[Review] West, Bruce & Laing: Whatever Turns You On (1973)

The trio’s second album attempts to blend their musical styles together, but it stills feels like they’re making a molehill out of Mountain.

Kronomyth 2.0: Appetite for destruction.

I wasn’t expecting the first WBL album, let alone a second. But I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Whatever Turns You On continues the unusual experiment of blending the divergent styles of Leslie West and Jack Bruce. If would be nice if some record company did listeners the kindness of giving both records a good remaster and putting them on a single disc.

Andy Johns again co-produced the effort and, as others have pointed out, he fails to rein in the band’s tendencies toward excess (although, if the album artwork is any indication, he had his work cut out for him). At this point, Jack Bruce was probably a mess, with WBL a place to hang his musical hat as addict in residence. Bruce does manage to contribute one interesting song at the end, the abstruse “Like A Plate,” and does a fine impression of Neil Young on “November Song.” There are also several spots where it appears Bruce contributed musical ideas to West’s songs, lending some credence to the group songwriting credits.

The ocelot’s share of the credit belongs to Leslie West, however, who sings most of the lead vocals and plays both rhythm and lead guitar (through multitracking). West’s “Token” and “Sifting Sand” (both of which feature the aforementioned touches of Bruce) are two of the highlights on Whatever Turns You On. The opening “Backfire” and, in the UK, “Dirty Shoes” were selected as the album singles; the latter seems a questionable move, since it’s one of the least interesting songs on here. It’s also one of the places on the album where Andy Johns unsuccessfully segues from one idea to another; there are several missteps like that on the record.

In my opinion, the first WBL record is the better effort from Bruce, while West looms larger on the second. Corky Laing is what he is: a good drummer sandwiched between two great musicians. On “Token” and “Like A Plate,” Laing begins to break out, although he’s still bland compared to Ginger Baker (a comparison that would favor few, of course). Whatever Turns You On isn’t good enough to make me deeply lament the dissolution of WBL. It is, however, a solid chapter in the continuing story of Leslie West, a man who (like Jack Bruce) was a singular talent, even when he was playing in a group.

Read more West, Bruce & Laing reviews

Original LP Version

A1. Backfire (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown/Leslie West/Corky Laing) (2:57)
A2. Token (Leslie West/Jack Bruce/Corky Laing) (5:18)
A3. Sifting Sand (Leslie West/Jack Bruce/Corky Laing) (3:07)
A4. November Song (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown/Leslie West/Corky Laing) (5:55)
B1. Rock And Roll Machine (Leslie West/Jack Bruce/Corky Laing) (3:53)
B2. Scotch Krotch (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown/Leslie West/Corky Laing) (3:17)
B3. Slow Blues (Leslie West/Jack Bruce/Corky Laing) (5:08)
B4. Dirty Shoes (Leslie West/Jack Bruce/Corky Laing) (2:23)
B5. Like A Plate (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown/Leslie West/Corky Laing) (3:07)

The Players

Jack Bruce (bass, vocals), Corky Laing (drums), Leslie West (guitar, vocals). Produced by Leslie West, Jack Bruce, Corky Laing & Andy Johns; engineered by Andy Johns.

The Pictures

Album design by Pacific Eye & Ear. Illustrations by Joe Petagno.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in July 1973 in the US (Columbia/Windfall, KC/18C 32216), the UK, Australia and Germany (RSO, 2394 107) and Japan (RSO, MW 2072); reached #87 on the US charts. RSO elpees feature different back cover artwork. Japan elpee includes poster. 8-track features different track order.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (RSO, MWX 4041).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc on March 1, 1992 in Japan (Polydor, POCP-2170).
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 2008 in Europe (Esoteric, ECLEC 2075).

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