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Leon Russell - On A Distant Shore album review

Over-produced swansong by the celebrated and prolific songwriter

Cover art for Leon Russell - On A Distant Shore album

When Leon Russell died in 2016 at the age of 74, what he left behind from a 60-year career included writing, recording and production work with some of the giants of music, including Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and even Frank Sinatra. With On A Distant Shore the well-respected figure draws a veil over a life well lived.

Alas Russell’s final album isn’t quite the curtain call one would have hoped for. Thanks to Mark Lambert’s overly ostentatious and frequently intrusive production, Russell occasionally sounds lost within his own material. As on Just Leaves And Grass and On The Waterfront, swelling strings engulf the music rather than enhance it, thus leaving Russell sounding like a guest at his own party. But when they do get it right – the low-key blues of Black And Blue - Russell punctuates with an emphatic and worthy full stop.

Julian Marszalek is the former Reviews Editor of The Blues Magazine. He has written about music for Music365, Yahoo! Music, The Quietus, The Guardian, NME and Shindig! among many others. As the Deputy Online News Editor at Xfm he revealed exclusively that Nick Cave’s second novel was on the way. During his two-decade career, he’s interviewed the likes of Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and Ozzy Osbourne, and has been ranted at by John Lydon. He’s also in the select group of music journalists to have actually got on with Lou Reed. Marszalek taught music journalism at Middlesex University and co-ran the genre-fluid Stow Festival in Walthamstow for six years.