Leslie West will release a new album, Still Climbing, October 29 via Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group.
“This record is a sequel to Unusual Suspects, where I had friends of mine that include Slash, Zakk Wylde, Steve Lukather, Joe Bonamassa and Billy Gibbons come to the studio and play,” West says. This time, Jonny Lang, Johnny Winter, Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider and Alter Bridge/Creed’s Mark Tremonti do the honors.
“What’s different on Still Climbing is that I wanted my guitars to sound as big as I look. So I used four of my Dean signature model guitars with my Mountain of Tone humbucking pickups. I plugged them into my Blackstar amps — no pedals — and turned them up loud and raw, and what you hear is exactly what I did in the studio. These Blackstar amps deliver everything I need without ‘confidence’ pedals. I played one of the early tracks we recorded for Slash, and he said, ‘That is as heavy as it gets.’”
Still Climbing is co-produced by West and Mike “Metal” Goldberg, who engineered all of the sessions. Songs like “Dyin’ Since The Day I Was Born,” “Hatfield or McCoy,” and “Busted, Disgusted or Dead” establish a new litmus test for “heavy.” The latter features West and Winter on dueling slide guitars.
West also gave up smoking cigarettes and pot after a bout with bladder cancer, so it’s no wonder many of Still Climbing’s numbers explore the theme of survival and, ultimately, triumph. To that end, West avows, “Not only am I lucky to be here, but because I stopped smoking my voice is now stronger than it’s ever been — as strong as my guitar playing.”
His inclusion of “Feeling Good,” a song by British actor-musician Anthony Newley that was made famous by Steve Winwood’s group Traffic, is a testimonial to all of that. Its lyrics celebrate a “new dawn for me” as West and his longtime buddy Dee Snider trade vocal lines.
“Being in Mountain was one of the most satisfying things I have ever done in my professional life,” West says. “I became a musician, not just a guitar player. Being in the group with Felix Pappalardi was an honor, who was so talented as a producer, arranger, bass player, guitar player, and all the things I aspired to be. We had some great years together, and some rocky roads. His wife Gail, who by the way shot and killed Felix, could suck the fun out of a clown. It left a terrible taste in my mouth about working with my wife, Jenni. I did not want to risk going down that path where your wife was involved in every aspect of your musical life. Jenni has become so good at expressing thoughts to paper, she has become my primary collaborator on the lyrical side of my new recordings.”
For more about West, visit his Facebook page.