Thursday, January 26, 2012

Leon Russell: Stranger in a Strange Land

Last week, I caught this particular number by Leon Russell and the Shelter People on an older episode of House, MD. The cut, “Stranger in a Strange Land” kicks off the album of the same name. The cut holds up well today; however, the use of the Moog synthesizer is a little dated as it is used more as a sound effect than an active musical element.

Studio engineer Terry Manning who had recently studied under Robert Moog introduced the instrument to Russell. It is unclear who plays it on the cut as no one is credited to playing it; however, Manning is listed as the Moog programmer.

Despite what you may read that the song was one of the first recordings to employ the instrument, this 1971 selection was far behind others such as the Supremes, The Monkees, The Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, and The Beatles who predated Russell by three to four years. Even Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s “Lucky Man,” which utilized the Moog in a more musical fashion, was released the previous year.

Even though the Moog appears to be an afterthought and sound effect, the rest of the song holds up well musically. The guitar is excellent and is probably the late Jesse Ed Davis; however, it could as well be Don Preston who co-wrote the cut with Leon Russell.

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