Leon Russell – The Imports Are the Only Way to Go on Leon’s Debut

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His first and best album, engineered by our man Glyn Johns, but it only sounds this brilliant on these 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.

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 copies suffered from somewhat dry sound, especially in the vocals. Our best copies are rich and Tubey Magical, which is the sound these songs need in order to sound their best.

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.

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


Side One

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

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.


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