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Liberation Through Hearing  By  cover art

Liberation Through Hearing

By: Richard M. Russell
Narrated by: Richard Russell
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Publisher's Summary

When I stopped wanting things for the wrong reasons, they became possible.

For almost 30 years as label boss, producer and talent conductor at XL Recordings, Richard Russell has discovered, shaped and nurtured the artists who have rewritten the musical dictionary of the 21st century, artists like The Prodigy, The White Stripes, Adele, M.I.A., Dizzee Rascal and Giggs. Growing up in north London in thrall to the raw energy of '80s US hip hop, Russell emerged as one part of rave outfit Kicks Like a Mule in 1991 at a moment when new technology enabled a truly punk aesthetic on the fledgling free party scene. For most of the '90s identified with breakbeat and hardcore, Russell's stewardship at the label was always uncompromising and open to radical influences rather than conventional business decisions.

Liberation Through Hearing tells the remarkable story of XL Recordings and their three decades on the front line of innovation in music; the eclectic chorus of artists who came to define the label's unique aesthetic and Russell's own story; his highs and lows steering the fortunes of an independent label in a rapidly changing industry, his celebrated work with Bobby Womack and Gil Scot Heron on their late-career masterpieces; and his own development as a musician in Everything Is Recorded.

Always searching for new sounds and new truths, Liberation Through Hearing is a portrait of a man who believes in the spiritual power of music to change reality. It is also the story of a label that refused to be categorised by genre and in the process cut an idiosyncratic groove which was often underground in feel but mainstream in impact.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2020 Richard Russell (P)2020 Orion Publishing Group

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F@ckin’ Brilliant!

Very engaging read by the author. Highly recommend to anyone interested in music or the record business.

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Storytelling at its best

I loved revisiting so many memories from my youth in this book. It is well written and well delivered. What a life!

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Best book I never read.

I laughed, I cried, I was inspired. It made me want to be a better version of myself.

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  • Miss N M Keane
  • 04-12-21

All The Dreams You Show Up In Are Not Your Own

Enjoyed this book. Wasn't aware of who Richard Russell was before this, although I was a fan of XL Records in the rave days and count The Bravest Man In The Universe as one of my favourite albums of the last decade. Much like some of the characters throughout his story, Russell operates and lives his life more behind the scenes.

The first couple of chapters were tough to follow and stay interested in, if you just missed out on that era of musical influences Russell refers to. Clearly personal to him I stuck with it and when he started charting his experiences of record shops I was back on board, resonating as it did with my own youth.

I particularly enjoyed the sections dealing with Prodigy and Liam Howlett, another low-key individual, humbly changing the world without shouting for attention. Other highlights include Gil-Scott Heron and Bobby Womack, with some great quotes and insights into life from both.

The chapter on Russell's debilitating illness was a very stark turn, totally out of the blue, as he describes it was to him too. I found this chapter moving and brought real depth to his thoughts on mortality and makes you think about it in your own way too.

I often shy away from books read by the author as some show the narrator's inexperience self editing and punctuating text read aloud, but Russell's story may have suffered from someone not having lived it being trusted to convey it as told.

I've since listened to a lot of XL recordings (I recommend doing so as you go along with the book to bring context and nostalgia!) and listened to tracks and artists I wouldn't have done prior to this book. In years to come I can see myself listening to the book again, kicking in its own way, like a mule.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-03-22

grateful for this book! :)

So grateful to hear the story & history of Richard's.

The profound cultural impact XL has had is incredible.
The story's have helped me immensely in my creative endeavours and has somehow given me the feedback I needed at a very pivotal part of my life's journey, sounds a lil deep I know. but it's true.

I read alot of books in my persute of self development to try to educate myself and grow as a human, this book was very different for me in that respect, however the most aligned with the path I'm on as a live electronic musician.

Richards integraty & story's were such a wholesome & enlightening listening experience.
I haven't had time to fully unpack the book properly however I know it's impacts been and will continue to be a positive one.

A wonderful listen regardless of whether you're in music or any creative persute, or just have an interest in music & culture.
There's so much to enjoy, learn and dream of to come out of listening to this book :)

Super grateful for the book and all who made it possible 💛.

Thank you Richard, your label shaped generations and gave our music the most amazing foundations to build on, I'm so proud to be a UK artist born of these influences.

This book helped me in ways you will never know.

sending you Vast Love to the absolute fullest 💛👑

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  • Mr IMS
  • 07-01-20

Inspiring!

I loved this book, always like this sort of thing to be read by the writer. It’s insightful and inspiring to anyone who makes music and probably to those who don’t.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-17-20

Highly Recommend

Really enjoyed this book, XL being a big part of my musical history, respect to Rich!

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  • Danny O' Sullivan
  • 05-10-20

An authentic music experience

I started this book with a distinct love of music that had somewhat diminished due to other commitments over the last few years.

LTH reignited this passion, told magnificently by Richard and his guests ( a welcome feature), you are duly transported to many different times in the UK in which we witness multiple genres beginning/developing/enveloping. The constant theme of rebirth/creation through sampling and it’s Importance in the many musical movements that transpire are hugely important.

Richards stories from music lover to exec and curator is also told extremely thoughtfully and with great introspective detail. Taste and artistic vision and a no compromise attitude enabling along with many other factors the rise of XL from what it begun as, to its symbolism as an indie Label today.


I’d advise to take your time and pair each influence, song, and artist with Richards recollection on Spotify and truly immerse yourself in the story.

I did and it brought me so much joy!

Truly a book for music lovers! Thank you for sharing Richard.

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  • J. Hamlin
  • 04-28-20

Great story - could have done w/ more anecdotes...

It's a quite remarkable success story really and appreciate RR taking the time to write this book. Didn't know about his personal and health struggles which have been intense and are catalogued at length here.

Because his and XL's history have in a way dovetailed and paid a key part in the story of dance and club culture in this country over the past 3 decades I understand why this does at times dip into "the history of dance music as told to the average 6 music listener".

Those were however my least favourite parts and these stories have been covered ad nauseum elsewhere..

Came for the story and the anecdotes and alas there aren't enough of them but appreciate I'm coming it this much more from a music angle which is not the total audience..

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  • steoreilly
  • 04-26-20

Very enjoyable

Great read and lots of learnings that reinforces my own beliefs. Inspire others, work with people who will inspire others. Commercial success is not a barometer of cultural success. Life’s too short