10 Legendary Albums You Didn’t Know Feature Leon Russell

During his six-decade-long career, the great rock composer Leon Russell not only penned some of our favorite songs but is featured on some of them too. Russell was a highly sought-after session musician and an ingenious collaborator. From Frank Sinatra to The Rolling Stones, he lent his skills to the greats.

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

[RELATED: 10 Songs You Didn’t Know Leon Russell Wrote for Other Artists]

While Russell appeared on innumerable hit records, here are just 10 of the legendary albums that feature the skilled musician.

1. Mr. Tambourine Man – The Byrds

Russell appeared on The Byrd’s 1965 debut album, Mr. Tambourine Man. He recorded electric piano for the title track and the song “I Knew I’d Want You.”

2. Laughing on the Outside – Aretha Franklin

The blues-rock composer lent his piano skills to Aretha Franklin’s 1963 release, Laughing on the Outside. His chops were put to the test alongside other famed pianists like Earl Van Dyke and Dave Grusin who were also featured on the album.

3. Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) – The Beach Boys

Russell’s keys graced The Beach Boys’ 1965 album, Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!). He recorded the organ, piano, and electric piano parts throughout, providing the same for the band’s previous release, The Beach Boys Today!

4. Beat & Soul – The Everly Brothers

The Everly Brothers’ 1965 release, Beat & Soul, featured Russell’s piano stylings alongside the likes of Glen Campbell, Jim Gordon, and Billy Preston also featured on the album.

5. That’s Life – Frank Sinatra

While credited under the name Russell Bridges, the piano virtuoso adds his skills to Frank Sinatra’s 1966 album, That’s Life. He can be heard on the track “Tell Her (You Love Her Each Day).” 

6. Living in the Material World – George Harrison

Former Beatle George Harrison’s 1973 solo album, Living in the Material World, features Russell on the track “Try Some, Buy Some.”

7. Straight Up – Badfinger

Featured on the song “Day After Day,’ Russell’s skills on the keys can be heard on Badfinger’s 1972 album, Straight Up. His guitar stylings can also be heard on “Suitcase” from the album.

The aforementioned Harrison also lent a helping hand to the band’s album and can be heard providing his guitar chops to the tracks “I’d Die Babe” and “Day After Day,” as well.

8. Let It Bleed – The Rolling Stones

The iconic Rolling Stones’ album, Let It Bleed, received a leg up from Russell who provided piano and horn arrangements to the track “Live with Me.”

9. Burrito Deluxe – The Flying Burrito Brothers

Russell’s piano power can be heard on The Flying Burrito Brothers Burrito Deluxe. Find him on the tracks “Man in the Fog” and a cover of “Wild Horses,” a smash hit by the previously mentioned Stones.

10. Shades – J.J. Cale

J.J. Cale’s 1981 record Shades also received Russell’s touch. The maestro lent his electric piano abilities to the album’s track “What Do You Expect.”

Photo by Robert Knight Archive/Redferns

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