On a Distant Shore

Leon Russell

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On a Distant Shore Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Recorded prior to his November 2016 death, On a Distant Shore isn't a strict return to the chintzy, homemade digital productions Leon Russell specialized in prior to his 2010 Elton John-assisted comeback The Union, but it's a far cry from the warmth of the 2014 solo affair Life Journey. With producer Mark Lambert, Russell favors a clean, crisp sound for On a Distant Shore, one that is in the same ballpark as the endless albums he released in the 2000s. Coming after the burnished The Union and Life Journey, the brightness of On a Distant Shore is a bit jarring, but it enhances the low-key California swing of "This Masquerade" -- a song happily in the vein of latter-day Steely Dan -- and can work well on a barrelhouse blues, too. When more elements are added into the production, like the backing band and synthesized orchestra on "Just Leaves and Grass," On a Distant Shore starts to wobble because it's clear it was done on the cheap. Consequently, the album doesn't feel as suitable a career capper as Life Journey, but as a coda it's not bad: it has a few worthy cuts and in its ungainly construction, it holds true to the weirdness of most of Russell's discography.

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