» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
David Axelrod
The Edge
Blue Note

Rating: 8/10 ?

March 15, 2006
It is a time to appreciate the greats of our past. Recent deaths of Luther Vandross, Lou Rawls, and Wilson Pickett serve to emphasize the fact that the current field of classic R&B/soul musicians is thin.

There can be no surprise then for how much romanticizing goes on within the hip-hop world. Producers find their gold in old material from these legends, many of them crafted from jazz-soul songwriters that were geniuses in their own right, and anti-stars by nature. So it's harrowing when new(-er) school producers like Dr. Dre or Madlib - both of whom I like - come along and outright take the identity of the original recording. Public reputations aside, credit needs to be given where credit is due.

Bottom line to all the unknowing: listen to David Axelrod. To mention the man's surname to anybody who really knows is to provoke nods of favorable agreement. The truth is that Axelrod has probably influenced a good amount of today's current music makers, at least to some extent. He is credited in a recent Wax Poetics interview with birthing soul-jazz, a genre term that today is the über-tag in super-cool music. Axelrod's influence has even been shed on artists in genres that feel like they have little to do with jazz or soul or balladry: electronic, experimental, rock.

The Edge is a Blue Note-compiled collection of Axe's work at Capitol Records from 1966 until 1970. Although the time period seems brief, it was significant to the label, artist and genre in many ways. During the brief four-year span he created his three best-known and most critically appreciated albums, Song of Innocence (1968), Songs of Experience ('69), and Earth Rot('70).

Featured on the 17-track compendium are some of the stronger soul-jazz cuts and ballads that Axelrod would pen at Capitol and throughout his career. Included are compositions under his name as well as others: violinist David McCallum (responsible for William Shatner's The Invisible Man), South African singer Letta Mbulu, Don Randi, Axelrod's close friend and jazz saxophonist Cannonball Adderly, and the recently deceased singer Rawls.

At some points during the collection the layout feels almost too thought-out and staid. But for the most part the tracks are easy to enjoy. Any casual pop radio listener will recognize a verse hook in McCallum's "The Edge" as the centerpiece melody from that one Dr. Dre track. All of the other tunes will come off as nostalgic but mostly unrecognized. What one listener misses in familiarity Axelrod more than makes up for in his style.

As evidenced through The Edge, drum beats and horn/string arrangements were a heavy part of Axelrod's style. For many tunes a funky shuffle or backbeat is what starts everything off. Often it is Axelrod's go-to man Earl Palmer with his prescribed "swamp beat" style that makes it signature. Axe's horn layout often fits the mood - punchy and aggressive during Rawl's spirited "You've Made Me So Very Happy", moody and swoonful in McCallum's eerie "House of Mirrors."

These distinct characteristics make it so that other distinct '60s soul-jazz elements of tight and hooky bass and guitar are blended into the background. In a recording of smaller arrangement, these two elements would be the emphatic standout parts. With The Edge the recordings are so detailed and ballady that it takes the entire orchestrated group to make the sound complete, not just one instrument. The whole effect is cinematic and some who listen to it might feel similarities to Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield and their Blaxploitation-popularized '70s soul-funk sound.

Axelrod's place as one of the all-time better producers is cemented along with Hayes and Mayfield, and The Edge is a great and broad place for anyone to start.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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