Saturday, October 14, 2017

Leon Russell - Leon Russell And The Shelter People (1971 us, an assured piece of work, a driving dynamite rock package, 2016 Audio Fidelity)

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. A hearty, full-flavored gospel sound is amassed thanks to both the Shelter People and the Tulsa Tops, who back Russell up on most of the tracks, but it's Russell alone that makes "The Ballad of Mad Dogs and Englishmen" such an expressive piece and the highlight of the album. On the whole, Leon Russell and the Shelter People is an entertaining and more importantly, revealing exposition of Russell's music when he was in his prime. The album that followed, 1972's Carney, is an introspective piece which holds up a little better from a songwriting standpoint, but this album does a better job at bearing his proficiency as a well-rounded musician. 
by Mike DeGagne
1. Stranger In A Strange Land (Don Preston, Leon Russell) - 4:03
2. Of Thee I Sing (Leon Russell) - 4:27
3. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (Bob Dylan) - 5:10
4. Crystal Closet Queen (Leon Russell) - 2:59
5. Home Sweet Oklahoma (Leon Russell) - 3:27
6. Alcatraz (Leon Russell) - 3:52
7. The Ballad Of Mad Dogs And Englishmen (Leon Russell) - 4:03
8. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry (Bob Dylan) - 4:02
9. She Smiles Like A River (Leon Russell) - 3:00
10.Sweet Emily (Leon Russell) - 3:22
11.Beware Of Darkness (George Harrison) - 4:40
12.It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (Bob Dylan) - 3:39
13.Love Minus Zero/No Limit (Bob Dylan) - 3:21
14.She Belongs To Me (Bob Dylan) - 3:28
Bonus Tracks 12-14

*Leon Russell - Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Organ
*Jesse Ed Davis - Guitar
*Claudia Lennear - Vocals
*Jim Price - Organ
*Jim Keltner - Drums
*Jim Gordon - Drums
*Barry Beckett - Organ
*Chuck Blackwell - Drums
*Joey Cooper - Guitar, Vocals
*John Gallie - Organ
*Roger Hawkins - Drums
*David Hood - Bass Guitar
*Jimmy Johnson - Guitar
*Kathi Mcdonald - Vocals
*Don Preston - Guitar, Vocals
*Carl Radle - Bass Guitar
*Chris Stainton - Guitar

1968  The Asylum Choir - Look Inside (2007 remaster)
1972  Leon Russell - Carney
1971  Leon Russell And Marc Benno - Asylum Choir II (japan SHM 2016 remaster) 
1979  In Session At The Paradise Los Angeles With J.J. Cale (2003 remaster) 

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