Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.5 out of 5
Song Of Innocence was David Axelrod's proper solo debut. Freed of the rock trappings of his work with the Electric Prunes, Axelrod takes on a much jazzier sound than those productions entail (and Axelrod was in fact a renown producer for jazz legends such as Cannonball Adderley). The truth is, it's best to view this as psychedelic lounge music or psychedelic elevator music if you will. I have an affinity for exotica like Martin Denny, and this is really halfway between that and the Electric Prunes. If this doesn't turn you off, you'll likely find something here to enjoy.
Axelrod's compositional style remains intact here, but his sonic ingredients are far more varied. The almost pompous burst of orchestra remain, but we also find some juicy interruptions from vibraphones, horn solos, along with more chilled out psychedelic-jazz licks. Also of note is of course the rhythm section. In the past 15 years or so, Axelrod's breakbeats have been endlessly sampled by the hip-hop and electronic scenes (DJ Shadow has practically made Axelrod samples his signature). There's a fine line between squareness and hipness present in Axelrod's music.
Once again (for Axelrod) coming in well under the 30 minute mark, Song Of Innocence works best as a piece. Although immaculately arranged, there is a stylistic unity running through these tracks. The parts are pretty good, but they best exist together. I personally dig the square-funk vibe of "Holy Thursday,"the slightly more rock like title track, and the arranged psychedelia of "The Mental Traveler."
Technically, this is a concept album, with Axelrod inspired by the peoms of William Blake, but I don't think a familiarity with Blake is necessary; this is all instrumental. Axelrod thrives on goofy pretension, and I suppose Blake is a fine a springboard as any for his sonic journeys.
If you're approaching this from a psych angle, make sure to give this one a few listens. Song Of Innocence is all about texture, and chances are you'll not really "get it" this first time around. Once you find the sonic key to Axelrod's world however, it can be a highly amusing place.