“Leon Russell” by Leon Russell (1970)
Release Date: March 23, 1970
Produced by Leon Russell
Genre: Pop, Rock, Country, Folk, Blues Rock
Label: Shelter Records (US), A&M (UK), Phillips (Europe)
Chart Positions: #60 (US), #62 (Japan)
Singles: “Roll Away With The Stone” #109 (US), “A Song For You”
Other Charting Tracks: N/A
Best Tracks: “A Song For You,” “Hummingbird,” “ Delta Lady,” “Roll Away The Stone”
“Leon Russell” is the debut solo album by the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Leon Russell. It followed his debut with the Midnight String Quartet and a production by Russell and Marc Benno billed as the Asylum Choir. The album was released during the “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” Tour. Many of the musicians that were part of the tour were also featured on Russell’s debut solo album and many more. The album almost reads like a who’s who of music including George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Steve Winwood and other all-stars.
Previous to this album Russell was known as a producer, arranger and backup musician for several other artists such as Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Ike & Tina Turner, Rolling Stones, George Harrison, Doris Day, Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, Ringo Starr, Barbra Streisand, Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson, The Ventures, BB King and a host of others. By the time he released his debut album Russell was a very well known name in the industry.
Despite the polish and detail put into this album, it still retains a down home, good time, late night jam sort of feel. That was the magic of Leon Russell, he always managed to make his music feel like as if he recorded it all right there at home ins own living room. When in truth the album was recorded in various studios in London, England, Memphis, Tennessee and Los Angeles, California.
The album is filled with songs that have been covered by countless musicians such as “Hummingibrd” covered by the likes of BB King, Bob Seger, Jimmy Page as well as others. Joe Cocker covered “Give Peace A Chance.” Clint Black and Bruce Hornsby collaborated on a great cover of “Dixie Lullaby.” “Delta Lady,” which became an early signature song for Russell has been covered by Joe Cocker, Bobby Gentry, Gary Puckett, David Cassidy and several others. The album’s most widely known song is Leon Russell’s classic “A Song For You” which has reached meteoric heights as recorded by Carpenters. Ray Charles’ version of the song made it to #9 on the US Adult Contemporary charts in 1993. Amy Winehouse did an effecting rendition of “A Song For You” as did the Temptations. Russell wrote the song with a female singer in mind, specifically Bonnie Bramlett, the fact that the song become such a huge hit for Karen Carpenter in 1972 is not such a far stretch from Russell's initial imaging the song.
"Delta Lady" (1970)
“Roll Away With The Stone” received the most attention at the release of the album making it to #109 on the US Billboard singles chart. It wasn’t a hit but it did garner attention and airplay for Leon Russell. The Gospel inflected “Give Peace A Chance” (not to be confused with the John Lennon song) is heralded by critics as an album highlight. “Hummingbird” features George Harrison on guitar and Ringo Starr on drums.
Other than "Give Peace A Chance," Russell borrows another famous song title for his composition "I Put A spell On You," a song not to be confused with Screaming' Jay Hawkins' blue fest. Russell's "Spell," features the Rolling Stones' rhythm section of Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman along with Russell's own lively piano parts gives the song a funky rhythm and blues southern rock style that is irresistible. The chorus is just as hooky and catchy as Hawkins' song. The laughing and false starts at the beginning of the song make it feel real when they finally get going.
Rita Coolidge inspired both “A Song For You” and “Delta Lady”, Leon Russell wrote these songs for and about her. Coolidge was known as the “Delta Lady” because of the song.
Billboard Magazine featured a short review of the album upon it's release:
"Another newcomer exponent of contemporary blues at its best is American performer/ writer Leon Russell debuts on the Blue Thumb distributed Shelter label. Russell has written for some of today's top record stars and his own virile and gravely voice is well suited to his songs. Highlights include "A Song For You" and "Delta Lady."
Leon Russell (1970)
Amazon link to “Leon Russell”: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000002TYM/ref=nosim/populasongsmu-20