Leslie West is set to releases his album Still Climbing in 2013 via Provogue Records / Mascot Label Group.
Originality, excitement, honesty and survival are all part of what makes a legend, and those qualities ripple through every song on the album. It's a testimonial to the strength and durability of West's artistry. Born October 22, 1945, as he approaches his 68th birthday, West has packed some of the most soulful and searing vocal performances of his half-century career into these 11 tracks. His guitar has never sounded more massive or riff-orientated.
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 Johnny Winter on duelling 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 long-time buddy Dee Snider (Twisted Sister) trade vocal lines.
West has always been an outstanding vocalist, earning comparisons to soul legends like Otis Redding since his 1969 debut Mountain, which gave his historic band its name. On Still Climbing West revisits the catalogue of another classic soul man, Percy Sledge, with the enduring When a Man Loves a Woman. He's joined by now 32 year-old soul man Jonny Lang, who he met 15 years ago when Lang was a rising guitar prodigy. West says they cut the tune side-by-side in the studio, their soaring guitars and voices twining to bring fresh blood and a blues-soaked arrangement to the song.
When a Man Loves a Woman, Never Let Me Go and Fade Into You explore a romantic theme. In 2009 West married his wife Jenni, who co-wrote many of Still Climbing's songs with the guitar giant.
Balls, guts, heart - more words that are part of West's legend and describe the roaring crescendos and deep emotional roots of Still Climbing - and West himself. You know, when it comes to talent, we don't all move at the same rate of speed, West muses. Some people start at the top of their game and after 10 or 20 years you wonder what the hell happened to them. I like to joke that the older I get the better I used to be, but after giving up drugs and smoking, my voice can hit notes that I never could reach before. I'm thankful for that.
1. Dyin' Since The Day I Was Born (With special guest Mark Tremonti)
2. Busted, Disgusted or Dead (With special guest Johnny Winter)
3. Fade Into You
4. Not Over You At All
5. Tales Of Woe
6. Feeling Good (with special guest Dee Snider)
7. Hatfield or McCoy
8. When A Man Loves A Woman (With special guest Jonny Lang)
9. Long Red
10. Don't Ever Let Me Go (With special guest Dylan Rose)
11. Rev Jones Time (Somewhere Over The Rainbow)