Saturday, May 16, 2009

Leon Russell & Marc Benno - Asylum Choir II , `72 Shelter Records

I remember this LP as a child. my mum had it. good stuff , although not as good as the debut , still very enjoyable... salty candy prob my fave here.


Initially kept in the can until Leon Russell started hitting his stride in the early '70s, Asylum Choir II is an artifact from 1967-1969. This was a fertile time for music. All the popular themes of the times show up here: protests of the Vietnam war in Down on the Base and Ballad for a Soldier; notes on the political scene and corporate profit-making in the face of the war in Sweet Home Chicago, Tryin' to Stay Alive, Lady in Waiting, and Straight Brother; and, of course, love in Hello Little Friend (which would later prove a hit for Joe Cocker when Leon was running that show). The tracks sound fairly dated in part because many songs were so topical.
Although Leon Russell is credited as contributing bass, guitar, piano, keyboards, vocals, and being the producer while Marc Benno is credited as a performer and producer, the music does not suffer from the "Winwood" syndrome, which occurs when one musician tries to do everything and the resulting product sounds flat and uninspired. Quite the opposite, the music, for the most part, is jaunty and full-bodied.
For example, on Straight Brother, the sound is a rich pastiche of fiddle, wah-wah, percussion, bass, and some great vocals from, I would guess, Rita Coolidge (set up in the Intro to Rita). Which also begs the question: who else is making some uncredited guest appearances? I find it hard to believe the late Carl Radle only served as a photographer and never plugged in his bass here. Could one of the drummer Jims (Gordon or Kneltner) be sitting in, too? No doubt, there are quite a few uncredited performers lurking on this recording, perhaps uncredited because of contract issues.
Russell, who was just gaining his musical footing about the time this album was orginially recorded, wrote some great lyrics and sings with great verve. His vocals, veering from ragged to howling, still can conjure chills on Straight Brother. And his keyboard playing is articulate and quirky, a harbinger of what was yet to come.

Leon Russell & Marc Benno - Asylum Choir II , `72 Shelter Records - MP3 @ 320 kbps w/ high rez cover scans

1.Sweet Home Chicago
2.Down On The Base
3.Hello Little Friend
4.Salty Candy
5.Tryin' To Stay 'Live
6.....intro TO Rita
7.Straight Brother
8.Learn How To Boogie
9.Ballad For A Soldier
10.When You Wish Upon A Fag
11.Lady In Waiting



Anonymous said...

Hi from Cy
Thanks for this, again a first time listen. Do they not have any barbers back in '72.
This is diff than the other 'soundscape' album. This is like listening into a jam in someone's back porch. Oh and it is good and thanks Aka for sharing.
My best Leon moment, I think, was him churning away in the background of Concert for Bangladesh and then the spotlight went on him for a solo, he blinked and through back his lank hair and let rip.

Anonymous said...

way cool. been looking for this for a long time.

Twil said...

This LP is lurking somewhere in the back of my garage, it was played to death when I bought it. Never thought I would see it again.

Thanks very much for this.


Jveezy23 said...

Thanks for the record bro i dont have access to any good record stores where i live so i really appreciate this!

signals3_t5 said...

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akashaman said...

your welcome kids ! enjoy

bruce k said...

This is more than just a prelude to full-bodied or mature Leon, this is an awesome record, with great piano, great lyrics, great singing, great tunes...True, the themes are specific to their time, but also timeless in the way that all great music is.

I re-discovered this record again after many years, now it's taken over my brain. My fave has to be Ballad for a Soldier, but Tryin to Stay Alive is a great song. How can you top this lyric? "Mad blood, happy crackers standing firm, Hope I leave town 'fore it starts to burn."

Happy listening!

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