Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Axelrod's Oath

Fans of beats, breaks, and all things drummed (and drummed well) have long appreciated the production and composition work of David Axelrod. Working in house for Capitol in the 60s, his great achievement as a sound sculptor was to merge dreamy, lush symphonics with crackling chunky rhythmics, equally adept at conjuring a sweet urban romance as a careening car chase–just peek at his work with Lou Rawls, Letta Mbulu, and Cannonball Adderley in the 60s or Funk Inc in the 70s, or any of his own solo experiments (including two tripped out William Blake odes and a 70s “Earth Rot” bid for environmental protection). Axelrod grew up in South Central LA in the 30s and 40s, the son of an IWW ragman, and fell into jazz and blues via Central Avenue. While the Blake LPs and his collaboration with the The Electric Prunes on the loved-or-hated Mass in F Minor album are his best remembered concept albums, he also did two on Jewish themes– the 90s shoah meditation Holocaust: Requiem and his 1968 Release of an Oath, which he arranged and wrote even though the Electric Prunes get artist credit (the band was non-existent at that point). Release of an Oath explored Kol Nidre in seven liturgy-filled compositions that were as dramatic, grandiose, and solemn as they were funky and psychedelic– much in the same spirit as Gershon Kingsley’s arrangements for his 1968 moog rock opera for a Shabbat friday night in East Orange, New Jersey. The LP presented Kol Nidre as a modern liberation song, a lament against “the conqueror’s yoke,” a chance for all man to “break the chains that bind him to any oath made under duress and in violation of his principles.” Dick Whetstone’s drumming does most of the album’s best protesting, as you can hear on “Holy Are You,”proof that even Kol Nidre themes can be sampled by Fat Joe and Quasimoto.


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