Leslie West has gained fame the world over during his 30-plus year career as one of the most innovative and influential musicians in the history of rock music. He is most noted for his role as leader of the explosive hard rock trio, Mountain, which was named by VH-1 as one of the Top 100 Hard Rock Groups of all time.
Originally released in 1989 on IRS' Illegal Records imprint, Leslie West's Alligator seemed then and still seems now, as evidenced by this straight reissue from Voiceprint Records, to be mostly West treading water. He plays some hot guitar here, of course, but then not as much as one might like, and he sings a lot here, too, perhaps more than one might like. It all adds up to a rather ho hum album without a single track that really takes your head off, although the flashy "Hall of the Mountain King/Theme from Exodus" mini-suite sure aims for sonic decapitation, as does the screeching "Whiskey" (featuring bass by Stanley Clarke), and West's cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You" is certainly atmospheric enough, but in the end it all seems more like cage rattling than a substantial musical statement. Stick to the early Mountain records for West at his best.
Altoist Phil Woods took a rare vacation from playing with his regular group to collaborate with pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist George Mraz and drummer Kenny Washington on this fine straight-ahead quartet date. The 13 selections are fairly concise (clocking in between 3-7 minutes apiece) and most of the material (other than "Canadian Sunset," "Yours Is My Heart Alone," "Blue and Sentimental" and Bill Evans' classic "Waltz for Debby") consists of either obscurities or recent originals. A special bonus is that Woods plays his appealing clarinet on three numbers. Highlights include "Charles Christopher" (a tribute to Charlie Parker), "Butter" and Hal Galper's "Just Us."