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Music DVD Review: Mountain – Live In Paris

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Mountain was unofficially formed in 1969 when guitarist Leslie West and former Cream producer, and unofficial band member, Felix Pappalardi teamed up to produce West's first solo album titled Mountain. Many still categorize that as the debut Mountain album since West, Pappalardi and drummer N.D. Smart toured under the name Mountain shortly after the album's release. Amazingly, the band's fourth live gig was performed at Woodstock, but they did not make it on the official film or album recordings of that monumental festival.

Heavily influenced by the psychedelic blues-rock sounds of Cream, they were often dubbed as the poor man's Cream, although they went on to forge their own harder-edged sound. In 1970 Smart was replaced by Corky Laing, and Steve Knight was added as keyboard player for the recording of Mountain's actual debut album, Climbing! This album reached the top 20 of the U.S. album charts and produced a top-40 hit with "Mississippi Queen," which helped to make them a major concert draw up until their initial breakup in 1972.

Live In Paris was recorded at the Palais Omnisports in Paris, France on July 8 & 9, 1985 during Mountain's tour promoting their recent album Go For Your Life. Tragically, Felix Pappalardi had been shot and killed by his own wife two years prior to this release. West and Laing decided to regroup with British bassist Mark Clarke. For this particular European tour, Mountain were serving as opening act for Deep Purple who were on the heels of their monstrous reunion tour featuring the famous MKII lineup.

This is a very short set, featuring only six songs, although "Nantucket Sleighride" goes on for nearly 20 minutes. I doubt that anything was not included from the actual set they played, since they were the opening act and a 50-minute set is pretty respectable. The show kicks off surprisingly with the West, Bruce & Laing number "Why Don't Cha," which is from their 1973 album of the same name. The concert was filmed for German TV, and each of the songs is introduced with big white song titles along the bottom of the screen.

By the middle of the second song "Never in My Life," the band is having a blast up on stage, with Laing flipping his drumsticks at West who in turn catches them and flips them behind his back into the crowd – never missing a beat either. "Theme From an Imaginary Western", which West dedicates to Pappalardi, slows things down a bit next, as Clarke and West share the lead vocals that were originally sung so well by Pappalardi. He sounded strikingly similar to the song's composer, Jack Bruce. Clarke and West do not really do the song justice vocally, and Clarke also plays the organ part on some horrible sounding synthesizer that in no way resembled Steve Knight's excellent Hammond organ performance on the original album version.

"Spark" was the sole song performed from the new Go For Your Life album, and the synthesizer sound on this one reminded me of one of those little toy Casio keyboards – and I actually liked Loverboy back in the day. The song was actually pretty good, but the chorus section sounded like a blatant rip-off of "Tobacco Road."

A stunning 20 minute rendition of "Nantucket Sleighride," which features an incredible drum solo from Laing, and some wonderful guitar meanderings from the big man, help to keep this DVD from being completely dispensable. Saturday Night Live's "more cowbell" skit may have poked hilarious fun at Blue Öyster Cult's use of that infamous instrument, but Mountain proves here that they did it first. During the intro to "Mississippi Queen" a roadie wheels out a five-foot high cowbell prop to the center of the stage, and Laing proceeds to knock out the opening part of the song using a giant three foot long drumstick.

The production quality of this DVD is certainly nothing to get excited about. The only audio option available is Dolby Digital stereo and it sounds pretty much like what a 1985 VHS recording of this show might have sounded like. Not terrible, but nothing special. The video transfer is of similar quality. The stage was not particularly well lit during Mountain's performance, so the picture is fairly dark and lacking of much detail and color, but considering its age, it still looks decent enough to be enjoyable.

There were no special features included on the DVD, which is a big disappointment considering that the main feature is barely 50 minutes long. This DVD is still obviously a "must get" for any true Mountain fan, just for the historical significance, but I would not pay more than discount pricing since the content is so sorely lacking.

This is certainly not the same Mountain who were filling arenas 15 years prior. Clarke doesn't quite match the musicianship and stage presence of Pappalardi, and West's vocals during this performance make his famously gruff singing on each of those studio albums sound like Barry Manilow at times. However, his guitar playing was definitely still a wonder to behold though, as you will just not find a more raw and powerful guitar tone around than that of Leslie West.

Set List
1. Why Dontcha
2. Never In My Life
3. Theme From An Imaginary Western
4. Spark
5. Nantucket Sleighride
6. Mississippi Queen

Performance 6/10
Production 5/10

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