PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Mountain: The Best of Mountain [remastered with bonus tracks]

Adam Williams

Mountain

The Best of Mountain [remastered with bonus tracks]

Label: Legacy
US Release Date: 2003-04-15
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Ask most people about Mountain and the reply will usually be "'Mississippi Queen', right?" While accurate, the response is wholly incomplete as Mountain merits recognition for far more than one song. Unfortunately, history has all but forgotten about Mountain's appearance at Woodstock and the fine music the group generated in its brief career. The fact remains that guitarist Leslie West, bassist Felix Pappalardi, and drummer Corky Laing were a potent musical force in the early '70s, one that furthered the driving rock sound employed by Cream, and later Ted Nugent and Nazareth.

If Mountain can be described by only one word, it would be heavy. From West's brutal guitar work to Pappalardi and Laing's pounding rhythm section, there was nothing delicate about the band's approach. Their songs had the subtlety of a street fight, yet incorporated remarkably high levels of musicianship and tonal quality. While "Mississippi Queen" is Mountain's most notable hit, it remains but one song from a pool of excellent material. Fortunately, the remastered release of The Best of Mountain (with bonus tracks) highlights some of the band's finest work, thus giving credit where it is long overdue.

Each one of the album's 16 tracks adds to defining Mountain's legacy. The songs "Never in My Life", "For Yasgur's Farm", and "Don't Look Around" showcase West's underrated guitar skills, as they personify quintessential '70s hard rock riffing. Additionally, "Boys in the Band" and "Dreams of Milk and Honey" allow West to display his penchant for blues drenched heaviness as both tracks bear uncanny likenesses to vintage Cream; (not unexpected as Pappalardi had served as Cream's producer in his pre-Mountain days).

Although often regarded as a power trio, Mountain did incorporate superb keyboard work into its songs. "King's Chorale" and the six minute opus "Nantucket Sleighride (To Owen Coffin)" are such examples as each is anchored by a soaring organ, affording West the opportunity to explore the outer limits of his guitar's potential as Pappalardi and Laing dutifully follow. The potent keyboard is also present in "Long Red" (from West's 1969 solo album Mountain) as it is underscored by a precision military drum march, giving this album a genuine period piece from over thirty years ago.

A cover of Chuck Berry's "Roll over Beethoven", and the tracks "The Animal Trainer and the Toad" and "Travelin' in the Dark (To E.M.P.)" evidence Mountain's ability to plug in and play without any pretension whatsoever. Similarly, the song "Crossroader" maintains a distinct spontaneity to its sound, as well as a howling rock bluesiness reminiscent of prime Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The inclusion of "Mississippi Queen" is a given; the remastered version polishes the trademark cowbell and features West's guitar at its down and dirty best. Improved clarity gives the track increased nastiness, making it even more noteworthy as Mountain's signature calling card. As memorable as this song is, it is surprisingly outshined by two lesser-known compositions. "Silver Paper" from 1970's Mountain Climbing! is nothing short of musical perfection: Powerful vocals, solid rhythms, vibrant keyboarding, all wringed by West's razor sharp fretwork. It is without question this collection's second most beautiful song.

The highlight of The Best of Mountain comes by way of the Jack Bruce penned "Theme for an Imaginary Western". The artistry of this song elevates it to a different level, one that transcends mere rock music. It is one of those rare gems (similar to Hendrix' "1983�(A Merman I Should Turn to Be)") that can only be described as majestic and needs to be repeatedly played to appreciate the full extent of its grandeur. If nothing else, the track proves Mountain's momentary brilliance as a creative entity.

For musical aficionados and historians alike, The Best of Mountain provides an important compliment to their respective collections. Overlooked and under appreciated by much of the musical mainstream, Mountain remains one of the '70s pioneers in heavy rock and roll. While never mentioned in the same context as Zeppelin, et al., the group's brief career and limited output should not diminish any of its accomplishments. Mountain endures three decades after its demise simply because it was, and continues to be that good.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.