Leon Russellfans have a very special treat in store for them with the recent release of the concert DVD Out of the Deep Freeze - The Lost Reels. These ‘lost reels’ are just that - rare and wonderful lost performances from Russell’s live 1972 performances in Anaheim and Long Beach, California, as well as Charlotte, NC. They’ve been painstakingly restored and blended into one concert performance by film maker Jeffery Haas. Through this rare film footage, we can visit the 1972 era of outdoor concerts and psychedelia like a trip through the ‘Time Tunnel’ of 60s TV fame. It’s just like being there, as opposed to ‘looking back to’ the time when all this was new and groovin’. Deep Freeze is a rare and wonderful visual and listening experience filled with hallucinatory-like super-imposed images here and there of Russell and his Shelter People band. It also features superb audio reproduction that mesmerizes and dazzles the senses.Rousing songs like "I’ll Take You There" are followed by upbeat rebel rousers like "Blues Power." The energy of these tunes and others like the rockin’ "Jumpin’ Jack Flash" retain the ability to jump right out and grab an audience’s attention and effortlessly keep it there in a rarified higher realm of musical enjoyment and appreciation.Russell’s piano playing is at its best in these concert performances. Don Preston’s wild guitar riffs are complemented by Carl Radle’s heavy, thumping bass lines -- reinforced by the energetic in-the-pocket drumming of Chuck Blackwell.The soulful background vocals are from three lovely ladies whom Russell has been associated with for a number of years - Wasie Crowder; and sisters Phyllis and Mary Ann Lindsay. Russell’s lead vocals blend beautifully with theirs, helping keep the spirited tempo going.This concert compilation begins with the upbeat "Tightrope," flowing smoothly into the entrancing "I’ll Take You There". Preston’s screaming lead guitar riffs on "Dixie Lullaby" are soul-inspiring. "Queen of the Roller Derby" keeps the wild pace rockin’ and rollin’. The background vocals belt out "Keep On Rollin’" from "Proud Mary," finishing with Leon singing out "Rollin’ Down the River." A very strong Ike & Tina Turner influence is felt here."Great Day" features the soulful church-like vocals of Reverend Patrick Henderson, complemented by Wasie, Phyllis and Mary Ann’s superb background vocals. Blackwell’s drumming excels on this upbeat winner!Next is a mouthwatering version of "Alcatraz," with Radle’s bass lines driving the adrenalin level way up. (Radle at the time was an integral part of the Layla album with Eric Clapton as a ‘Domino’ in ‘Derick and the Dominoes’, as well as performing with George Harrison on the legendary All Things Must Pass album). A couple of years before Deep Freeze, Russell performed with Harrison and Clapton in Concert For Bangladesh (now available on DVD), which also featured sitar genius Ravi Shankar.Russell 'sweeps through the crowd' in "Sweeping Through The City," while standing on his grand piano, playing some unbelievable lead guitar riffs on his jet black Gibson Les Paul. Russell’s guitar playing is sweet and serene - every note and phrase a message or song unto itself.Phyllis Lindsay sings a beautifully romantic rendition of "Someday." The close-ups of her face while singing, shows the deep devotion and inspiration she puts into her singing. There are several scenes in the concert featuring close-ups of Russell as well, exuding the same deeply soulful expression. Leon’s interpretation of the Stones’ "Jumpin’ Jack Flash" transcends to places where only a master music maker like Mr. Russell can take it. At one point in this tune, Russell seems to be transfixed in a mystical religious experience, while singing with the fervor of one who is captured in the spirit of his own particular muse. This enthusiasm, complemented by more of Radle’s pounding bass lines, continues with a ballistic musical excursion into "Youngblood" -- drifting back into more "Jumpin’ Jack Flash." Russell’s pounding on the ivories in Dylan’s "It’s All Over Baby Blue" is filled with the spirit of a 'stump speaker at a church social'. The audience’s resulting applause is almost deafening in its enthusiasm! Leon then takes it way down low with his romantic interpretation of "A Song For You." He puts his all into it, and can bring tears to the soul. Part way through, vocalist D.J. Rodgers goes wild singing lead vocals. He struts his stuff from one end of the huge stage to the other; getting the crowd going all the way through.
Russell’s version of "Amazing Grace" has the power of the Lord in every note and goes from deeply introspective to an exuberant gushing of musical intensity that gets the whole place hoppin’. Russell’s primal screams have me reminiscing of ex-Ronnie Hawkins guitarist Buzz Thompson’s wild vocal yelps and those of fellow soul singer George Olliver. By coincidence Russell got his start playing piano in Hawkins’ band in 1956 as a 14-year-old.This talent is not to be missed, either in this masterpiece of early 70s concert presentation on the Deep Freeze DVD, or anywhere Leon Russell the living legend, continues in this new millennium performing his vibrantly entertaining live concerts around the world.This writer saw Leon Russell perform live in 1972 and again this year in 2005 .. and there’s nothing like it. Nothing like an incredible show the way Leon and his amazing band perform .. tight, energetic and always mesmerizing and hard-to-believe good!
It’s not often that this writer attends a concert of such monumental importance and entertainment as one that Leon Russell gives .. but this is it. He had it in 1972 on this DVD, and continues in this same high standard of excellence in musicianship and likable personality now part way into the 2nd millennium. Leon possesses the kind of talent that’s a gift from God. So is this very fine concert compilation brought to us through the magic of super-rare live film footage and the painstaking restoration and editing by Jeffery Haas. His high regard for Russell the entertainer allows the viewer to see Leon Russell at his very best.To own this DVD is to own a piece of the past that lives now as it did then .. with vigor, life and the best enjoyment and creativity in music there is. Please do yourselves a favor and add this superb live Leon Russell DVD, Out of the Deep Freeze - The Lost Reels to your collection. You won’t be sorry!