Leslie West has been sort of a one-trick pony in his 30-plus years as a rocker. But when that trick is one of the smoothest, most fluid and violin-like vibratos around, when its amped up to eleven 11 through a Marshall stack, and when the personality attached is so completely in your face, it becomes hard to ignore.
West was fortunate enough to be associated with some talented musicians, and he had a few hits with the band, Mountain. He makes a living in the music biz, which is more than a lot can say.
For whatever reason, West’s playing style has never been analyzed beyond a couple of interview articles in old, dog-eared Guitar Player magazines. However, now he has released a video where he not only provides some of the keys to his sound, but also gives some background to how some of the early songs were developed. Although professionally shot, the production is very laid back – almost as if they put Leslie in the studio and waited to see what would happen.
It’s a casual approach that works only part of the time. Fortunately, there are cuts to some older footage of West performing live, and a few moments when an inspired (former) Great Fatsby breaks into song while demonstrating licks to make up for the slower parts. But he doesn’t spend much time discussing his amazing vibrato. Apparently, it’s pretty easy when you’ve been doing it for over three decades.
If you like Leslie, you’ll probably like this video. If you aren’t sure, then wait for him to come to your local club on his next tour and see what you think. It, and lots more Leslie West material, is available at windfallmusic.com. A DVD of live Mountain music is in the works for Christmas release.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.