Album: David Axelrod

David Axelrod, Mo' Wax
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The Independent Culture

The rehabilitation of jazz-rock production auteur David Axelrod continues apace with eponymous offering, on which seven pieces based on old rhythm tracks recorded in 1968 (ostensibly for a proposed Electric Prunes concept-album based on Goethe's Faust – what a shame that never saw the light of day, eh?!) are bookended by two newly recorded songs in the same style. Featuring as they do Axelrod's standard West Coast session crew of drummer Earl Palmer, bassist Carol Kaye, guitarist Howard Roberts and pianist Don Randi behind shadowy strings and jazz horns, the seven older tracks have, at their best, something of the dark, forbidding air of early Frank Zappa arrangements, particularly when the late Howard Roberts's discordant guitar starts snaking around behind the orchestra on "The Dr & The Diamond", or Oscar Brashear's trumpet solo rises out of the giddy vortex of reeds and strings on "Big B Plus". The newer tracks suggest "the Axe" has lost none of his liberal, questing spirit: "The Little Children" features the same turbulent climate of burring saxes and sawing strings joined by chilly operatic chorale behind rapper Ras Kass's account of good and evil forces vying for the souls of children – "The great city streets they'll fill/And they'll grow too old to pity/Just right for the cops to kill" – while "Loved Boy" finds his old friend Lou Rawls eulogising Axelrod's dead son over a low tremor of euphonium and stark tears of piccolo trumpet, played with the raggedy mournful manner of a New Orleans funeral band.