- The best copy to ever hit the site! Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side, better than Double Plus (A++ to A+++) on the first
- Carney as a recording is classic analog from 1972 – the best vintage copies are exceptionally rich, solid and smooth
- Russell’s highest charting album, making it all the way to Number Two if you can believe that, no doubt on the strength of the hit single, “Tight Rope,’ but “This Masquerade” is on here too
- “The music is good, the lyrics are entertaining, the album worthwhile. Leon Russell – the only man around that can pull it off when he’s not trying.” – Cameron Crowe (San Diego Door, Aug. 1972)
If you have full-range speakers (the bigger the better) some of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano are weight and warmth. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, warm, rich, smooth piano, one which sounds remarkably like the ones we’ve all heard countless times in piano bars and restaurants.
In other words, like a real piano, not a recorded one. Bad mastering can ruin the sound, and often does, along with worn out stampers and bad vinyl and misaligned tonearms that scrape off the high frequencies. But some copies survive all such hazards. They manage to capture these wonderful musical performances on vinyl, revealing to us the kind of sound we would never expect from an old Leon Russell record.
Rockin’ the Free World
What the best sides of this Classic Rock Album from 1972 have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl import pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1972
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the keyboards, guitars and drums having the correct sound for this kind of recording
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now
Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Out In The Woods
Me And Baby Jane
Manhattan Island Serenade
Cajun Love Song
If The Shoe Fits
Rolling Stone Review
By James Isaacs
September 14, 1972
What Leon has given us is a song cycle that eloquently elaborates the daily vicissitudes of his fulfilled dream of popstardom. While the 8 1/2 motif is hardly new to rock, no one, with the exception of the Dylan of Blonde On Blonde, has captured the ambivalence inherent to the pop hero’s situation any more sagaciously or incisively than Russell.
Carney (carnival barker) is certainly Leon’s most gentle and personal statement, in which even the hardest rocker (“Roller Derby”) seems tame when compared to earlier efforts like “Roll Away the Stone” or “Pisces Apple Lady.” Like “8 1/2,” the record is as much a view of one small, often ugly corner of contemporary society as it is an interior monologue. Leon touches upon a first love lost to junk (“Me And Baby Jane”), prying grafters from a certain prominent periodical (“If the Shoe Fits”), a pasquinade that sounds like an Asylum Choir number and confusion over whether or not the show must, indeed, go on (“Tightrope”).
Leon’s marble-mouthed, drawling vocals are a joy throughout, which comes as quite a treat to one who thoroughly detested much of his previous caterwauling (such as his Godawful mistreatment of George Harrison’s “Beware Of Darkness”). He renders selections like “Tightrope” and the double-tracked vocal on “Out In The Woods” with just the right amount of tension and “Manhattan Island Serenade” and “This Masquerade” (a lovely melody whose tonic is the same as the Matt Dennis-Earl Brent chestnut, “Angel Eyes”) with unabashed, yet understated tenderness. There is none of the cloying quality in Russell’s voice and phrasing that somewhat marred his delicate “A Song For You,” which was on the first solo album and is the most poignant lyric he has penned to date.
The production is hardly lavish, considering Leon’s penchant for doing the large-scale gospel-influenced numbers, and the instrumental backing by this Shelter people troupe (which might be considered to be Russell’s repertory company) is superbly subtle, especially John Gallie’s organ work.
Like Fellini’s Guido, Leon Russell will continue to partake in “the lonely game” he plays because it is his lifeblood, not to mention that he has managed to play it with consummate skill and shrewdness. Perhaps Carney is no more than another cool calculation on the part of its creator, but one comes away from the album secure in the knowledge that Leon is capable of exuding more wit, charm and candor than almost anyone else working in his medium.
“Tight Rope” leads off Carney, and it’s not just his biggest hit, it offers an excellent introduction to an off-kilter, confused, fascinating album. In a sense, it consolidates his two extremes, offering a side of fairly straightforward roots rock before delving headfirst into twisted psychedelia on the second side.