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Pianist/composer/arranger Leon Russell has a resumé that would be the envy of most musicians: as an L.A. session player, he's recorded and toured with Jerry Lee Lewis, the Rolling Stones, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Glen Campbell, and Bob Dylan, among many others. In addition, Russell came through the ranks of Phil Spector's early-'60s crew at Gold Star studios. Unlike a good share of session musicians and producers, though, Russell was able to carve out a fairly high-profile solo career. Covering his prime in the first half of the '70s, this hits collection includes such Russell chart-toppers as "Tightrope" and "Roll Away the Stone," along with hits he penned for others like "Delta Lady" (Joe Cocker) and "This Masquerade" (George Benson). And on top of a handful of numbers that take in a heady mix of gospel, pop, country, blues, and New Orleans R&B (comparisons to Doctor John are common), the album also includes a healthy dose of Russell's torch song-caliber and jazz-inflected numbers, including such standouts as "Bluebird" and "Your Song" (later given a stellar reading by jazz vocalist Shirley Horn). For the newcomer, this greatest-hits package offers the best introduction to Russell's catalog.
Review by Stephen Cook
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