David Axelrod (musician)

David Axelrod (April 17, 1931[1][nb 1] – February 5, 2017)[2] was an American composer, arranger, and producer. After starting out as a staff producer for record companies specializing in jazz, Axelrod became known by the mid-1960s in soul and jazz circles for his recording skills. In 1968, Axelrod embarked on a solo career and released several albums during the 1970s that showcased his characteristic sound, which combined heavily microphoned drums and baroque orchestration, and avant garde themes ranging from the environment to heightened mental awareness.[3]

David Axelrod
Axelrod c. 1972
Axelrod c. 1972
Background information
Born(1931-04-17)April 17, 1931[1]
Los Angeles, California, US
DiedFebruary 5, 2017(2017-02-05) (aged 85)
Burbank, California, US[2]
GenresJazz, funk, soul[3]
Occupation(s)Producer, arranger, composer
LabelsCapitol/EMI Records

With his early solo projects, Axelrod was one of the first recording artists to fuse elements of jazz, rock, and R&B.[4] One of his most important records, Song of Innocence (1968), featured instrumental interpretations of 18th-century poet William Blake's poetry collection of the same name done in a contemporary musical vein,[5] leading one critic at the time to coin the term "jazz fusion" and numerous hip hop producers to sample the album's music decades later.[6]

Early life edit

Born in Los Angeles, California, David Axelrod was raised in its South Central neighborhood, where he grew up listening to R&B and jazz. His father was active in radical labour union politics.[2]

Career edit

David Axelrod with Lou Rawls c. 1966

After a stint as a boxer, Axelrod found studio work in the film and television industry, and was soon in demand as a drummer, producer and arranger. He produced his first album in 1959, saxophonist Harold Land’s The Fox.

In late 1963, Axelrod joined Capitol Records as a producer and A&R man. He encouraged the label to develop their black musicians. He began working with Lou Rawls, producing his successful Live album and a succession of gold albums and hit singles including "Love Is a Hurtin' Thing", "Your Good Thing (Is About to End)" and "Dead End Street", which Axelrod wrote and produced. He also began working with Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, one of the most successful jazz crossover artists of the 1960s. Axelrod produced Adderley's 1967 album Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at 'The Club', which spawned the jazz hit "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”, written by the band's pianist Joe Zawinul, which reached No. 11 in the US pop charts.

Around this time Axelrod also began working with a regular group of leading session musicians, including Howard Roberts (guitar), Carol Kaye (bass) and Earl Palmer (drums). In 1968, Axelrod wrote Mass in F Minor and Release of an Oath in a contemporary rock vein for the Electric Prunes; they were released under the band's name, but because of their complexity were recorded by other musicians.[7] The Electric Prunes disbanded during the recording sessions and Axelrod's team completed the albums. Axelrod's success also encouraged Capitol to allow him to produce solo albums, the first two of which, Song of Innocence (1968) and Songs of Experience (1969), were homages to the mystical poetry and paintings of William Blake. These used sweeping strings, booming sound and heavy beats in a way that was unique for the time and became highly influential many years later. His third solo album, Earth Rot (1970), warned of the impact of environmental pollution and degradation.[5][6]

At the same time, Axelrod continued to work with Adderley and Rawls, and with the South African singer Letta Mbulu, bandleader David Rose, and unsuccessful psychedelic groups The Common People and Hardwater. In 1970, he left Capitol and over the next few years issued a rock version of Handel's oratorio Messiah and further solo albums, as well as continuing to work with Adderley on several albums until the latter's death in 1975. His approach fell out of fashion for a while, and three solo albums he recorded in the 1980s went unreleased.

His work as arranger and composer began to be rediscovered in the early 1990s, and to be sampled by artists such as Dr. Dre, DJ Shadow and Lauryn Hill. In 1993, he released his first album for over a decade, Requiem: Holocaust. Several compilations of his earlier work were also released. In 2000 he released David Axelrod, which used rhythm tracks originally recorded for a proposed third Electric Prunes album, with new arrangements. Dr. Dre used a David McCallum cut ("The Edge") for "The Next Episode" from 1999's 2001. Masta Ace also used a cut from "The Edge" in his song, "No Regrets" from the 2001 album, Disposable Arts. In addition, "The Edge" was heavily sampled on the Emperor Penguin track "Burnt Sienna and Avocado".

Axelrod appeared at the Royal Festival Hall, London, on 17 March 2004 as part of the Ether festival where he conducted a performance of his solo work. He was joined onstage by Richard Ashcroft who sang "Holy Are You", originally recorded by The Electric Prunes. During the intro of his song "The Edge", he spoke on the subject of sampling, saying "I'm such a hypocrite, I hate sampling because it takes jobs away from musicians, but it allows me to have fun. It's screw-you money. So I love this, naturally. Thank you Dre.".[8] At the end of this rare concert he informed the audience that he was suffering from ill health. In 2006, Live at Royal Festival Hall was released as a DVD and CD. Axelrod signed with Blue Note Records in 2005.

Axelrod died of lung cancer on February 5, 2017, at the age of 85.[2][9]

Discography edit

Albums edit

List of albums, with selected details
Title Details
Song of Innocence
Songs of Experience
  • Released: 1969
  • Label: Capitol
  • Formats: CD, LP
Earth Rot
  • Released: 1970
  • Label: Capitol
  • Formats: CD, LP
Rock Messiah
  • Released: 1971
  • Label: RCA
  • Formats: LP
The Auction
  • Released: 1972
  • Label: Decca
  • Formats: LP
Heavy Axe
  • Released: 1974
  • Label: Fantasy
  • Formats: LP, CD
Seriously Deep
  • Released: 1975
  • Label: Polydor
  • Formats: LP, CD
Strange Ladies
  • Released: 1977
  • Label: MCA
  • Formats: LP
  • Released: 1980
  • Label: MCA
  • Formats: LP
Requiem: The Holocaust
The Big Country
  • Released: 1995
  • Label: Stateside
  • Formats: CD
David Axelrod
  • Released: 2001
  • Label: Mo' Wax
  • Formats: CD
David Axelrod Live at Royal Festival Hall
  • Released: 2004
  • Label:
  • Formats: CD/DVD

Compilation edit

  • The Edge: David Axelrod At Capitol Records 1966-1970 (Capitol Jazz, 2005)

Singles edit

  • "Gumshoe" / "The Lost Lament" (Decca, 1972)
  • "The Leading Citizen" (Decca, 1972)
  • "The Dr & The Diamond" (Mo' Wax, 2001)
  • "Holy Thursday" (Stateside, 2002) (split)
  • "The Signs" (Capitol Jazz, 2005) (split)
  • "London" (Stateside, 2006)

Other credits edit

As arranger edit

With Hampton Hawes

With The Electric Prunes

With Gene Ammons

As producer edit

With David McCallum

  • Music...A Part Of Me (Capitol ST 2432, 1966)
  • Music...A Bit More Of Me (Capitol ST 2498, 1966)
  • Music...It's Happening Now! (Capitol ST 2651, 1967)
  • McCallum (Capitol ST 2748, 1968)

With Donna Loren

  • Beach Blanket Bingo (Capitol T-2323, ST-2323, 1965)
  • "Blowing Out the Candles" b/w "Just a Little Girl" (Capitol 5250, 1964)
  • "Ten Good Reasons" b/w "Ninety Day Guarantee" (Capitol 5337, 1964)
  • "New Love" b/w "So, Do the Zonk" (Capitol 5409, 1965)
  • These Are the Good Times: The Complete Capitol Recordings (Now Sounds CRNOW-47, 2014) (tracks: "Just a Little Girl", "So, Do the Zonk", "Good Things" [previously unreleased], "Leave Him to Me" [previously unreleased], "Ten Good Reasons", "Ninety Day Guarantee", "Blowing Out the Candles", "Drop the Drip" [previously unreleased], and the tracks from the Beach Blanket Bingo album).

With Cannonball Adderley

Notes edit

  1. ^ Although some sources give his year of birth as 1933, or 1936, official records and his family state that he was born in 1931.

References edit

  1. ^ a b Alapatt, Eothen (9 February 2017). "David Axelrod, 1931-2017". Rappcats.com. Archived from the original on 6 September 2018. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Caramanica, Jon (February 16, 2017). "David Axelrod, Music Producer Who Bridged Genres, Dies at 85". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Bush, John. "David Axelrod - Music Biography, Credits and Discography". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Archived from the original on February 11, 2013. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  4. ^ George, Lynell (June 3, 2007). "Replay". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  5. ^ a b Sonksen, Mike (June 15, 2012). "Songs of Innocence and Experience: The Tone Poems of David Axelrod and William Blake". KCET. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  6. ^ a b Mudhaffer, Zaid (January 20, 2014). "Heavy Axe: A Guide to David Axelrod". Red Bull Music Academy Daily. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  7. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Liner notes for the Electric Prunes' Mass in F Minor". Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  8. ^ Lynskey, Dorian (March 19, 2004). "David Axelrod, Royal Festival Hall, London". The Guardian. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  9. ^ "David Axelrod, Influential Musician and Producer, Dies: Report". Billboard.com. February 5, 2017. Retrieved February 6, 2017.

External links edit