Sunday, August 25, 2013

Shelter Records: Roll Away The Stone

Active from 1969 to 1981, Shelter Records was the brainchild of Leon Russell and Denny Cordell. While featuring a number of artists from the Tulsa, Oklahoma area, Shelter Records was not limited to that geographic region. The label was originally distributed by Blue Thumb Records. In 1970, both Blue Thumb and Shelter switched distribution to Capitol Records and Shelter came out from the Blue Thumb umbrella.

During 1974 and 1975, MCA took over distribution until the label was picked up by ABC from 1975-1977. It was during this period that Russell and Cordell became estranged and Russell left the label. From 1978 until the label’s demise in 1981, Arista distributed the majority of Shelter’s product.

Leon Russell’s “Can a Blue Man Sing the Whites?” was the working title for Shelter’s first album and was advertised as such in a full page ad in Circus Magazine during early 1970. I have never seen a copy of this album with this title, as they all were simply called “Leon Russell.” Sometimes called the “blue album,” Leon’s first solo album and his third project overall is a real gem.

The cast of characters that participated in the recording of this album were a veritable who’s who of the 1970 music scene and include, but are not limited to, the following: Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Joe Cocker, and many others.

“Roll Away the Stone” draws from gospel influences, but it is far from being a gospel song. It is the official last track of the album; however, an uncredited version of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” appears at the end of the album prior to the run out on side two. It was an early vinyl “Easter egg” that is relegated to a bonus track on the CD even though it appeared on the original album.

In addition to appearing on the album, “Roll Away the Stone” was Leon and Shelter’s first single release. A live version of the recording would resurface as the flip side of “Queen of the Roller Derby” single. Both songs were from “Leon Live” in 1973. The original studio recording failed to break into the Hot 100 and charted at #109.

1970 Studio Version

1973 Live Version

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