In the mere six years between his last full-length album, Big Country, and his current eponymous release, Axelrod’s career has experienced something of a resurrection. His most famous work, created over the course single decade, showed Axelrod as being responsible for producing what is arguably the best work of Cannonball Adderly’s career, the crisp, distorted, psychedelic violence of The Electric Prunes, a good portion of Lou Rawls’ catalogue, and several critically-lauded albums under his own name, where he seemed to synthesize the best elements from all of the artists he assisted. For the next two decades, Axelrod sporadically released solo albums, ending almost entirely his career as a producer. The Axelrod renaissance began to unfold in the mid-’90s, essentially due to his work being sampled by countless hip-hop artists, most rigorously by DJ Shadow (who happens to write the liner notes for the most recent release.) Reissues and compilations proliferate, and now, finally, Axelrod is ready to voice his statement on the past six years, and to some degree, his career.
Ever the iconoclast, Axelrod opts to “sample” himself, specifically drawing from unreleased 1969 recording sessions. What was once intended to be an updated musical version of Goethe’s Faust has become a musical tribute to the people responsible for his recent increase in popularity. Most titles contain the names of personal and professional friends; other tracks pay homage through more obscure references. The opening track, “The Little Children,” for instance, contains a guest appearance by MC Ras Kass, and doubles partly as a political message from urban Los Angeles and partly as a dedication to all of the rappers and DJs that made for Axelrod’s cultural resurgence.
The music on David Axelrod’s album is as beautiful and inventively orchestrated as anything else he recorded from the period, and the idea of sampling oneself certainly sounds creative enough, though it’s essentially what 95 percent of musicians do naturally. Full of horns, brittle guitars, and a hazy, nostalgic production ambience, David Axelrod is a nice collection of work. There are no new epiphanies here, but Axelrod’s trademarked muscular R&B sound, devoid of the histrionics inherent in so much other instrumental music, will hopefully always have a place in our culture.
Mo’ Wax: http://www.mowax.com