Life Journey

It almost goes without saying that at 72 years old Leon Russell has grown into his once preternaturally weathered and raspy voice. In the wake of The Union in 2014 with Elton John, he’s now back on a major label with a big studio and top player budget and veteran middle-of-the-road pop/jazz producer Tommy LiPuma at the helm. But as tasty as this set made up of pop standards like “Georgia On My Mind” and “That Lucky Old Sun” alongside blues roots (Robert Johnson’s “Come On in My Kitchen”) and somewhat contemporary gems (“New York State of Mind,” likely the best song Billy Joel ever wrote) may be, in the end it’s just a pleasant yawn from a once visionary and progressive artist some four and what feels here like distant decades ago. To underscore the pleasant irrelevance, his two originals, “Big Lips” and “Down in Dixieland,” are fun trifles that follow form, but he already cut them on his own label eight years ago. Admittedly, his refashioning of “Fever” here is somewhat nifty, and there’s no denying that in the big picture, Russell’s life journey has indeed been interesting. But for anyone other than devoted fans, his Life Journey album at best warrants a response of “yeah, nice, but so what?” — ROB PATTERSON

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