Leon Russell did have band instruments stolen from his bus yesterday while on tour. But that’s not the worst thing that happened to the 72 year old rock legend this year.
Did you know that Russell released a new album this year? Think about it for a minute. You did not know that. That’s because Universal Music , which released “Life Journey” back on April 1st, let the collection sink like a stone without a trace. The album never charted. There are no reviews for it or mentions in the New York Times or Los Angeles Times. Rolling Stone at least reviewed it, giving the album a tiny nod with three-and-a-half stars.
To make matters more perplexing “Life’s Journey” had a star producer– Tommy LiPuma– and a star engineer– Al Schmitt. Sources say it cost around $250,000 to make, for Capitol-EMI, before that company was merged into Universal.
Originally, the album had planned for Decca (also part of Universal) after Russell’s collaboration on the excellent album “The Union” with Elton John. But the word was that David Foster, who’d come in and taken over Decca, didn’t want to do it.
So the album foundered, finally finding a home, so to speak, on Universal’s sort of miscellaneous catalog reissue area. UMe, as it’s known, is for the Beatles, Neil Diamond, and ABBA. Not only do they not release new records, they also do not list Leon Russell as a current artist. Indeed, Russell isn’t listed on the entire Universal Music Group website.
What a shame. “Life’s Journey” is beautifully executed, with trademark raspy swamp vocals, rolling piano, and an unmistakable Southern drawl. I’ve listened to it on Spotify since realizing it existed, and I will try and get a physical copy too. There are a couple of original songs (“Big Lips”) and several knockout covers like an upbeat rockin’ version of “Fever.” This is real music. How tragic that this is what’s happened to the dying record business. This record was killed on purpose, while the top 40 crap we know too much about is served up hourly.
Here’s one of my all time Leon Russell tracks:
PS Jerry Lee Lewis has a new album,out, too– called “Rock and Roll Time.” Someone’s keeping it a better secret than anything at the NSA. Also very very good.
Look at the artists on this track list. And the record companies were interested only in Iggy Hydrangea.
1. Rock & Roll Time (with Doyle Bramhall II and Jon Brion)
2. Little Queenie (with Keith Richards and Ron Wood)
3. Stepchild (with Daniel Lanois and Doyle Bramhall II)
4. Sick and Tired (with Jon Brion)
5. Bright Lights, Big City (with Neil Young and Ivan Neville)
6. Folsom City Blues (with Robbie Robertson and Nils Lofgren)
7. Keep Me In Mind (with Jon Brion)
8. Mississippi Kid (with Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II)
9. Blues Like Midnight (with Robbie Robertson)
10. Here Comes that Rainbow Again (with Shelby Lynne)
11. Promised Land (with Doyle Bramhall II)