Monday, 14 November 2016

Leon Russell and the Shelter People, album review

Great Growl

Soulful with gospel tones, this is a fine album of rock too, and then the beautiful ballads, firstly, starting balladic before funking up, Home Sweet Oklahoma, Russell singing in his twanged growl, and then next the gorgeous string-washed and aptly named The Ballad of Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Russell singing in his more emotive twang.

There are the two gutsy Dylan covers, It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry and It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue [and there are three more on the cd re-issue]. Another cover, George Harrison’s Beware of Darkness, gets a suitably Indian flavour with tabla percussion, but it is Russell on piano and the harsh snarl of his vocal that defines its performance.

This is yet another death that has reminded me of a music I haven’t known that well and which requires listening, but then such a demand will only continue and can never be fully accommodated. I will therefore close this brief review with another shout for and celebration of The Ballad of Mad Dogs and Englishmen which is superb, a belated – really – discovery in honour of Russell’s passing, and one I will be returning to more.

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