It’s rare to hear Leon Russell songs wafting across the airwaves in the author’s own voice. Oldies radio stations have tended to opt for the versions by more marketable and mainstream-friendly acts such as The Carpenters (Superstar, A Song For You) or Joe Cocker (Delta Lady), but last year’s collaborative album with Elton John, The Union, has given the veteran’s profile a welcome boost.
This 16-track collection ticks all the right boxes, showcasing the best-known eloquent songs delivered in Russell’s comforting Oklahoma drawl. His rich tones add an extra lachrymose layer to the unavoidable break-up lament This Masquerade (another track made famous by The Carpenters), and is even more affecting on the forlorn soul of Lady Blue, the second of his only two US Top 20 hits.
Russell’s exemplary musicianship shines through on several cuts, a chugging voodoo piano anchoring a fearsome version of Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall and his own thunderous Shoot Out On The Plantation. A maverick, a mystic, and an all too often overlooked cornerstone of Americana.