Today’s music video is This Masquerade and the song is performed here by the writer of the song, Leon Russell.
This video was posted to You Tube by rollinthunderoad
I’ve lost count of the number of times I have mentioned here in my music Posts how late night radio here in Australia put me onto so much good music, and this is another example of this happening.
Leon Russell is an American, and yet he had more early chart success here in Australia than in his home in the U.S. He was already well known in the U.S. as a session musician who played session work for virtually all the biggest names in music at the time, and the list is a long one, and a virtual who’s who of the best artists and bands at that time. This session work was mostly with that famed group of session musicians in Los Angeles, collectively known as The Wrecking Crew. He changed his name to Leon Russell, because, as part of that session group, he was known earlier by his own name of Russell Bridges.
Why he performed so well with his early songs here in Australia is tied closely to Joe Cocker, that famed English rock singer and supposed wild man. Joe Cocker had some early big hits here in Australia, and oddly one of them was a Beatles Medley. They had heard of one of the earlier Joe Cocker versions of a Beatles song and were so impressed, they allowed Joe to record a version of a two song blend in from their Abbey Road album, only recently released, so this was high praise indeed from the Beatles. That mix was She Came In Through The Bathroom Window and Something, and that song was a pretty big hit for Joe Cocker, especially here in Australia, and Joe Cocker’s version was as good as, if not better than the original Beatles songs. On the back of that, Joe Cocker became well known here in Australia, and a couple more of his songs also became pretty big hits. One of those songs was Leon Russell’s Delta Lady, which was a huge hit for Joe here. Even though Joe Cocker and his band appeared at the legendary Woodstock concerts, he was reluctant to tour again so soon after that. A U.S. tour was scheduled, and almost at the last minute, Joe had to organise a band and some musicians for that tour. He got hold of Leon Russell, and asked him to put together some musicians for the tour, and also asked Leon if he would act as the ‘band master’ of what turned out to be 20 musicians. That tour was what is now probably as much legend as any other major tour, the Mad Dogs And Englishmen tour, which went to 48 cities and produced a live album, and rave reviews wherever they went.
We only heard about this tour here in Australia, but it led to radio playing anything by Joe Cocker and also for Leon Russell. In mid 1972, Leon charted with the Bob Dylan song A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall, which was a change, because the song was over five minutes long when radio played three minute songs mainly. The song made it into the Top Ten on the National Charts, and in a number of local areas it charted almost to Number One. Later that same year, Leon released his acclaimed album Carney. The Single lifted from that album was Tight Rope, and while the name of Leon Russell was hot, it also charted pretty well here in Australia, although nowhere close to the earlier Single. While I liked his music, it was not enough to go out and buy his albums.
That’s where late night radio came into play for me. They used to pad out their programming with a late night album review which filled out an hour of radio time, with the songs from the album and some commentary. They had got through most of the album when the announcer introduced the next song This Masquerade, mentioning that it was the B Side for the Single Tight Rope. As the song started, I took notice, and found that as it went on, I really did like the song. It was just so beautiful, and sung in a style that Leon was not really known for, more as a singer of hard rock songs than this fine almost ballad like song.
I then did try to get hold of the album, but as it wasn’t available, I forgot about it.
Then, four years later, in 1976, George Benson brought out his fabulous album Breezin’, and the first Single lifted from the album was the Leon Russell composed song, This Masquerade. that album I did go out and purchase, which was a little lucky, because the radio version of that song was considerably shorter than the album version, which featured George’s wonderful guitar playing, in an extended cut longer than eight minutes. This one song was immensely popular across most music genres, and charted on three separate charts, Mainstream, Rhythm and Blues, and also the Jazz charts. While it charted highly on all three of those National charts, into the Top Ten, and some even higher than that, there were some places where the song was Number One on all three of those charts simultaneously.
This song won Benson the Grammy Award for Record of the year, while the song Breezin’ won the Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental performance, and the album won a further Grammy for Engineering.
Leon Russell, as the writer of the song was also nominated for the Grammy for Song Of The Year.
I like both versions of the song, but lean more closely to the original by Leon Russell which I have featured today. The song has been recorded by a number of artists and bands across the years, notably by The Carpenters who released their version in 1973.
There are very few clips showing Leon playing and singing the song, so this video I have for today is just the studio version of the song overlaid with images of Leon. Note the first image you see. This image is of Leon during that famed Mad Dogs And Englishmen Tour where Leon was the band master, and her he is wearing that Top Hat he was so well remembered for during that tour.
The song is a touching and poignant love song, one that Leon Russell sings so beautifully here.