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(Prologue Records/Mascot Label Group)
Release Date: 20th November 2015

tony conley
Tony Conley

leslie west soundcheck

"On my tombstone, it should read, 'Leslie West: It's Neither Major Nor Minor.'" - Leslie West

Over the last eight years, Leslie West has delivered four excellent, excellent albums, and he continues to ratchet it up with 'Soundcheck', an album that manages to hit everything on the menu of what you want from Leslie West.

There are not as many original tunes as we've got used to seeing, but the covers are all done with great taste, and some damned good creative change making on some classic numbers. Believe me, 'Soundcheck' is what you came for from Leslie West.

I think this album sees the definitive version of Leslie's recorded guitar playing and legendary tone. I know he's not out to sell a textbook, but if you were looking to buy one, this would be a great purchase.

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And it's not just tone and technique - his note placement and choice of notes has never sounded better, and he's still progressing as a musician with each release, how many guys can say that at the tender young age of 69?

As impressive as that may seem, it's his singing that continues to astound me. He's gone way back to his rhythm and blues dreams with his early band, The Vagrants, and he is now the soul singer he may have wanted to emulate in his developing days as a vocalist.

When I heard what he did to the standard, 'You Are My Sunshine', I got goosebumps. The whole arrangement is sublime, painted in rich brushstrokes and pluckings of minor hues, and Peter Frampton plays marvellously as the two masters throw the solos back and forth.

Frampton is playing with a bit of echo or delay on his sweet, thick tone, while West is playing the wickedly sweet slide with a tone that could be used as a definition for quality, but again, it's what he plays that is so stunning. He's definitely hearing things very vocally these days, and we're the lucky ones.

Another huge treat is a previously unreleased 8:17 version of Willie Dixon's 'Spoonful' that sees Leslie, Jack Bruce, and Joe Franco doing their very best Cream imitation:

Leslie West: "As you can hear, I was trying to reincarnate myself into Eric Clapton! The first time I listened to Jack's voice and the tone of the bass on the recording, I had tears in my eyes. I loved Jack so much."

In a very different direction, West displays his affection for the acoustic guitar on his tribute to his great friend Howard Stern, 'A Stern Warning' - this is a long lost now found sibling for West's twelve string outing 'To My Friend' that saw birth on Mountain's 'Climbing!' album in 1970, and it certainly displays how West has matured as a composer, guitarist, and as a musician over the years. He has managed to constantly fine tune his musicianship in a way that few ever do, because it sure isn't easy. The guy inspires the shit out of me, to put it as plainly as I know how.

I swear to you, I never wanted to hear Ben E. King's classic, 'Stand By Me', but I'm telling you, you have to hear this version of 'Stand By Me', no, really, I'm telling you to buy this record. You get something of value, and a guy gets paid for a lifetime of work.

When I heard the female vocalist duetting with West, I was trying hard to place a voice that I was pretty sure I hadn't heard before. Turns out it's sixteen year old Ariela Pizza, the daughter of West's longtime friend and occasional songwriting partner, Joe.

I'm guessing that this young woman has been a singing for a lot of lifetimes, and she is a very pure, natural, and beautiful voice like the best of the folk singers of the early seventies, a high-water mark for the style. Her vibrato is pure honey, I can't wait to see where she's heading musically. West's acoustic accompaniment and Rev Jones's subtle bass underpinnings are wonderful.

West and producer/engineer Mike "Metal" Goldberg have done a really great job of getting the sounds that were happening in the studio down onto disc. This might be my favourite album for guitar sounds that I've heard from Leslie yet, and he's been getting great sounds forever, but this time he captured the very essence of the playing.

They've also done stellar work with West's vocals - there's no straining to hear a single nuance, and his tone is as precise and emotional as his guitar playing.

I always enjoy Leslie's rearrangements of other people's work, and wait until you hear what he's done with the Tracy Chapman nugget, 'Give Me One Reason' which he dresses up as a soulful slab of genuine blues rock.

The genre of blues rock has been so traditionally abused that I approach it with distrust and suspicion until I hear it done by a guy like Leslie West. He's close to being the fourth King brother on this one, and he can work out title with Mr. Gibbons, his only real competitor at what they do to my way of thinking.

'Goin' Down' is another number that has been pretty well worn over the years, and I suspect that Mr. West knows that, so I congratulate him and Goldberg for the stellar cast onboard to breathe new life into Don Nix's most famous song. Maybe for the next album they can dust off Nix's other masterpiece, "Black Cat Moan" off and take it out for a ride on their next album. It never hurts to hope, right?

Anyways, back to the roster for this one. You've got Max Middleton reprising his classic intro from the best known version of the song on The Jeff Beck Group album from 1972, Bobby Whitlock from Derek & The Dominoes on the organ, Muscle Shoal's David Hood on bass, and some deft soloing from Queen's man Brian May from the 2:38 point on. Then you throw in a little harmonizing from Bonnie Bramlett, and there you have it.

So, Leslie West has done it again. He's leaned right in, taken another full swing, and put it over the fence. I don't know exactly how he does it, but I do know that he indeed does.

He keeps inching up his considerable musical skills, and combines them with a heart that feels every beat, and deeply, even if he may try to laugh it off and deny it. The man is as true a blues man as there has ever been, because he does it for real.

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Wacken Winter Nights 2018 takes place between February 23rd and 25th 2018 and the great news is that you can now experience a full-on, top class German Metal Festival easily and affordably.

It only takes an hour to fly to Hamburg from London and we've had longer journeys than that within the capital and they were certainly more expensive than the £33 air ticket that just appeared in our 'flights to Wacken Winter Nights' search.


Wacken Winter Nights is organised by the same team who are responsible for the world's greatest Metal festival, Wacken-Open-Air and the 2018 bill includes Skyclad, Orphaned Land, Elvenking, Finntroll, Grave Digger, Aeverium, Comes Vagantes, Coppelius, Corvus Corax, Die Pressgëng, Elvellon, Heimataerde, Hell-O-Matic, Ignis Fatuu, Ingrimm, Irdorath, Johnny Deathshadow, Krayenzeit, Letzte Instanz, Mr Hurley und die Pulveraffen, Pampatut, Pat Razket, Schandmaul, Sündenrausch, The Aberlour's, The Moon And The Nightspirit, Torfrock, Visions Of Atlantis, Vroudenspil, Wind Rose and more.

Besides this rich billing of superb Metal bands, there is so much more to see in the festival area including the medieval market and also the walking acts and jugglers you will meet at the theme worlds, including Robert Blake, three-time World Cup winner of street magic.

Wacken Winter Nights is something not to be missed and you can check out the amazing ticket and accommodation prices right here.

We just priced up the whole four day trip with hotels, flights, shuttles and festival tickets for less than £300 and we don't think you will get a better value festival than that, anywhere.


MetalTalk recently sat down with Wacken founder and owner Thomas Jensen and that interview will be online next week and it's a fascinating insight into how Wacken originated from nothing to become the world's premiere Heavy Metal event.


Wacken 2018 takes place from 2nd to 4th August 20218 and as with Wacken Winter Nights, if you have never experienced all it has to offer, then you owe it to yourself to remedy that.

Already announced for Wacken 2018 are Judas Priest, Nightwish, Running Wild (exclusive), Arch Enemy, Dirkschneider, Doro (Special Anniversary Show), In Extremo, Sepultura, Amorphis, Amaranthe, Firewind, W.A.R., Belphegor, Mantar, Knorkator, Deserted Fear, Watain, Night Demon, Epica, Knorkator, Belphegor, Firewind, Deserted Fear and many more and we'll have more Wacken 2018 announcements during December.

As well as being the greatest Heavy Metal festival in the world, it is without a doubt the Mecca of Metal and the one thing that every single person who loves our music should have on their bucket list.

For 2018, MetalTalk have joined forces with Wacken-Open-Air to help you get to Wacken easily and inexpensively and you can peruse the ticket and travel options right here.

If you are interested in going to Wacken 2018 and have questions, please fill out the form below and we will contact you with answers to all your enquiries. You are under no obligation whatsoever by filling this form out. We won't add you to any mailing lists or send you loads of spam - all we will do is help you get to Wacken as easily and inexpensively as possible.



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