Thursday, April 21, 2011
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: LEON RUSSELL - THE BEST OF
Okay, you Elton Johnny-come-lately's, you're all into Leon now that his old pal has resurrected his career, got him a hit album, placed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, etc. Me, I've loved the guy since the early 70's, back when he was the hippest guy going, the key man with Joe Cocker, pal to George Harrison and Dylan, and a hit maker in his own right. Yup, I've always loved him. The trouble is, like almost everybody else from the early 70's, I forgot him, after he made a couple of stinker LP's. I gave up on him. Even though most of his work at some point has been put on CD, I never got any. Even though his hit album Carney remains one of my all-time favourites, I still just have my vinyl copy, and haven't played it in 25 years.
So, cheers to Elton for reminding us all, or introducing lots of new folks to his work. The album they made, The Union, was pretty good, and did what it was designed to, put Leon in a more secure financial position. Meantime, this Best Of serves as a good introduction set, or reminder. Carney remains his masterwork, home of the Top 30 hit Tightrope, the swamp rock number Out In The Woods, and the original version of This Masquerade, which became a hit for George Benson. Those are here, as are 13 more solid numbers, proving the deeper you go into his body or work, the more wonders there are to discover.
Russell, is his day, was the ultimate bandleader, supplying funky keyboards, guitar, or whatever was needed, including some classic songs from his own pen. He gave Cocker Delta Lady, and saw everyone from The Carpenters to Ray Charles to Michael Buble cover A Song For You. His great pal Willie Nelson took him on the road, and released the live hit Heartbreak Hotel with him, and he stole the show at The Concert For Bangladesh with his set that included Jumpin' Jack Flash/Youngblood. In other words, he should have been ridiculously wealthy, and must have had one of those terrible rip-off contracts. All those tracks are here, it's a great listen from start to finish, and it makes me want to pick up about six of his originals. I can also assure you I'll be throwing Carney on the turntable in the next couple of days.