Leon Russell: Back to the Island (1975)

 |   |  1 min read

Leon Russell: Back to the Island (1975)

Leon Russell is like the Kevin Bacon of rock: there are six degrees of separation between him and anyone else. Actually, that's not true. There are about three.

Leon to the Beatles? Well he was at Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh so that takes care of that one . . . and opens enormous doors to others.

And Leon to Dylan? Same gig, more and different doors opening.

To Elvis? He played with Jerry Lee Lewis so that was easy. And as a session musician he has been on songs and/or albums with the Stones, Clapton, the Band, Sinatra, Badfinger, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, Gary Lewis and the Playboys . . .

And he started out with Phil Spector, recorded with Willie Nelson . . .

Make that two degrees of separation.

Curiously enough, despite his high profile as songwriter (early hits like Delta Lady for Joe Cocker, whose Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour he helmed) he has rarely troubled the singles, or even album, charts.

However his song Lady Blue from the Will O' The Wisp album in '75 did crack the US top 40. On that album was another song which was released as a single to considerably less success, but it is one of his finest vocal performances -- and still sounds like a song crying out for a rediscovery (and a cover).

Back to the Island -- complete with exotic bird noises and the roll of the waves -- conjures up a longing for the island home and has a wistful, almost country, tone.

That said, a Pacific reggae version seems obvious.

Might put Leon two or three degrees of separation from just about every musician in New Zealand. 

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with a backstory see From the Vaults

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

The Remains: Don't Look Back (1966)

The Remains: Don't Look Back (1966)

Pub quiz time: Which four-piece Sixties group quickly became adept at wrting their own material, built a local following, eventually appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, hung out with the Byrds in... > Read more

Dinah Washington: Embraceable You (1946)

Dinah Washington: Embraceable You (1946)

The Gershwin brothers' Embraceable You, written in 1928, became a jazz standard and down the decades has been covered by an extraordinarily diverse range of artists from Nat King Cole, Doris Day... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE SONGWRITER QUESTIONNAIRE: Candice Milner

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE SONGWRITER QUESTIONNAIRE: Candice Milner

No musician just appears out of nowhere . . . although Candice Milner, now 18, comes pretty close. Her single Run For It won the audience.co.nz monthly chart in June and that set her on the path... > Read more

BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK by BEN FOUNTAIN

BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK by BEN FOUNTAIN

Any thinking American who read Generation Kill, Evan Wright's remarkable account of being an embedded journalist with an advance group of Marines during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, would... > Read more