The Best of Leon Russell

Leon Russell

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The Best of Leon Russell Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Its release precipitated by the success of 2010’s highly touted Elton John collaboration The Union, Capitol's 2011 The Best of Leon Russell is a necessary addition to Russell's catalog in a number of way. Not only is it designed to hook in those listeners who discovered or rediscovered the eccentric pianist via The Union -- “If It Wasn’t for Bad,” a selection from that 2010 LP, is placed right up front among the 16 songs -- but Russell hasn’t had a compilation since 1997, when the Right Stuff released the single-disc Retrospective, a distillation of the previous year’s double-disc Gimme Shelter, so it’s time for a new disc. The Best of Leon Russell does its job very well, hitting all the obvious high points -- “A Song for You,” “Hummingbird,” “Tight Rope,” and “Delta Lady” all follow in succession -- downplaying his Hank Wilson records a little but stopping for a duet with Willie Nelson on “Heartbreak Hotel” and finding space for his “Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Youngblood” medley from The Concert for Bangladesh. Perhaps there are certain eccentricities that could have been included but this best-of provides the basics in a thoroughly entertaining fashion.

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