Leon Russell's accolades are monumental in a number of categories, from songwriting (he wrote Joe Cocker's "Delta Lady") to session playing (with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, just to name a few) to his solo work. Unfortunately, it's the last category that never really attracted as much attention as it should have, despite a multitude of blues-based gospel recordings and piano-led, Southern-styled rock albums released throughout the 1970s. Leon Russell and the Shelter People is a prime example of Russell's instrumental dexterity and ability to produce some energetic rock & roll. Poignant and expressive tracks such as "Of Thee I Sing," "Home Sweet Oklahoma," and "She Smiles Like a River" all lay claim to Russell's soulful style and are clear-cut examples of the power that he musters through his spirited piano playing and his voice. His Dylan covers are just as strong, especially "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" and "It Takes a Lot to Laugh," while "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" and "It's a Hard Rain Gonna Fall" have him sounding so forceful, they could have been Russell's own.
Legendary American singer and pianist Leon Russell has entertained the world for five decades, getting his start as an in-demand Wrecking Crew session player and playing on hundreds of hit records before he began releasing his own albums in 1967. Leon Russell's latest studio album, titled Life Journey, will be released on April 1, 2014. This 12-track album features newly-written, original songs and Russell's turns on classics that resonate with the two-time GRAMMY® winner as important to his musical trajectory. The album is produced by Tommy LiPuma and executive produced by Elton John, with whom Russell most recently collaborated for 2010's critically acclaimed album, The Union.
Leon Russell never quite hit all the right notes the way he did on his eponymous debut. He never again seemed as convincing in his grasp of Americana music and themes, never again seemed as individual, and never again did his limited, slurred bluesy voice seem as ingratiating. He never again topped his triptych of "A Song for You," "Hummingbird," and "Delta Lady," nor did his albums contain such fine tracks as "Dixie Lullaby." Throughout it all, what comes across is Russell's idiosyncratic vision, not only in his approach but in his very construction – none of the songs quite play out as expected, turning country, blues, and rock inside out, not only musically but lyrically. Yes, his voice is a bit of an acquired taste, but it's only appropriate for a songwriter with enough chutzpah to write songs of his own called "I Put a Spell on You" and "Give Peace a Chance." And if there ever was a place to acquire a taste for Russell, it's here.
On the inaugural episode of Elvis Costello’s talk show Spectacle in 2008, Elton John – who just happened to be a producer on the show – rhapsodized at length about Leon Russell, hauling out a note-perfect impression of Russell’s piano style and Oklahoma drawl…
It's a little problematic to put together a compilation of such an album-oriented artist. But unless you're very deeply into the Leon Russell catalog, this two-CD, 40-track best-of will serve as a retrospective of all that you need, largely covering his work from the first half of the '70s (a couple of songs from his 1992 Virgin album are also included) and featuring his best-known hits, big and small. It's a well-done tour through his blend of swamp rock, gospel, and bits of blues and country, with material from eight of his Shelter LPs, including the one he recorded in 1969 as part of the Asylum Choir. Interesting rarities include a 1974 single of "Wild Horses," a 1970 cover of Dylan's "She Belongs to Me" that only showed up on a compilation, and a folk-rockish 1965 single for Dot.
The Union is a collaboration studio album by singer-songwriters Elton John and Leon Russell, released on 19 October 2010 in the US and on 25 October in the UK. This is the 30th studio album by John and the 34th by Russell. This is the first studio release by John since 1979's Victim of Love without any of his regular band members. It is also his highest charting studio album on the Billboard 200 since 1976's Blue Moves, debuting at No. 3, as well as Russell's highest charting studio album since 1972's Carney. The Union was No. 3 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 30 Best Albums of 2010…
Retrospective is an 18-track collection that features the bulk of Leon Russell's greatest hits ("Tight Rope," "Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms," "Lady Blue," "Back to the Island"), plus many key album tracks. Since Russell was primarily an album artist, this approach doesn't necessarily do him justice, but for listeners who only want the hits, this will do.