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Masters of War

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve always greatly admired Bob Dylan’s songwriting. I’ve not always been so impressed with his musical performances. That means that I tend to think that his songs reach their full apex of power and majesty in the hands of others. Considering how much respect I have for Leslie West and Mountain in terms of old school hard rock, it was with great excitement that I discovered their new disc of Dylan covers. I was definitely not disappointed upon listening to the CD. This thing just plain rocks. West and the guys bring in guests on a couple tracks (Warren Haynes and Ozzy Osbourne) for good effect, but really the key to this disc is Mountain’s stellar performance and Bob Dylan’s exceptional song writing. This is a must have for fans of Mountain, Dylan or hard rock in general. It’s probably going to make my list of ten best albums of the year – yes, it’s that good.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 4 at

Track by Track Review
Masters of War
Slow and bluesy, this thing just plain rocks out great. Leslie West and Ozzy Osbourne’s vocals are simply awesome here. I can’t imagine a better way to start this off. The whole picture is stellar from the guitar sound, the arrangement and the vocal presence. This is a new hard rock classic and arguably the best version of this track I’ve ever heard. The contrast between Leslie West’s vocals and Osbourne’s shows them just about a perfect counterbalance.
Serve Somebody
We get an almost metallic take on a blues slide guitar sound on the intro to this one. West’s vocals come in over the top of this backdrop with little other accompaniment at first. They power this up as they move forward into a smoking powered up version of the its central themes. Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers, Government Mule) joins West on guitar duties on this one. This is another killer track.
Blowin' In The Wind (Heavy)
Here we get a more faithful, acoustic guitar based rendition of the track on the early verses. They power it out to an electrified, stomping powerhouse as they move it forward. . It closes with a brief reprise of the central musical themes in acoustic mode.
Everything is Broken
The way this comes in, you’d think you were listening to some bluesy late 1970’s metal album. As they transition out into the song proper it becomes classic Mountain. I’d have to say that this song is particularly well suited to Mountain’s sound and it’s one of the best tracks on the disc. This thing just plain rocks.
Highway 61 Revisited
Drums and a weird noisy guitar sound leads this off. As they move into the verse it consists of drums with the vocals coming in over the top. There’s no other accompaniment here except bursts of guitar at the end of the lines. The song carries through in this general style, but there are some short sections of guitar in between verses. The one complaint about this is a little looped vocal section that comes across as a bit too hip-hop in style. This is just a brief section, though, and doesn’t really take away from this cut. A cool chopping, grind takes it later that reminds me a bit of Hendrix at times.
This Heart of Mine
A pretty ballad-like approach makes up this track, and that motif serves as a good change of pace.
Subterranean Homesick Blues
I love what they’ve done with this one. I’ve always enjoyed the song, but Mountain turns it almost metal with some killer guitar textures. This is definitely another highlight of the album – and as good as this stuff is, that says a lot. This turns really heavy for the guitar solo segment.
The Times They Are A-Changin’
Here they use a bluesy down home sound with echoes of gospel. The motif makes it a rather faithful interpretation, and they do add in some cool guitar work later, but overall this one doesn’t work as well as some of the other stuff.
Seven Days
We’re back into the hard rocking modes on this killer jam. It’s not as bluesy or crunchy as some of the other stuff here, but it’s quite a smoker, anyway. West puts in some of his most impassioned vocals on this one. It’s another highlight of the disc.
Mr. Tambourine Man
One of the most metallic guitar sounds of the whole disc leads this off. The intro here is one of the longest of the discs. While their harder edged rendition of this is good, it just doesn’t blow me away like some of the other stuff here. That said, it’s more a reflection of how strong the other tunes are than any weakness here.
Like A Rolling Stone
This cut is performed as a drum solo with Corky Lang providing both the percussion and vocals in a solo rendition. His vocals are distant and a bit distorted and mostly spoken, which makes this feel a bit like some kind of hip-hop. While it’s definitely a change of pace, and works reasonably well, it’s a bit strange.
Blowin’ in the Wind (Acoustic)
A fully acoustic approach to the track, this is pretty, dramatic and evocative. While I’m normally not a fan of using a ballad to close a disc, it works quite well here. This is actually one of the strongest pieces on show here.
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