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Setlist: The Very Best of Mountain (Live)

Mountain

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Album Review

Mountain were a thundering live band, channeling Cream through a kind of American heavy metal blender, and at the group's peak between 1969 and 1971, with the classic trio lineup of Leslie West on guitar, Felix Pappalardi on bass, and Corky Laing on drums, they were as good as any hard rock band anywhere. This set collects several live tracks from that period, including two songs Mountain did at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 (with N.D. Smart on drums — Laing replaced him in the band soon after), "Long Red" and "Waiting to Take You Away," a version of "Nantucket Sleighride" from a New Year's Eve show at the Fillmore East in 1970, and a rendition of their biggest hit, "Mississippi Queen," from a show at the Fillmore East in the spring of 1971, all powerful live tracks from a band in its touring prime.

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Reminiscences

Apart from the people at Woodstock, I was one of the relatively few (because of the group's short-lived existence) to hear Mountain in concert. The location was Pittsburgh's Civic Arena sometime around 1970-71. Mountain was the opening act for another band -- I think it was Emerson, Lake and Palmer, but I'm not sure. Mountain made a larger, more lasting impression on me than the other group. The stage, as I recall, was lit in plain white light. The house lights were on for a time when Mountain played. There they were, the larger than life Leslie West, the diminutive Felix Pappalardi, and the intense drummer Corky Laing. I do not recall Steve Knight being there that night, but he may well have been. Mountain was hands down the loudest group--to the point that the decibel level was creating pain my my ears--that I have ever heard. I'll never forget Laing breaking drumsticks with pieces flying 20 feet in the air. I remember thinking at the time what standing in front of that wall of amps was doing to Pappalardi's hearing; he was dwarfed by it. Okay, enough of the reminiscences for a moment. Why buy this album? Because it is the best mix and mastering of Mountain live that I have ever heard over all these years. Mountain live was unbearably loud. Mountain in the studio was a delight. This album offers the spontaneity of hearing Mountain live over 40 years ago with the added and necessary polish that enables one to appreciate it. If you are too young to have been there, or older like me but didn't have the opportunity, this albums takes you back to the day. Like so many rock groups of that era, there is a certain tragic irony associated with group. In attempting to hold on to his youth, in the 80's Pappalardi took up with a much younger woman, though still married to Gail, the wife of his youth. Right to feel betrayed, in an impassioned moment of anger Gail shot Pappalardi in the neck after he returned home one evening from a soiree with his newer and younger flame. She did not call the police for several hours, which resulted in Felix expiring. Not only was it sad because of how it had come about, but Gail Pappalardi had done the extraordinarily interesting and unique art work for Mountain's album covers. She was acquitted of murder (you can read how that came about online) and then disappeared. She has never been heard from again. Corky Laing is still out there. He married a school teacher and lived in northeast Pennsylvania for a time. Leslie West is still a big man, but only a shadow of himself physically. He has had health problems (as so many aging rock stars do) because of the profligate lifestyle he indulged when he was young. Though the seeds of what was Mountain can be seen in him, he never has enjoyed the success that he once had working with Pappalardi. Clearly, it was Felix Pappalardi who had the formal musical training and the creative inspiration to set age old themes to music that spoke to the adolescents of that era. As with Jimi Hendrix (another favorite of mine), I sometimes wonder where Felix Pappalardi, Leslie West, and Corky Laing would be today had things not turned out so bad for Felix and his wife. I suspect that Mountain would be doing polished, professionally choreographed tours (never the case in the day) like other groups. Mountain would at least be known by the sector of this generation that listens to classic rock. Instead, most have never heard of Mountain. This album genuinely escorts the listener back to the day when hard rock was the thing that our parents hated and that we all thought would live on forever. Time, as we have discovered since, is the equalizer of all things great and small. Moments come, thrive for a time, and then pass into an unrecoverable history. This album is an open mic to the past when so-called 'classic' rock was on the cutting edge of musical innovation.

Biography

Formed: 1969 in Long Island, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

The breakup of Cream in late 1968 had consequences that rippled across the rock music world — in its wake were formed directly such bands as Blind Faith (whose tragedy was they never had a chance to actually become a band) and Ginger Baker's Air Force, as well as the rich solo careers of members Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce. And it yielded — by way...
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Setlist: The Very Best of Mountain (Live), Mountain
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