Masters of War
Big Rack Records
Once upon a time, Bob Dylan went electric. That event shook the world of rock and roll, and signaled the marginalization of the old school folk singers and the rise of the electric blues dominated by bands like Led Zeppelin and Mountain. That’s the origin of the classic rock we hear today, even if Mountain doesn’t get a lot of airplay. A few years back, Mountain lost co-founder Felix Pappalardi, but Leslie West soldiers on, and forty years after Dylan’s switch, we have in hand this interesting and listenable tribute album.
It’s a thrill hearing Mr. West apply his expansive guitar skills to this collection of Dylan hits. The title cut “Masters of War” might be the most effective, with Ozzy Osbourne contributing vocals to this ballad that never seems to lose relevance. The treatment of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is less successful; it’s hard to hear the original’s musical structure, and the fast word play in the original slows to a methadone pace under the plodding drumming. “Blowin’ in the Wind” has a painfully slow beat, but each note cuts with the precision of an Exacto blade. I recommend this new interpretation of Dylan’s work. Leslie West still has the old magic on guitar, and his voice out-gravels Dylan’s, but he actually pronounces the words. While the name “Mountain” is on the label, consider this a Dylan tribute that both camps will enjoy.