For Your Weekend Listening Pleasure: West, Bruce & Laing Climb the Mountain at Memorial
Back when bootlegs had great album covers
Late-afternoon legal matters yesterday ate into the usual work-week-ending rock-and-roll-and offering. So, then, straight to it via a legendary Swingin' Pig LP digitized for your protection: Leslie West, Jack Bruce and Corky Laing at Memorial Auditorium in downtown Dallas on November 29, 1972. Otherwise known as West, Bruce & Laing -- a sludge-rock three-piece cobbled together from Mountain's rubble and a little spilled Cream. From this faraway distance, at this late date, this well-preserved document sounds perfectly proto -- a misty Mountain hop from the blues-rock of early West-Laing-Felix Pappalardi (not to mention Bruce-Ginger Baker-Eric Clapton) toward the sludge-rock of much mid-'70s "metal." Funky, in other words, as in "wasted."
But for this assignment I defer all judgment to one Josh Alan Friedman, perhaps the biggest fan Leslie West ever had. Herein, a 1982 picture of Josh, West and Laing at the Bottom Line in NYC in '82, when Josh Q&A'd the twosome for High Times. Exactly a decade earlier, he'd been in the Carnegie Hall audience when West, Bruce & Laing played the first of two shows at the historic venue. I asked Josh on Friday to recap the experience:
"It was very disappointing compared to what I was hoping for. It was overblown, egomaniacal rock stars. They were all junkies at the peak of their fame. Pappalardi was out, Jack Bruce is in -- and it's hard to realize now how big Cream was back in those days. They were the biggest stars next to the Beatles, so the idea of Jack Bruce being in Mountain was unbelievable -- jaw-dropping. I was 15, and they came out in a flood of lights and screamed and played like they were smashed. It wasn't bad, but the chemistry wasn't fantastic. They were great moments, but the chemistry wasn't the same as it had been in Mountain, in Cream. And yet they went on for three years -- and the albums weren't good. They'd played themselves out. But keep in mind -- I'm holding them to the highest standards of history. And by that point, hard rock had turned from drunk to junk music."
Bruce disagreed. In 1997, Josh spoke to him as well about the three-year-lasting three-piece for the paper version of Unfair Park.
Although WB&L seemed to be mired in delusions of psychedelic grandeur and excess (they arrived at their Carnegie Hall debut in separate limousines), Bruce differs. "West, Bruce & Laing didn't get the credit it should have. It was very much a trend-setting band," he says, even though he can't recall a single favorite number from the band's three albums.
Within, "Mississippi Queen" and seven others. The final song -- "Love Is Worth the Blues" -- runs 20 minutes, and it's worth almost every second. Says here that Foghat and the Edgar Winter Band opened for West, Bruce & Laing at Memorial. Now, who's got those tapes?
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