Leon Russell makes a bold return to “Big Lips,” originally featured on 2008’s In Your Dreams, and uncovers something randier, rawer and all together rascally along the way.
It’s a highlight of his just-released Tommy LiPuma-produced Life Journey, which finds Russell continuing a period of renewed vigor in the wake of his celebrated 2010 collaboration with Elton John.
Elsewhere, the always irascible Russell takes on blues classics (“Come On In My Kitchen,” Robert Johnson), songbook favorites (“Georgia on My Mind,” Hoagy Carmichael; and “I Got It Bad,” Duke Ellington), and pop hits (“New York State of Mind,” Billy Joel; “I Really Miss You,” Paul Anka). There is a lush reworking of “The Masquerade is Over,” as well as focused readings on “That Lucky Old Sun” and “Fool’s Paradise.”
Still, nothing quite matches Russell interpreting Russell, as heard on “Big Lips” — which also features Chris Simmons on slide, Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums and Willie Weeks on bass. Elton John served as executive producer of Life Journey, as well.
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