File Under: Music History 101
Producer is a funny word. It describes a position that has had varying responsibilities over the years. In David Axelrod’s day, a producer basically oversaw the process, arranging and engineering and even writing the material. Our current image of a producer is more technical, a button-pushing artist responsible for actually creating the music. Their work is often overseen by a rapper, who will choose the beat and eventually become the co-star of the recording. The roles of these producers are similar, but these distinctions are important.
The Edge collects Axelrod’s work during his time as a producer for Capitol Records in the late ’60s, an era that would go down as the label’s glory years. It was also around this time that Axe started the black-music division at Capitol, made stars out of many otherwise mediocre acts and released three solo records that influenced – and continue to influence – jazz, rock, soul, funk and hip-hop, as well as infinite fusions of these genres.
This compilation is perfect. An exciting release based purely on its musical merit, it’s also a testament to the collaborative spirit of the original artists and the forces that came together to reissue this slice of history. For The Edge, Blue Note Records’ Director of A&R Eli Wolf gave Stones Throw Records’ General Manager Eothen “Egon” Alapatt full access to Capitol’s tape library. Egon flawlessly compiled (and insisted on a full re-mastering of) the material. Even the art direction, handled by Jeff Jank, gives The Edge the look it deserves. (When Egon and Jank come together to assemble an anthology, you know no detail will go unnoticed. The pair is also responsible for The Funky 16 Corners, The Stark Reality’s NOW and The Third Unheard: Connecticut Hip-Hop 1979-1983.)
Listeners who think they are not familiar with Axelrod’s work will be pleasantly surprised by the number of songs they recognize here. Most songs in Axelrod’s catalogue have been sampled over the years. Madlib, Lord Finesse, Pete Rock, Da Beatminerz, Diamond D, DJ Muggs, Godfather Don, DJ Shadow, DJ Krush, The X-Ecutioners, Prince Paul, Alchemist, Juju, Dr. Dre, RZA, Rockwilder and Hi-Tek have each sampled the songs that appear on this album. Even if you’ve never heard the name David Axelrod, chances are he’s one of your favorite producer’s favorite producers.
The majority of the seventeen songs compiled here are from Axelrod’s three solo Capitol releases. Filling out the bill are a few Lou Rawls classics, two great selections of the easy-listening vocal pop of actor David McCallum and one-offs by saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, composer Don Randi and jazz vocalist Letta Mbulu.
The Edge is a document of historical importance and should be required listening for all students of music.
David Axelrod’s Web site: http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Lobby/8238/
“The Edge,” feat. David McCallum MP3: http://www.scissorkick.com/blog/music/mccallum_the_edge.mp3
“Song of Innocence” MP3: http://www.scissorkick.com/blog/music/axelrod_innocence.mp3
MP3 samples: http://www.juno.co.uk/artists/David+Axelrod/
Blue Note site with MP3s: http://www.bluenote.com/detail.asp?SelectionID=10464Interview on Allhiphop.com: http://www.allhiphop.com/alternatives/?ID=215