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David Axelrod | Earthrot / Requiem - The Holocaust (EMI)
The big buzz about David Axelrod thankfully moves good people like EMI to check out what they've got and get it out there. 'Earthrot' (1970) is an album of ecological warning.  The lyrics are adapted from the Old Testament of Isiah and, on a more optimistic note, from the Navajo legend The Song of The Earth.  Sure this is serious stuff but it's positive and joyful, and, as it played, I felt cooled out and energised.  Axelrod's miscreant early life was transformed by the blues and jazz music he came to know so well, living, as he did, mainly in black society.  'Earthrot' reveals his jazz leanings.  It is filled with jazz harmony singing a la The Fifth Dimension and jazz session men players with whom he shared great respect.  Their very playing is genuinely exciting.  It is so relaxed, so loose and easy because they are So tight.  There are many beautiful, melodic passages and if the album may have sounded a little, well, avant guard thirty years ago, we simple pop folk have probably caught up with it now.  This may not be the case with 'Requiem', (1993).  This album too features passages of rather more abstruse jazz but showcases Axelrod's grasp of modern classical music.  It is very dark indeed, as its subject matter would indicate, containing frequent hysterical vocal histrionics, which will not send you happy to bed and will not be sampled by a thousand rap stars and their producers.  It will, if you give it your full attention, stretch and exercise your mind, containing as it does little of modern rock's repetition and musical cliché.  It will clean out your ears.  Artistically it achieves what it sets out to do very well. If we did not know the title or subject matter the dissonance, the tortured singing and the shrill, grating violins would surely suggest a cold place filled with disturbed spirits. Grim and moving.

Stephen Ridley
November 2001

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