Tribute albums and cover bands usually conjure images of middle-aged, monochrome make-upped garage band rockers coping with a midlife crisis, but there are exceptions to every generalization, and Mountain’s Masters of War is one of them. Masters of War “pays homage to (Bob) Dylan’s song writing genius,” the band claims on its website. Mountain succeeds where others have failed simply because they understand rock. The combination of the band’s instrumental skill and guest appearances by heavyweights Ozzy Osbourne and Warren Haynes makes for an interesting and genuinely good interpretation of Dylan classics. While “interpretation” can be an aurally painful term, the bluesy rock versions that Mountain plays are a decent hypothetical evolution of Dylan’s mainstays.
The title track features Ozzy Osbourne, and his wavering, nasal vocals are a fine representative version of Dylan’s unique voice. “Serve Somebody” guests Warren Haynes on guitar, and his skills seem to make the guitar sing over the rolling bass line. The next track is one of two versions of “Blowin’ in the Wind” on the CD, and the band labels this one the “heavy” adaptation. The funky bass of Ritchie Scarlet and rhythmic drumming of Corky Laing create a decidedly more upbeat offering than the Dylan original, and aficionados may scoff, finding that the latter Leslie West “acoustic” rendition is much more to their liking. Haynes makes a second appearance on “The Times They Are A-changin’,” and his guitar sometimes conflicts with Brian Mitchell’s melodic piano. But that’s a negligible offense on an otherwise good album.
By William Pitcher