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.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Elton John
feat: Willie Nelson