David Axelrod: Live From London

David Axelrod: The Edge + Holy Are You
From Live At Royal Festival Hall (Champion, 2006)

Like many, I discovered David Axelrod’s catalog through the various producers who also stumbled upon his extraordinary catalog of production and arrangements from the 1960s and ’70s. It’s hard to exaggerate how remarkable a soundcraft he put together in those years; they defied genre conventions with a mesh of rock, jazz and funk aesthetics – and did I mention the symphonic accompaniments? – all woven together as if they were always meant to meld together so sublimely. (For more in Axelrod’s career, here’s a 2002 review I wrote on his Mo Wax album, David Axelrod. If I may say, it remains, to this day, one of my favorite pieces even if I probably overdid it on some of the adjective-use).

Despite his dense catalog, Axelrod rarely performs live – he’s a composer/arranger foremost so he does most of his work in the studio – but he agreed to headline a show at London’s Royal Festival Hall, resulting in this DVD/CD package. It’s an interesting project – trying to recreate the songs that have made his music so famous – and to be sure, if you’re expecting note-for-note re-enactments of various songs….you’re not going to find it here. These are interpretations and while many obviously nod to the originals, it’s hard to compare a live concert symphony with a studio band (especially when you had Carol Kaye and Earl Palmer in the mix!). “The Edge,” – an Axelrod-produced cut for David McCallum (made famous on Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode”) doesn’t sound quite the same here: the guitar isn’t as angular, the horns don’t have the same wall of sound effect as the original. But you can still hear all the layers of music that were woven, an unforgettable blend of horns, guitar, bass, strings, and vibes (the latter which are new I think). I mostly included this song, however, because I loved Axelrod’s monologue that starts it, all about how “sample money” basically gives him some cash to burn. Real talk.

I also included “Holy Are You,” one of Axelrod’s first major hits (done for the Electric Prunes) and the vocalist on there is Richard Ashcroft from The Verve. As it turns out, the group used to take to the stage with “Holy Are You” playing in the background and it only seems appropriate that Ashcroft would nod to the master by gracing his concert and singing the song.

Just to let you know – I didn’t actually pick my favorite songs off the album – those would have been more like “Holy Thursday” or “The Human Abstract” but I wanted to give ya’ll enough of a tease to whet your interest.

As it is, Dana Axelrod, David’s son and the DVD’s producer/director, sent me an extra copy of the project and I’d like to give it away to one lucky (and informed) Axelrod fan here.

This is what you have to do: I’ve created a short mega-mix of different Axelrod songs/productions. You have to tell me, in the correct order, what the titles and artists and albums are. (Yeah, it’s thorough but did you think I was just going to give this away to caller #5?) Try to guess as many as you can but you have to at least include the artist, song title and album, assuming you think you know it. The person with the most correct guesses by the end of the weekend, wins.

Here it is: The Soul-Sides Axel-Medley Contest Clip[1]

Email your guesses to: soulsides@gmail.com. First one with most songs correctly IDed gets the DVD/CD (the only caveat is for int’l winners – you’ll have to cover postage, sorry!)

Congrats to Lou N. from Canada for winning the contest, getting almost all the songs right.[2]

For everyone else interested in the DVD:
Visit DavidAxelrodMusic.com. And this project is very much a DIY affair so they could use help getting the word out (note to my fellow bloggers/writers out there).

[1] Just to note, this was thrown together really fast and on the fly so it’s not like O-Dub’s mixing at its finest.

[2] The correct songs in the medley are as follows:
Electric Prunes – Release Of an Oath – Holy Are You
David Axelrod – Song Of Innocence – Urizen
David Axelrod – Song Of Innocence – Holy Thursday
David Axelrod – Songs Of Experience – The School Boy
David Axelrod – Strange Ladies – Terri’s Tune
David Axelrod – The Auction – The Auction
David Axelrod – Earth Rot – The Warning (Part II)
David Axelrod – Seriously Deep – 1000 Rads
David Axelrod – Heavy Axe – Everything Counts
David Axelrod – David Axelrod – Shadow Knows