Leon Russell – Leon Russell

More Leon Russell

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • His first and best album, engineered by our man Glyn Johns, but it only sounds as brilliant as it should on the right UK original pressings – the domestic LPs are dead on arrival
  • Delta Lady, A Song for You and Roll Away the Stone are all here, which makes this a true Must Own for fans of the Classic Era
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Leon Russell never quite hit all the right notes the way he did on his eponymous debut. He never again seemed as convincing in his grasp of Americana music and themes, never again seemed as individual, and never again did his limited, slurred bluesy voice seem as ingratiating.”

*NOTE: On side one, Track 1, A Song For You, plays M– to EX++.

Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of Leon’s wonderful debut album, a vintage UK pressing like this one is the only way to go.

The best copies of Russell’s debut album have excellent sound, as expected from a record engineered by Glyn Johns in 1970. Surprisingly, a number of UK copies suffered from somewhat dry sound, especially in the vocals. Our best copies are rich and Tubey Magical, which is what these songs need to have in order to sound their best.

This vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the Best Sides of Leon Russell 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 pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1970
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • 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 qualities we discuss 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.

Domestic Vs. Import

The domestic pressings of Leon Russell’s debut that we’d auditioned over the years always seemed flat, dry, and closed-in. We know that sound well; it’s the sound you hear on records that have been made from dubbed tapes (and it’s the hallmark of the modern Heavy Vinyl reissue, truth be told). That sound bores us to tears and had us questioning what we could possibly have seen in the album in the first place. What happened to the glorious sound of early ’70s analog we were expecting to find?

It was only when we dropped the needle on a good British copy that the scales fell from our eyes. We found ourselves dumbfounded by the truly wonderful Tubey Magical richness, space and clarity of the real master tape. Finally, the key to the mystery had been found.

American artist, American pressing? A good rule of thumb but one that breaks down badly on this album, and for one obvious reason: the very British engineering of Glyn Johns.

What We’re Listening For on Leon Russell

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Glyn Johns in this case — would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Rock Royalty

The list of musicians playing on the album are a Who’s Who of Rock circa 1970. What other album can boast the contributions of half The Beatles, three fifths of The Stones, half of Blind Faith as well as Joe Cocker and some of his Mad Dogs and Englishmen? (You may recognize practically the entire lineup from Clapton’s first solo album here also, an album which is one of my favorites to this very day.)

Leon Russell – piano, guitar, bass guitar, vocals 
Buddy Harman – drums
Klaus Voormann – bass guitar
Mick Jagger – vocals
George Harrison – guitar
Ringo Starr – drums
Alan Spenner – bass guitar
Charlie Watts – drums
Bill Wyman – bass guitar
Delaney Bramlett – guitar
Eric Clapton – guitar
Jim Horn – saxophone
Bonnie Bramlett – vocals
Steve Winwood – keyboards
Jim Gordon – drums
Chris Stainton – keyboards
B.J. Wilson – drums
Joe Cocker – vocals
Merry Clayton – vocals

TRACK LISTING

Side One

A Song For You 
Dixie Lullaby 
I Put A Spell On You 
Shoot Out On The Plantation 
Hummingbird

Side Two

Delta Lady 
Prince Of Peace 
Give Peace A Chance 
Hurtsome Body 
Pisces Apple Lady 
Roll Away The Stone

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

Leon Russell never quite hit all the right notes the way he did on his eponymous debut.

He never again seemed as convincing in his grasp of Americana music and themes, never again seemed as individual, and never again did his limited, slurred bluesy voice seem as ingratiating.

He never again topped his triptych of “A Song for You,” “Hummingbird,” and “Delta Lady,” nor did his albums contain such fine tracks as “Dixie Lullaby.”

Throughout it all, what comes across is Russell’s idiosyncratic vision, not only in his approach but in his very construction — none of the songs quite play out as expected, turning country, blues, and rock inside out, not only musically but lyrically.

Yes, his voice is a bit of an acquired taste, but it’s only appropriate for a songwriter with enough chutzpah to write songs of his own called “I Put a Spell on You” and “Give Peace a Chance.” And if there ever was a place to acquire a taste for Russell, it’s here.