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DAVID AXELROD

Crossover Prog • United States


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David Axelrod biography
US artist David AXELROD, an acclaimed composer, arranger and producer of a number of musical genres, was born April 17th 1936 in Los Angeles. After a short stint as a boxer he started doing studio work in the late 50's, and 10 years later he would make his debut as a solo artist.

This happened after he and a team of musicioans he was working with helped add the finishing touches to two albums by Electric Prunes. Axelrod and his fellow musicians succesfully utilized innovative string arrangements, rhythms and sounds on these efforts. These made such an impact that Axelrod was handed a record deal as a solo artist, although it might as well be argued that his already at this stage long tenure as a very succesfull producer had just as much an impact in this particular matter.

This resulted in the production of three classic albums: Song of Innocence from 1968, Songs of Experience from 1969 and Earth Rot from 1970. Musically the two former are the ones most interesting from a progressive rock point of view, blending symphonic arrangements with 60's pop and jazz sensibilities in a neat manner, while the latter may arguably be more interesting due to the concept explored on the production than the music itself. At least for those with a keen interest in more sophisticated musical ventures.

Following this amazing trio of albums Axelrod took a musical left turn and chose jazz-funk and later fusion as the musical genres he wanted to focus on, and his early symphonic ventures were mostly forogtten as the years went by. Fans of Jazz and Funk got much pleasure from his later efforts though, with a steady stream of releases. Rock Messiah saw the light of day in 1971, followed by The Auction in 1972, Heavy Axe in 1974, Seriously Deep in 1975, Strange Ladies in 1977 and finally Marchin' in 1980.

As the years went by his earlier efforts started to be rediscovered by the hip hop scene, who more and more frequntly started using samples of his earliest works as backdrops for their musical exploits. Indeed, even if you don't have the slightest idea about who Axelrod is you're bound to have heard his string arrangements used as backdrop by someone more or less angrily talking over a musical backdrop in the hip hop genre on the radio somewhere.

This interest and use of his musical endeavours apparently revitalized Axelrod's solo career, which had been forsaken for more than a decade while he concentrated more on his production and arrangement...
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Song of InnocenceSong of Innocence
Import
Stateside
Audio CD$6.31
$6.98 (used)
Axelrod Anthology: 1968 to 1970Axelrod Anthology: 1968 to 1970
Import
EMI Europe Generic 1999
Audio CD$25.99
$5.99 (used)
Songs of ExperienceSongs of Experience
Import
EMI Europe Generic 2000
Audio CD$6.55
$5.99 (used)
The Edge - David Axelrod at Capitol Records 1966-1970The Edge - David Axelrod at Capitol Records 1966-1970
Blue Note Records 2005
Audio CD$7.90
$2.69 (used)
Heavy Axe [Vinyl]Heavy Axe [Vinyl]
Hi Horse Records 2009
Vinyl$13.09
the auction LPthe auction LP
DECCA
Vinyl$14.89
Requiem for the HolocaustRequiem for the Holocaust
Import
EMI Import 2002
Audio CD$18.80
$2.03 (used)
David Axelrod's Rock Interpretations of Handel's MessiahDavid Axelrod's Rock Interpretations of Handel's Messiah
Real Gone Music 2012
Audio CD$6.99
$6.60 (used)
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DAVID AXELROD discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

DAVID AXELROD top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.35 | 11 ratings
Song of Innocence
1968
3.08 | 6 ratings
Songs of Experience
1969
3.09 | 4 ratings
Earth Rot
1970
0.00 | 0 ratings
Rock Interpretation Of Handel's Messiah
1971
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Auction
1972
2.09 | 3 ratings
Heavy Axe
1974
0.00 | 0 ratings
Seriously Deep
1975
0.00 | 0 ratings
Strange Ladies
1977
0.00 | 0 ratings
Requiem - The Holocaust
1993
3.00 | 1 ratings
David Axelrod
2001

DAVID AXELROD Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

DAVID AXELROD Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

DAVID AXELROD Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
1968 To 1970 An Anthology
1999
0.00 | 0 ratings
Anthology II
2002
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Edge: David Axelrod At Capitol Records 1966-1970
2005

DAVID AXELROD Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Marchin'
1980

DAVID AXELROD Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Earth Rot by AXELROD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.09 | 4 ratings

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Earth Rot
David Axelrod Crossover Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars The man's third album certainly took a different road and is some ways is quite a twist to his previous works. Indeed, while Innocence gave us an often exciting fusion of jazz, rock and classical, and experience gave us a cheesy and watered-down version of the debut album, Earth Rot is a very different animal. A conceptual piece based on the sore state of the planet (a subject that Spirit had developed before him), made from two-sidelong suites. From Axelrod's usual suspects (Palmer, Kaye and Roberts), only the drummer is present and to a lesser extent, KB man Randl, but are swarmed in a numerous flock of wind players and choir singers. Indeed, THAT is the big novelty of Earth Rot; and believe me, it is surprising. Not in their presence per se, but in the daring (but only moderately successful) choir arrangements. Personally, it's definitely not my cup of tea, and I even sometimes consider it a flaw, when I listen to the sometimes brilliant music behind them.

And it shouldn't come as a surprise to you, if I tell you that the better tracks are the instrumental ones - though it's rather hard to know when the different movements stop and start. The instrumental interludes between choir parts in the Warning III (but read TW4) are particularly excellent, and so are the calmer ones of its follow-up. Where the album misses the mark, is that the flipside's sidelong epic is the twin carbon copy of The Warning, which is too bad. Had I been Axelrod, I'd have gone for a fairly different sonic ambiance, but I guess the gloomy concept didn't allow it in his eyes and ears. So it's just too much of the same, but then again, we can say the same thing of Experience, and to a lesser extent about Innocence.

So, while Rot is certainly better than the cheesier Experience, it doesn't match Innocence's exciting and enthusiast fusion. For the proghead, this conceptual piece (based on some Old testament texts) and its fairly gloomy gatefold artwork might be where they'd be tempted to start exploring Axelrod's works, and it's definitely not the worse place to open investigations, but let's face it, this was his third album in 18 months, and that was maybe over-stretching it a little? So better skip the middle piece.

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 David Axelrod by AXELROD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.00 | 1 ratings

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David Axelrod
David Axelrod Crossover Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

— First review of this album —
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Out of the blue and after a very lengthy silence (only one other studio album since 77, other than this one), Axelrod released this totally un-awaited album, and when I first discovered it, I had feared that it would've been a major disappointment, since most likely it would make much place to modern music trends. In a way, it does with some rapy and raspy vocals (ala Gil Scott-Heron) and a few other minor allowances, but on the whole, the s/t album is a very worthy album in his discography. Indeed, despite his lengthy absence, Axelrod's talent for awesome arrangements and production is still intact all those years after his creative peak that took place between

Opening on slow string quartet instrumentation with a choir and John Austin's very vindictive vocals, the album certainly starts on a dramatic note, and the cellos do give much depth to the project. Despite such a "vocal" start, most of the tracks in the inside are instrumental, and you'll find plenty of hints to Axelrod's glorious era, filled with his delightful blend of interesting choirs, virtuoso musicianship, a tad of solo histrionics and his usual awesome string and horn arrangements. Despite oscillating between jazz, classical and rock realms, most progheads should appreciate much what's on offer here. As usual, the bass (the always awesome Carol Kaye, a faithful sidekick) has a primordial role, well backed-up Earl Palmer's drumming (the usual team) and of course Howard Roberts on guitars. Ok, you may get some fairly cheesy (and heard-before) passages, like For Land's Sake, but it's an exception. The album closes on a song sung by his long-time musical buddy Lou Rawls and give a little dramatics to end it all.

As usual with Axelrod albums, this one doesn't last all that long; but then again, it's also the usual perfect length, thus sparing us any useless lengths or weaknesses. Of course, a big part of this album's success is the connection with Kaye, Palmer and Roberts, the three faithful compadres of Axelrod's legendary era and the not-least legendary Capitol studios in LA, where he created most of that magic. Yeah, the magic still works fine, so many years after.

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 Heavy Axe by AXELROD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1974
2.09 | 3 ratings

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Heavy Axe
David Axelrod Crossover Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

2 stars 2.5 stars really.

A relative disappointment, partly due to its extremely misleading title and artwork, Heavy Axe is anything but close to hard or heavy rock. Indeed, we are sometimes very close to crooner music and one look to the album's line-up will convince you that we are light years away from Axelrod's Innocence debut album, despite keeping much of his trademark arrangements, production and songwriting. Despite the help of George Duke on KB, and Johnny Guitar Watson on?.guitar and some familiar voices, the album is more a miss than a hit. Indeed, it is marred with a bunch of cover tunes (including Carly's You're So Vain) that are completing some more competent songwriting from the master himself. Let's just say that, compared to his early classics, this album pales in comparison, because it's not conceptual (more like a direction-less compilation of unrelated songs) and features much vocals, sometimes in the crooner genre. Some even venture that this is somewhat influenced by his ongtime musical buddy, Cannonball Adderley, but don't really expect anything up that alley. BTW, don't look for either Kye on bass, Roberts on guitar or Palmer on drums. Their absences should tell you enough.

It'll come as no surprise that the better songs are the instrumental ones or the ones with better instrumental virtuosity, like My Family or the closing Everything Counts (a bit of a return to his early albums)? and Mucho Chupar with its very suggestive female voices. The rest of the tracks are not up my alley, despite not being able to stop lending a closer ear to the Carly Simon cover, which doesn't reinvent hot water. While I haven't heard most of Axelrod's mid-70's album, I can honestly say that Heavy Axe is not one of his better albums, and even one of his less representative ones in his discography. So you might want to stay away from this album until you've explored his more essential works - basically his first three albums.

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 Songs of Experience by AXELROD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.08 | 6 ratings

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Songs of Experience
David Axelrod Crossover Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars 3.5 stars (but 4 for the flipside)

Under the inertia of his debut "solo" album, Axelrod recorded what can be considered the follow-up of his remarkable Song Of Innocence, but with a slight reserve on my part. Aptly titled Songs Of Experience, his second album echoes a bit his earlier opus, which is of course all bonus for Axelrod fans, despite a much-less psychedelic album artwork. However, despite the presence of his usual- suspects (bassist Kaye, drummer Palmer and guitarist Roberts) persence, the general balance tilts towards the invasive and almost intrusive orchestrations, thus upsetting the exquisite equilibrium of Innocence.

Ok, some arrangements are definitely cheesier than before, and one can be somewhat taken aback with the opening Poison Tree, you'll also ponder if the following Little Girl Lost will indeed tilt Axelrod's cinematic music towards the cheesy Hollywood movie soundtracks of the 50's and 60's. The short London does bring a bit more swing and energy, but it's quickly evaporated with the lengthy (everything relative, since it's still under the 5-mins mark) Sick Rose. The short and too-calm Schoolboy opens the flipside, but it's with the album-lengthier Human Abstract that the album finally seems to pass in third gear and head for more opens spaces, with Roberts' fuzz guitar leading the way and Randl's harpsichord to boot. Much to our pleasure, the following Fly is more of the (great) same. The album-closing Divine Image does raise the ante, with a tense and almost-chilling soundscape, approaching what Gil Evans could do so well.

Lasting a tad longer the his debut, SoE only clocks just under 32 minutes, but Axelrod's Experience is certainly not superior to his previous Innocence, because the orchestrations tend to overpower everything else. At least, the flipside manages to brilliantly save an album that was almost lost with its all-too-orchestral heaviness.

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 Song of Innocence by AXELROD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.35 | 11 ratings

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Song of Innocence
David Axelrod Crossover Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars A good 60's LA Scene record producer with some good New Orleans contacts, Axelrod is best remembered for his production of The Electric Prunes' two proggier albums, including the stunning Mass In F Minor and Release Of An Oath and his Cannonball Adderley collabs. Indeed, the man was not just behind the mixing console, but also wrote some of the music and arranged the pieces he hadn't written. Based on William Blake's Song Of Innocence, this first album is simply an awesome concept instrumental music album, mixing jazz, rock and classical realms with astounding arrangements and impeccable virtuosity. Indeed, most of the players on this album wouldn't ring a bell to most progheads, the best-knowns being Mac Rebbenack (AKA Dr John) and Leon Russell, but the rest of them being obscure studio musicians, some from the New Orleans scene. But let that not distract you, because all of them are awesome, such as Earl Palmer's inventive drumming, Carol Kayes' superb bass playing (she must've been the best female bassist for decades >< she's on Beach Boys' Good Vibrations). The horn and string sections are ever-present, but never overly so, the first hailing from the local jazz scene and the latter from LA's philharmonic orchestra. BTW, this album chronologically precedes TEP's Mass album.

The relatively-short (27-mins) album's music is clearly progressive in many 'prog' facets, including frequent tempo changes and time sigs, constantly changing musical soundscapes (despite remaining samey-sounding via the recurring theme), with brilliant histrionics solos, from the guitar to brass instruments. You'll even get some harpsichord interventions to boot, but it is really the production of the album that is impressive, with plenty of space given to the drums and bass. But what really makes the difference is his ever-so-positive and happy songwriting and the attention to the individual instruments' interventions, much like Mozart would write a score for the triangle in his symphonies. Some may dismiss his music's cinematic qualities as some kind of easy movie score, but in some ways, that's a tremendous compliment, even if not intentional at first. Indeed, it's quite easy to tag on superb filmed images to this ever-so-happy music.

The album came with a very 'psych' artwork and gave a short written description of each track's meaning. Although Axelrod's next 'solo' albums would retain much of the trademarks laid out on Innocence; they would change musical direction, often nearing to crooner stuff, but with the same kind of impeccable arrangements. In some ways, Axelrod is one of my preferred arranger, along with the often-stupendous Gil Evans, and this debut album is at the height of Out Of The Cool or Las Vegas Tango stuff. In some ways, it's a bit of a shame that the Capitol label for which he worked for let him go (he had no royalties paid out to him) and strike it out on his own, because it would never be as exhilarating as his late-60's music. While his later albums may not do much to a proghead's fancy, this debut album should do wonders to his happiness and give him many musical orgasms.

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 Song of Innocence by AXELROD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.35 | 11 ratings

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Song of Innocence
David Axelrod Crossover Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars A brief tour of psychedelia-tinged jazz-rock, David Axelrod's Song of Innocence is aptly named, because it exudes a naive charm that contrasts with the intriguing experimental agenda of the album. Axelrod's work here parallels Frank Zappa's own proto-fusion work of the era, in the sense that both artists were unafraid to inject a little unpretentious pop into proceedings; the distinction is that whilst Zappa's pop sensibilities tended to focus on the doo-wop of his youth, Axelrod was much more in tune with the lush baroque pop of this era. The end result is a fine pop-progressive release whose short running time can be forgiven for the sheer level of consistency on display.

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 Song of Innocence by AXELROD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.35 | 11 ratings

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Song of Innocence
David Axelrod Crossover Prog

Review by octopus-4
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

5 stars A musical genius coming from the orchestral jazz.

I don't know much of David Axelrod other than what wikipedia and of course PA say. I went to this album from the Electric Prunes, and this is totally different from what I was expecting. This is orchestral music, mainly coming from orchestral jazz but highly contaminated by the American psychedelia of the 60s. The production and the sounds are in advance respect to the 1968, but what is really amazing is the composition.

He doesn't have anything less than more acclaimed contemporary authors. "The Smile" is a jazz symphony that also Gershwin would applaud to.

Then the member's musicianship is remarkable. Earl Palmer, recently passed over, at the drums and Carol Kaye (no relation with Tony) at bass guitar. Look at her page on wikipedia to have an idea of who she was and listen to this album to have an idea of her skill. (And to some Frank Zappa albums lineup).

All the tracks are equally good. The opener "Urizen", likely inspired to William Blake, is where the psychedelic influence is initially evident, other than in the kaleidoscopic mandala of the cover design, while the title track is totally symphonic. All of them contain jazz elements with frequent bass and drums solos, short and non- invasive. I'm amazed of the bass in particular. How it works together with the orchestra. The only similar thing I can think to is Caravan and New Symphonia, but this is music written for the orchestra, not just arranged.

I haven't mentioned the guitar, yet. Howad Roberts was a master of jazz guitar and on this album he spaces from the clean jazz sound to Hendrixian acid distortion.

The closer is remarkable. It starts psychedelic, also with a sitar, but the conclusion is totally orchestral.

Is it a masterpiece? for me yes.

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 Song of Innocence by AXELROD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.35 | 11 ratings

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Song of Innocence
David Axelrod Crossover Prog

Review by Astryos

4 stars This one is full of instrumental mid tempo gentle music that could perfectly be a soundtrack for a 60s or 70s romantic love affair road movie. The orchestration and production are excellent and the nostalgic feeling of it gets you every time. I know this kind of music is called "baroque pop" and I think it is generally a good term. The music is enhanced with violins, horns, keyboards and percussion althought based on the standard rock instuments: the drums, the electric bass and the electric guitar with the latter stretching out a bit more towards the rock territories. This is not a complicated progressive rock record but an excellent addition to your music collection and don't forget that it is created in 1968, one year before the prog wave begin to flood 20th century's musical grounds.

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 Song of Innocence by AXELROD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.35 | 11 ratings

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Song of Innocence
David Axelrod Crossover Prog

Review by A Fine Gentleman

5 stars The album is timeless and meticulously crafted like beautiful artistic riches. David Axelrod's 1968 album "Song Of Innocence" is a masterpiece of what they would call "Baroque Pop". The record was the first of two tributes to 18th century artist/poet William Blake in which each song title & the album title is also the title of a William Blake poem . Its fully instrumental with an even mix of rock, jazz & classical or orchestral styled songs. Axelrod wasn't ever a film composer but his early music slightly resembles some of the more wild film music from the period. Imagine Jack Nitsche colliding with Ennio Moricone with a dash of Roy Budd, though Axelrod is truly unlike any other. This album is a masterpiece of serious music beyond genres and would appeal to all serious music lovers who have a taste for the strange and funky, especially if you want to hear the tightest drumming ever layed down fused with beautiful complex melodies & jazzy psychedelic excursions. It is a key album of the 60s, unlike any before or since. Ear Candy of the highest order.

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