Leslie West - Soundcheck
Leslie West is a true survivor. He’s carried on throughout health woes, addiction, and decades of fluctuation in a fickle and often unforgiving music business. If his growling vocals and white hot power chords on the new ‘Soundcheck’ (his 16th solo album) sound like a man on a mission, I believe he is – a mission to get up in everybody’s face! To say, “I’m still here and I’m ready to kick some ass”, which is accomplished immediately upon pressing play.
While the rockers simply level buildings like a hurricane (“Here For The Party”, “Empty Promises/Nothing Sacred”), it’s some of the more subtle tracks where West’s signature guitar tone and vibrato shine the brightest. The blues take on Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” sends that song spiraling back through the decades, both reminiscent of something Robert Johnson would have written, and encapsulating the vibe of a composition that would not have been out of place on Leslie’s first album from 1969. The soft and somewhat mournful rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” is hauntingly beautiful, notable for West’s soulful vocal and slide work, complimented by Peter Frampton on guitar.
There are two songs that are commanding attention on this release, and it’s no wonder. West is joined by Queen guitarist Brian May, and vocalist Bonnie Bramlett, on a ruckus barn-burning run through the Don Nix (Freddie King) classic “Going Down”. The final chapter of this excellent ‘Soundcheck’ is a tribute to West’s former band mate, the late, great, Jack Bruce. This live version of “Spoonful” was recorded in 1988 but only just released now. You’ll swear you’re listening to Cream. Bruce’s vocal and Leslie’s howling leads will make your neck hairs stand up… and salute!