sleighride reached sixteen in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Mountain had just enjoyed their most successful album, and after just two albums had sold over a million units. Now they had to build on this.
Flowers Of Evil.
Having just enjoyed two successful studio albums, many groups would’ve stuck to what looked a winning formula and written a third album. However, Mountain decided that the first side of their third album Flowers Of Evil would be recorded in the studio and the second side feature the band live.
Bassist and vocalist Steve Pappalardi played a huge part in the writing of the first side of Flowers Of Evil. He wrote King’s Chorale and cowrote Flowers Of Evil with David Rea. The other three songs, One Last Cold Kiss, Crossroader and the epic Pride and Passion were penned by Steve Pappalardi and his wife Gail Collins. These songs were recorded at The Record Plant, New York, and produced by Mountain during September 1971. They were joined on side two by two tracks that featured Mountain live.
Mountain had played the Filmore East, on September 1971, where the recorded the twenty-five minute suite ream Sequence. It sounds as it it’s been inspired by Cream, as Mountain improvise their way through what was their live Magnus Opus. A guitar solo from Leslie West gives way to a cover of Roll Over Beethoven, Dreams Of Milk and Honey, Variation and Swan Theme. During the four-part suite, Leslie West unleashes blistering guitar licks and vocalist Steve Pappalardi channels the spirit of Robert Plant. It’s a potent and heady brew, and gets even better as Mountain’s theme tune Mississippi Queen closes the set on a high,
Flowers Of Evil was released in November 1971, and found favour with critics. They were won over by an album where Mountain successfully combined blues rock and hard rock with psychedelic rock in the studio and on the stage. Buoyed by the critical response to Flowers Of Evil, Mountain watched with interest as the album.
When Flowers Of Evil was released the album reached just thirty-one in the US Billboard 200. While this was ordinarily a respectable chart placing, it was a disappointment for Mountain whose first two albums had been certified gold. However, there was always the next time for Mountain.
Mountain Live: The Road Goes Ever On.
After the release of Flowers Of Evil, Mountain headed out on tour, and the latest stop in their schedule was Britain. It was another successful tour for Mountain, who on their return home, were about to spring a surprise.
In February 1972, Mountain was no more after the band announced their intention to split-up. They had been together just three years and released three albums which sold in excess of one million copies in America alone. Mountain, it seemed, were bowing out while they were at the top.
Although Mountain wanted to call time on their career, Windfall Records had other ideas. They scheduled the release of another live album for April 1972.
This was Mountain Live: The Road Goes Ever On, which takes its title from JRR Tolkien’s 1937 novel The Hobbit. Mountain Live: The Road Goes Ever On featured four tracks that were recorded between 1969 and 1972.
Long Red and Waiting To Take You Away which Mountain recorded at The Woodstock Music and Art Fair on Saturday, August the ’16th’ 1969. Although this was only Mountain’s third gig, they sound a much experienced band. These two songs hinted at what was to come from Mountain.
This included Crossroader which featured on their 1971 sophomore album Nantucket Sleighride. Mountain recorded this live version in January 1972. Crossroader features a much tighter and more versatile group than the one that took to the stage at The Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
Mountain kept the best until last on Mountain Live: The Road Goes Ever On, and close the album with an eighteen minute version of Nantucket Sleighride that was recorded at The Academy Of Music, New York, on December the ’14th’ 1971. It’s a genre-melting epic where Mountain improvise and transform what started life as a six-minute song into an eighteen minute epic as Mountain bowed out on a high.
Just like their three previous albums, Mountain Live: The Road Goes Ever On was well received by critics. It was a hard rocking album where Mountain switch between and combine blues rock, hard rock and psychedelic. It was another potent and heady brew from Mountain.
Sadly, when Mountain Live: The Road Goes Ever On was released in April 1972, it reached just sixty-three in the US Billboard 200. This meant that Mountain Live: The Road Goes Ever On was Mountain’s last successful.
Mountain Live: The Road Goes Ever On is also Mountain’s most underrated album and is a hidden gem in their discography. BGO Records’ recent remastered reissue of Flowers Of Evil and Mountain Live: The Road Goes Ever On as a two CD set, is a welcome one, previously, record companies have focused on Mountain’s first two albums. However, there’s more to Mountain than just two albums.
While Climbing! and Nantucket Sleighride are regarded as classic albums, all too often the other two albums released by the classic lineup of Mountain are overlooked.Flowers Of Evil showcases a tight, versatile and hard rocking band in the studio and on the stage. Their swan-song Mountain Live: The Road Goes Ever On, documents Mountains’s three year career in just four songs. Mountain came a long way in just three years since they took to the stage at The Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Sadly, Flowers Of Evil brought the curtain down on Mountain’s career and by February 1972, when they announced that they had split-up.
Just like many groups, Mountain’s couldn’t resist a comeback, and reformed in 1973 band returned with their fifth album Avalanche in November 1974. It featured the debut of guitarist David Perry, who replaced keyboardist Steve Knight. However, Avalanche stalled at a lowly 102 in the US Billboard 200, and bassist and vocal Steve Pappalardi left Mountain for good. After this, this Mountain split for the second time.
That was the last that was heard of Mountain when they reunited in Leslie West and Corky Laing reformed Mountain, with ex-Savoy Brown guitarist Miller Anderson and bassist Keef Hartley). Mountain’s lineup changed in 1984 when Miller Anderson was replaced by Mark Clarke who was a member of Mountain when the group recorded Go For Your Life. It was released in March 1985 and stalled at a lowly 166. This was a long way from Mountain’s first two albums which were certified gold. Not long after the release of Go For Your Life Mountain split-up once more, and nothing was heard of the band for seven years.
Nothing was heard of Mountain until 1992 when Leslie West and Corky Laing decided to reform the band. The pair tried several different lineups before Mark Clarke returned, and in 1996 and Mountain recorded and released Man’s World which failed to chart. This was a first for Mountain, and in 1998 Mountain split-up again until 2001.
After reforming in 2001, Mountain released their comeback album Mystic Fire. Just like Man’s World, Mystic World failed to chart, and it was five years before Mountain returned with a new album in 2007.
That was Masters Of War, an album of Bob Dylan cover versions. Sadly, history repeated itself when Masters Of War failed to chart, and that was the last studio album Mountain released. They continued to play live until 2010, when Mountain played what proved to be their final live show. It was the end of an era.
After forty-one years, fallouts, comebacks and eight studio albums Mountain were no more. The band that could’ve rivalled Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. However, Mountain released two classics Climbing! and Nantucket Sleighride which are both underrated albums and a reminder of Mountain’s glory days.
Mountain-What Might Have Been.