David Axelrod

The Warner/Reprise Sessions: The Electric Prunes & Pride

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As both a producer and a solo artist, David Axelrod is probably more known for his work in the jazz and soul styles than anything else, but he was heavily involved in a few psychedelic rock projects in the late '60s and early '70s. This rather amazingly elaborate U.K. two-CD set touches all the bases in his work in that idiom for Warner/Reprise during that era. Disc one manages to fit three LPs in which he had a strong hand as composer and arranger -- the Electric Prunes' Mass in F Minor and Release of an Oath, and the self-titled album by Pride -- onto one CD. The two works by the Electric Prunes were religious concept albums that, while flawed and prone to some of the era's more self-indulgent ambitions, did yield some interesting and at times quite stimulating interactions between typical West Coast psychedelic rock and classically flavored orchestration and tunes, as well as some funky jazzy percussion. The Pride album, in contrast, was much more conventional Los Angeles folk-pop-rock devoid of any such orchestration, Axelrod's influence felt in the composition of the melodies (with the lyrics supplied by his son, Michael Axelrod).

Although disc two is technically comprised of previously unreleased material from these sessions, in fact to some degree they're just alternate mixes, with instrumental versions of all of the songs on Mass in F Minor and Release of an Oath. Indeed, there are two instrumental versions each of four of the seven songs on Release of an Oath, though one song from that album, "Holy Are You," is represented by an alternate vocal version. Those who are primarily interested in these records for David Axelrod's role might find them preferable to the official versions, as they allow listeners to hear the songs without vocals and concentrate virtually wholly on Axelrod's compositions and arrangements. Some of the alternates of the songs from Release of an Oath present in two instrumental versions, too, have more skeletal arrangements missing the orchestration and emphasizing the rhythm sections so beloved by samplers looking for breakbeats. More general psychedelic rock listeners, however, will still find the original Electric Prunes vocal versions preferable. They simply sound more developed and more like actual songs when rock singers and lyrics are involved, even if some of the lyrics are in Latin and some of the musicians are actually session players. But the packaging can't be faulted for going to such ends to provide as comprehensive an overview of Axelrod's Warner/Reprise psychedelic rock work as could be envisioned, including a booklet presenting a lengthy interview with Axelrod himself about these recordings.

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