Leon Russell - piano, guitar, lead vocals; Don Preston - lead guitar, vocals; Joey Cooper - rhythm guitar, vocals; John Gallie - organ, Fender Rhodes bass keyboard; Chuck Blackwell - drums; Claudia Lennear & Kathi McDonald - backing vocals
After years of establishing his reputation as a talented session musician and arranger, Leon Russell, along with producer Denny Cordell, founded Shelter Records toward the end of the 1960s. This allowed them to pursue projects with a wide variety of friends and musicians, many of whom would become world renowned in the coming years.
Following a year as band director for Joe Cocker's legendary "Mad Dogs And Englishmen" tour, where many musicians from the Shelter stable took part, Russell released his first solo album. The album, which featured a wide variety of musical styles, was highly acclaimed and featured "A Song For You," which would soon be recorded by countless others, cementing Russell's reputation as a gifted songwriter.
At these Fillmore East concerts, Leon Russell headlined over an up and coming Elton John and the band McKendree Spring. This set finds him performing much of the material from his first solo album, but with a feel that would reflect where he was heading on his second album, Leon Russell And The Shelter People. It was a bigger, more adventurous sound, which would feature many of the same musicians that jelled so well on the Cocker tour. The material on this tour was equally diverse, featuring rock & roll, country, blues, soul and gospel, woven together by Russell's distinctive Oklahoma twang and his creative arrangements.
The set begins rather starkly, with Russell performing solo at the piano, opening with Bob Dylan's "Girl From The North Country," followed by his own "Song For You." The set is paced in a way that is reminiscent of an old-fashioned revue, with additional musicians and chorus singers joining in as the set progresses. Anchored by David Hood and Roger Hawkins from the Muscle Shoals rhythm section, talented soloists, and two of the greatest female singers of the time (Lennear and McDonald), the set continually gains momentum with each song, establishing the feel of a rollicking road show.
As the set continues, Russell performs some of the true gems from his debut album, including "Hummingbird," "Dixie Lullabye" and the high energy, "I Put A Spell On You." The entourage also plays an outstanding version of "Shoot Out On The Plantation" that surfaces out of a short tease of "Blues Power," the song Eric Clapton covered so well on his first solo album.
Russell also performs "Pisces Apple Lady" before bringing it all to a frenetic close with the double whammy of "Prince Of Peace" and "Give Peace A Chance" (a Russell original, not the John Lennon song). These last two numbers clearly display the incredible power of this talented group of musicians and singers, bringing the feel of an old time Southern gospel revue to the stage of the Fillmore East.