Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.5 out of 5
Earth Rot finds David Axelrod crawling a bit out of his comfort zone. There is still a great amount of Axelrod's trademark jazz-lounge arrangements at work here, but also a few notable changes. Unlike the first two solo albums, we hear some vocals on here, begging more comparisons with his work with the Electric Prunes.
Axelrod always worked with some sort of concept for his albums, and here he's tackling an early environmental message. The tracks titles break the album into two halves with his "Warning Talk" and "The Sign." Realistically, these still function as eight individual tracks, but I think it helps to consider this as part of a greater whole as Axelrod never ventures to far from his primary sound. With this in mind, we'll give the second side's "The Sign" the edge although "The Warning Talk" is still some solid music.
The vocals do help add a little diversity to Axelrod's style, and what vocals show up serve more as punctuation to the music rather than the backbone of the songs. The core is still instrumental, but I do enjoy the 5th Dimension style interruptions. Thus we can take Earth Rot one step past the psychedelic lounge label into psychedelic muzak (but in a good way). The opening and closing speeches makes me think of a bleached-out version of George Clinton's early Funkadelic epics (Axelrod and early Funkadelic did share the Stateside label around this time).
As always, there's a slight touch of jazz-funk twisting the music into something a little more interesting. The breakbeats still crop up regularly. It's still best to approach this with an open mind, as the psychedelia is often subtle and probably requires a few listens.
With it's slightly later date and slight stylistic shift, Earth Rot tends to be a touch underrated, especially when compared with Axelrod's first two solo albums. I like to think of it as a strong close to a trilogy of solidly strange albums. In many ways, the more pronounced concept makes it my favorite of Axelrod's work.
David Axelrod - 1970 - Earth Rot