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Ray Russell: Goodbye Svengali

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You probably know Ray Russell’s playing even if you’ve never heard the guy’s name. The British guitarist, a pro since 1963, has added licks to James Bond flicks as well as to popular albums by Tina Turner and Robert Plant. Much of his nonsession work, however, is best described as ‘underground.’ Russell snuck several avant-leaning albums onto CBS in the late ’60s and joined trumpeter Ian Carr’s Vertigo-jazz outfit Nucleus in 1971. A recording from the same year, June 11th 1971: Live at the ICA-recently reissued by Sonic Youth’s Jim O’Rourke-provides an excellent example of the outer reaches of Russell’s aesthetic: wild, woolly and not unlike freakazoid peer Sonny Sharrock.

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