The Best of Mountain
First Appeared at The Music Box, May 2003, Volume 10, #5
Written by John Metzger
Felix Pappalardi initially embarked upon a career in classical music, but after graduating from the University of Michigan, he was unable to find work as a conductor. Instead, he found himself immersed in the folk music scene thriving within Greenwich Village, where he connected with The Youngbloods, Joan Baez, and Tim Hardin. However, it was Pappalardiís work with Cream that truly put him on the map. He produced three of the bandís four studio albums, as well as its two posthumously released concert recordings. Not to mention, he his wife Gail Collins co-wrote the mega-hit Strange Brew with Eric Clapton.
The quick demise of Cream left a hole within the market, and Pappalardi wasted little time in filling it. In 1968, he had produced an album for The Vagrants, a local favorite in New York City that featured young guitar phenom Leslie West. After The Vagrants disbanded, Pappalardi produced Westís first solo outing Mountain. The collaboration wound up working so well that the duo went on to form a band of the same name.
Much like Cream, Mountain featured a hard, edgy blues-inspired sound. It also had a similarly short lifespan, lasting for just three albums. There were subsequent reformations that spawned both tours and recordings, but none came close to capturing the power and the magic of the initial incarnation. Itís no surprise then that these three albums, plus Westís solo outing, form the basis for the recently expanded and remastered release of The Best of Mountain. Indeed itís hard to imagine needing anything more than this fine set, which includes more than half of the groupís classic Climbing! and is rounded out properly with the bandís other notable tracks, plus two selections from Westís solo debut.
Most people will be familiar with the heady thunder of Mississippi Queen as well as Never in My Life ó both of which are classic staples of FM radio. Nevertheless, there are numerous other moments quite worthy of remembrance too. The gentle beauty of Taunta (Sammyís Tune) gives way to Nantucket Sleighride, a majestically crunchy art-rock excursion; Donít Look Around is a scorching powerhouse rocker; For Yasgurís Farm fondly reflects upon the legendary Woodstock Festival; Dreams of Milk and Honey is pure Cream-fueled fury; and a cover of Jack Bruceís cinematic Theme for an Imaginary Western is turned hauntingly poetic without losing any of Mountainís typically heavy sound. Indeed, Mountain is the bridge that links Cream with later acts such as Foghat and Bad Company. As such, it pales in comparison to its predecessor, but towers mightily over its followers. Itís all just a matter of perspective.
The Best of Mountain is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box