Monday, February 9, 2015

The Many Shades of Leon Russell: Jumpin' Jack Flash/Youngblood

Although Leon Russell’s piano, songwriting, and arranging had been all over the music charts in the 1960s, I had never heard of him until I saw “The Concert for Bangladesh” in 1971. I was blown away by his energy, his prowess on the keyboard, and that gravelly voice. And what a voice it is – he has one of the most unmistakable vocal styles that has had the opportunity to hit the American airwaves.

While Leon is showcased on George Harrison’s “Beware of Darkness” on one verse, he is pure Leon on a medley of The Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and the Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, and Doc Pomus classic “Youngblood.” I always loved that song – I had the original single by The Coasters on ATCO; it was flipside of their hit “Searchin’.” I didn’t think anyone else could do it or “Jumping Jack Flash” justice until I heard Mr. Russell perform this medley.

Some of Leon’s “Shelter People” appear on this recording. The additional lead vocals are provided by Don Preston who also plays guitar on this medley. Additionally, bassist Carl Radle is on this cut – his only performance on the album. Other “Shelter People” include Jesse Ed Davis on guitar, Jim Keltner on drums, and back-up vocalists Claudia Linnear and Don Nix. A large cast of other great musicians, such as Billy Preston on Hammond organ, supported Leon and his crew. I wish the live film footage was available on YouTube, but sadly it’s not.

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