Top Ten Reasons We Love Leon Russell (4-2-42 to -11-13-16)
The keyboard work and vocals of Leon Russell put the Oklahoma musician on the radio under his own name though his true work in the music industry was backing other artists on stage and studio. Leon began playing in a band at fourteen years old with his band The Starlighters. Alongside other Tulsa, OK teens such as J.J. Cale, Chuck Blackwell, Leo Feathers, and Johnny Williams, the group was influential in tin 1958, becoming a member in the loose group of studio musicians who were the sound of AM radio in the 1960’s, Wrecking Crew. As a go-to studio musician, Leon can be heard on recordings of The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Doris Day, Freddie Cannon, Dave Mason, Glen Campbell, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Eric Clapton, and The Rolling Stones. Leon Russell put together the Joe Cocker backing band that became Mad Dogs and Englishmen is just eleven days and came in as band leader for the George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh. As a solo artist, Leon Russell wrote from the tender to the tough for his own band as well as leaning songs to others that would fit a multitude of markets. His track “A Song for You” was first featured on his self-titled 1970 release. The track has been covered by nearly one hundred artists including Ray Charles, Billy Eckstine, Peggy Lee, Willie Nelson, and George Benson made a hit covering Leon’s “This Masquerade”. The Carpenters had a hit with “A Song for You” as well enjoying another hit with Leon’s Bonnie Bramlett co-write, “Superstar”. In 1971, Leon Russell adopted a Country persona for his release as Hank Wilson.
For decades, Leon Russell was a piece of the music business, and everyone has a story. The real tale of Leon Russell with be in the music he left with his work on 33 albums and 430 songs.
01 Dixie Lullaby (from the album Leon Russell)
Southern shoes are talking as they cruise down the street in pair’s, their chatter becomes the beat for a “Dixie Lullaby”. Leon Russell rattle and rolls on a combination of Gospel, Blues, Rock’n’Roll, and Soul on a track from his self-titled 1970 release.
02 Roll Away the Stone (from the album Leon Russell)
Boogie-woogie piano leads the way into “Roll Away the Stone” as Leon Russell shares a story about love and loss as he makes a plea to not be left alone. The track rides on rock’n’roll chaos from the self-titled debut from Leon Russell.
03 Of Thee I Sing (from the album Leon Russell and the Shelter People)
Leon Russell was a ringleader that held control on the band’s he led but not holding on too tight. The guitars weave in and out as harmonies back as they shout encouragement against Leon’s echoey overview
04 Crystal Closet Queen (from the album Leon Russell and the Shelter People)
The intro for “Crystal Closet Queen” hears Leon Russell give a shout out to ‘the undominated queen of rock’n’roll….she knows who she is’. The Shelter People sing the rock’n’roll history of Little Richard on a track from Leon’s second 1970 release, Leon Russell and the Shelter People.
05 This Masquerade (from the album Carney)
Keyboards melodies float through the air on the opening of “This Masquerade”, showcasing the composition qualities in the music of Leon Russell. The song became a hit for Leon from his album Carny as well as becoming a Top Ten Billboard hit with the jazzier version of George Benson.
06 Back to the Island (from the album Will O’ the Wisp)
Waves lap at the shore as gentle breezes carry a song on the wind calling “Back to the Island”. Sadness is in the story of lost love and the only way to move forward is to go backward. The siren call becomes harmony as the singers beckon on a tune from Will O’ the Wisp.
07 Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms (from the album Hank Wilson’s Back Vol. 1)
The slap of an upright bass lays the groundwork for the Country twang of Hank Wilson. Hank is an alter-ego for Leon Russell as he delivers a 1973 album, Hank Wilson’s Back. The entry is slow and by the time the boys in the band move to the end of the line they are riding a freight train beat out of control on the Flatt and Scruggs tune “Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms”.
08 The Ballad of Mad Dogs and Englishmen (from the album Leon Russell and the Shelter People)
Piano and strings back Leon Russell as he tells the tale of a Joe Cocker tour. Joe had run into contract trouble after he let The Grease Band go on vacation following years of late 1960’s touring. Joe had eleven days to get something out and on the road. A hippie caravan housed Mad Dog and Englishmen compiling members of the Delaney and Bonnie Band as well as players from The Rolling Stones and Derek and the Dominos as they rode a tour into history.
09 Down in Dixieland (from the album Life Journey)
Leon Russell penned “Down in Dixieland” for his Life Journey album. The recordings held many covers with Leon making his own tune a walk down Bourbon for a New Orleans street parade. The horns blow and the dancing follows a second line beat through the French Quarter.
10 That Lucky Old Sun (from the album Life Journey)
Leon takes a 1949 song that became a Ray Charles hit in 1963 for his album Life Journey. Leon Russell drapes the track with shining glory with lights becoming brighter than the big ball of yellow in the sky. The track is from Leon Russell’s Life Journey release.