Don't call me legend," Leslie West sings on his forthcoming album, Unusual Suspects. But just try telling that to the guitar star's legions of fans across the globe, some of whom turn up on the new set to trade licks with the blues and hard rock pioneer.
A veritable who's who of six-string A-listers – Slash, Billy Gibbons, Zakk Wylde, Joe Bonamassa and Steve Lukather – bring their A games to the proceedings, shining on fiery originals and inspired covers. "But nobody's trying to outgun anybody else here," says West. "We're cheering each other on as we play."
According to West, the idea of guest stars was one presented to him by label execs, but rather than jamming with sax players and keyboardists, West opted to make Unusual Suspects a guitar player's dream project. "I wanted to have fun," he says. "The only way I was going to do something like this was to have a group of guitarists I admire on board."
After completing pre-production in New Jersey, West set about recording in LA with producer Fabrizio Grossi (who also played bass) and ace drummer Kenny Arnonoff. Along with a couple of his own originals, West was stoked to lay down several compositions penned by his longtime friend Joe Pizza. “He's a great writer," he says. "And that’s his name, too: Joe Pizza – like a pizza pie.”
Despite undergoing leg-amputation surgery last June after a diabetes-related blot clot, West is looking forward to playing a good chunk of Unusual Suspects on tour this fall. “I think the record shows off that I still have it,” he says. “My voice is strong, my tone is the best it’s been in years, and my playing has emotion. I just wish the record could grow me back a new leg. But hey, you can’t have everything.”
Unusual Suspects will be released on 19 September (20 September in the US). On the following pages, Leslie West walks us through the album track-by-track.