An interesting aspect of the “rerelease everything we can get our paws on” CD era is the opportunity to hear music from the past with fresh ears. Some of it sounds about the same as it did back in the day, some of it has grown, and some has, um, diminished.
I opened the new reissue of The Best of Mountain with no little anticipation, as I vividly remember buying the record back in ’73 when I was deeply in the thrall of power rock, and “Mississippi Queen” was an exemplar of the form.
Upon relistening, “Mississippi Queen” still rocks the rectum with crushing, plodding authority: beefy singer/guitarist Leslie West (dude was a mountain range unto himself) double-tracked the avalanche power chords and the stinging accompanying lead while growling out a salacious tribute to the lubricious damsel of the title – and you gotta love that cowbell.
While “Mississipi Queen” is an apex of the power trio format (with Cream-producer Felix Pappalardi on bass, and Corky Laing on drums), the rest of the collection is either second or third rate “Mississippi Queen”-redux, or Felix Pappalardi’s more melodic, keyboard-based tuneage.
Pappalardi’s “Nantucket Sleighride” (pop quiz – Eric: “What is a Nantucket Sleighride?” Dawn: “I don’t know, leave me the hell alone”) somehow mashes together the band’s two styles into a successful hybrid, with light, almost lilting verses and power-thrashing choruses, but Pappalardi’s gentle tenor is too nondescript to carry his other tunes and West’s gritty bray doesn’t hold up all that well to repeated listening either.
It’s not really bad, it’s just not nearly as good as I remembered – to paraphrase Paul Simon, some things are better left to sweet imagination and Mountain is one of those things.
In a tragic sidenote, Pappalardi was murdered by his wife and songwriting partner Gail Collins in 1983. Oh, and a Nantucket Sleighride occurred when whalers harpooned a whale and were dragged all over the North Atlantic in a small boat – not a very PC activity these days.