LEON RUSSELL – ” Live At The Fillmore East ” 20th November 1970

Posted: November 20, 2016 in MUSIC
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This week will forever be considered one of the darkest and strangest in recent memory. The election of Donald Trump, Then we lost arguably the greatest songwriter in modern music with the passing of Leonard Cohen, and a certain troubadour who was a source of spiritual comfort for many entered the place where “there is no Space & Time.” Claude Russell Bridges, whom the world lovingly knew as Leon Russell, was a “Rainbow Minister & Ringleader” for the Hippie Generation, a “superstar” that shone very brightly.

This is a great live set,  Elton John opened for Leon Russell at these shows. This concert was recorded before the Elton John’s one at the Fillmore East. Elton John was a great fan of Leon Russell and logically invited him to open his shows.  At these Fillmore East concerts, Leon Russell headlined over an up and coming Elton John and the band McKendree Spring. This set finds him performing much of the material from his first solo album, but with a feel that would reflect where he was heading on his second album, Leon Russell And The Shelter People. It was a bigger, more adventurous sound, which would feature many of the same musicians that jelled so well on the Cocker tour. The material on this tour was equally diverse, featuring rock & roll, country, blues, soul and gospel, woven together by Russell’s distinctive Oklahoma twang and his creative arrangements.

The set begins rather starkly, with Russell performing solo at the piano, opening with Bob Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country,” followed by his own “Song For You.” The set is paced in a way that is reminiscent of an old-fashioned revue, with additional musicians and chorus singers joining in as the set progresses. Anchored by David Hood and Roger Hawkins from the Muscle Shoals rhythm section, talented soloists, and two of the greatest female singers of the time (Lennear and McDonald), the set continually gains momentum with each song, establishing the feel of a rollicking road show.

As the set continues, Russell performs some of the true gems from his debut album, including “Hummingbird,” “Dixie Lullabye” and the high energy, “I Put A Spell On You.” The entourage also plays an outstanding version of “Shoot Out On The Plantation” that surfaces out of a short tease of “Blues Power,” the song Eric Clapton covered so well on his first solo album.

Russell also performs “Pisces Apple Lady” before bringing it all to a frenetic close with the double whammy of “Prince Of Peace” and “Give Peace A Chance” (a Russell original, not the John Lennon song). These last two numbers clearly display the incredible power of this talented group of musicians and singers, bringing the feel of an old time Southern gospel revue to the stage of the Fillmore East.

When comparing this concert to the one recorded, 3 years later, for Leon Live (One Of My Favourite Ever Live album set and a wonderful package). Similarities and differences are striking. Similiraties since it’s the gospel-that-rocks that all Leon’s admirers love to hear, but differences since the set was more sober and tighter that the quite indulgent later ones. I doubt any Dr John – Elton John or any-John-you-want won’t be enthusiasts in listening to such a great performance. Nothing better to listen to when you’re down and out. It makes you imagine life’s worth the living. Measure the miracle. Note that this set was never released officially but that the sound is very good probally taken from the soundboard..

LEON RUSSELL
Fillmore East, New York, NY; November 20-21st, 1970 [late show?] The Band for Leon was Roger Hawkins Drums, Dave Hood Bass Guitar. John Gallie Organ and ketboards Don Preston and Joey Cooper Guitars, Claudia Lennaer & Kathi McDonald on backing vocals

Comments
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