Posts Tagged ‘Mad Dogs And Englishman’

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News came through earlier today of the passing of Leon Russell, 74.One of my most favourite musicians he was an extraordinary talent as either composer, musician, arranger, producer, and artist, “The Master of Space” . With each piece of talent, his music touched a new audience: as a multi-instrumentalist who contributed to innumerable session recordings; as a pop arranger for Gary Lewis and the Playboys and others; as leader of Joe Cocker’s raucous band; as composer of songs that will last forever, like “Superstar,” “This Masquerade” and “A Song for You”; as an influential solo artist, who followed his muse and inspired so many others. Rest in peace, Leon. “But we’re alone now and we’re singing this song to you…”

Leon Russell, accepting his induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, thanked Elton John for rescuing him from “a ditch beside the highway of life.”  Thanks to the success of The Union, the collaborative album between Elton John and his early idol,

After making an impression around the scene in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Leon Russell first gained wide prominence as an in-demand session pianist for the famed Los Angeles “Wrecking Crew,” playing for Phil Spector, Frank Sinatra and everybody in between.  A close ally of producer Snuff Garrett, Russell arranged such pop classics as Gary Lewis and the Playboys’ “This Diamond Ring” and co-wrote the group’s hits “Everybody Loves a Clown” and “She’s Just My Style,” to which he contributed some smoking guitar!  After all of this success, he concentrated on his songwriting and a budding solo recording career. Russell has always been difficult to categorize.  He has embraced rock, soul, gospel, country, blues and even psychedelia during his career, but the melodic pop sensibility honed from his early days is very much in evidence on solo compositions like “This Masquerade,” “A Song for You,” “Superstar” and “Delta Lady.”

Those are just four of the songs penned by Russell and made famous by others ranging from the Carpenters to Joe Cocker, for whom Leon Russell served as bandleader on the infamous Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour in 1970.  The famed record of that tour is as much a showcase for Russell as lead singer Joe Cocker.  It was Bette Midler’s take that inspired Richard Carpenter to pen his Grammy-nominated arrangement.  The Carpenters’ “Superstar,” highlighted by Karen Carpenter’s beautifully aching, intense vocal, The brother-and-sister duo continued drawing from Russell’s songbook to tremendous effect.

Those used to the smooth vocals of Donny Hathaway or Karen Carpenter might need some time to adjust to Russell’s raw, croaking drawl on “A Song for You,” but the emotional, tender nature of the vocal wins out in the end.  Russell had his biggest hit as a solo singer with “Tight Rope,” from his 1972 Shelter Records album Carney, also his highest-charting LP.  “Tight Rope” makes the influence he had on Elton John crystal clear: the honky-tonk piano pounding, the soulful R&B-flecked vocal, the potent chorus.  “I copied Leon Russell and that was it,” Elton admitted in 1971.  Just listen to “Honky Cat” back to back with some vintage Russell, and you’ll know what I mean; you might also notice the similarities between “Your Song” and “A Song for You.”

Those who worked with Russell, including Denny Cordell, Marc Benno, Phil Spector and the star-studded array that played on 1970’s Leon Russell, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voormann, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Joe Cocker and Merry Clayton!  Leon Russell’s always gotten by with a little help from his friends.Leon Russell has always been famous for his work with other artists, whether as session man, arranger or songwriter.  He counted among his pals the late George Harrison, who invited him to participate in the landmark benefit The Concert for Bangla Desh at New York City’s Madison Square Garden in 1971.  One track, an epic, nearly ten-minute medley of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and the Leiber/Stoller/Pomus “Young Blood” on which an electrifying Russell takes the lead.

Leon Russell Left us on this day (November 13th) in 2016: singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, bandleader & session player LEON RUSSELL (died in his sleep, age 74); he first achieved widespread recognition as a member of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, but is perhaps most closely associated with Joe Cocker – he co-produced Joe’s hit self-titled 1969 album & penned two of its songs (including the UK #10 “Delta Lady”), then served as bandleader on Joe’s landmark, 1970 ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen’ tour of the US, which lives on in legend via the Gold-selling double-album (& later, DVD) of the same name; over the years Leon also worked with the likes of The Byrds (playing on “Mr. Tambourine Man”), Phil Spector, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Glenn Campbell, Freddie King & many others; as a solo artist, he scored the 1972 US #11 “Tight Rope” & 1975 US #14 “Lady Blue”; his “This Masquerade” was successfully recorded by both George Benson (1976 US #10, earning a 1977 Grammy Award for ‘Record of the Year’) & The Carpenters; in 1979, Leon & Willie Nelson scored a US Country #1 hit with their duet of “Heartbreak Hotel”; after a lengthy absence, he returned to the public eye with 2010 album ‘The Union’, in collaboration with Elton John; Leon was inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame in 2011…