Leon Russell

Album Reviews:

1970: Leon Russell

Leon Russell

Rating: 6.0/10
Rated as
: Album
Album Status: Genre Classic
Released: 1970
Specific Genre: Blues Rock
Main Genre: Rock, Blues Rock
: Southern Rock, Gospel Rock, Piano Rock, Boogie Rock, Roots Rock
Label: Shelter

Side A: 1. A Song for You 2. Dixie Lullaby 3. I Put a Spell on You 4. Shoot Out on the Plantation 5. Hummingbird
Side B: 6. Delta Lady 7. Prince of Peace 8. Old Masters 9. Give Peace a Chance 10. Hurtsome Body 11. Pisces Apple Lady 12. Roll Away the Stone

That Louisiana man is gonna get you yet with his dixie lullaby

Southern rock infused with a liquor buttload of gospel, Russell’s solo debut is very specifically of its time: Roots music and Americana were on the rise, an imagined south’s most southern idioms were co-opted by mass markets, and people like Russell found themselves in the middle of it. Five years earlier (or five years down the lane), this couldn’t have happened – yet Russell had been around for 15 years, rivalling Nicky Hopkins or Carol Kaye when it comes to credits as a session musician. You could pull on any root (country, gospel, bluegrass, soul, gospel again), and some of Russell’s hair strands would inevitably come up as connected to it.

It doesn’t quite translate to the album context: While superficially identical in approach to the inviting barnyard congregation appeal of Delaney & Bonnie (who are here, of course), Russell exudes the smell and sound of a manic backwoods preacher. Chugging along on the virtues of his barrelhouse piano licks and his cragged, yelping, positively loose vocals, the album’s sweaty blues rock filled with Dixieland and rock music lore (note the Rolling Stones, Presley and Tinseltown cowboys all make an appearance in “Shoot Out on the Plantation”) is meant for live presentation – compare his mesmerizing, freewheeling live performances from the period. The quality of the music here consists mainly in a specific sound soaked in log cabin history, not in songwriting. Constrained to the studio format, numerous songs here are faded out at the four-minute-mark – just when the soaring soul and exhilarated howl of the performance should get going.