Just Plain Old Leon Russell

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If you are looking for an album that defines, and refines, a moment in music history, you can’t go wrong with Leon Russell’s eponymous debut album from 1970.  It was a coming together, in a manner perhaps even greater than Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, of many of the greatest live performers of the era to create a single album. It is also one of the rare albums actually made better upon reissue by the addition of the extra tracts.  In fact it is hard to imagine why the additional material was ever left out to begin with.

The original material is at first notable because of the songs and then because of the artists who made them.  The original twelve tunes have a commonality that works well as a whole.  “A Song for You,” “Delta Lady,” “Hurtsome Body,” and “Pisces Apple Lady” all remind us what an influence he was on Elton John and that style of piano-heavy rock and roll. All of the original  tunes show why Russell is one of the busiest session men in the business. The excisions though, now that we hear them all these years later, are odd rejections.


The whole works well, as a seventeen track album, especially the addition of the Jagger and Richards "(Can't Seem To) Get a Line on You." That song makes clear the Stones’ influence and it really is one of the best moments from that great year in music, and yet it was left off Leon Russell back then. All of the newly added tunes are of that ilk, sounding great now. Sometimes in wealth there is waste. Luckily that has been corrected here in this new version with its five additional tunes. 

Perhaps the excisions were Russell’s choice, given he did just about everything on this project: composer, vocals, keyboards, piano, guitar, primary artist, bass, engineer, mixing, and producer. So was he a one-man-band? Nope, he had some help:  Buddy Harman, Klaus Voormann, Mick Jagger, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Alan Spenner, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman,  Glyn Johns, Delaney Bramlett, Eric Clapton, Jim Horn, Bonnie Bramlett,  Steve Winwood, Jim Gordon, Chris Stainton, B.J. Wilson, Joe Cocker, and Merry Clayton—not a bad crew for that year. Listen to it as the full seventeen songs and you have a major document from the dawn of the 70s.





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