Jack Sels ‘Minor Works’ 2LP/2CD/DIG (SDBAN) 3/5

So, Jack Sels then. You know him, right. No? Jack Sels the tenor sax guy. No? Jack the hipster from Antwerp who died in 1970 only aged 48. He was heavily influenced by the Central Ave scene (especially Wardell Grey) and Sonny Rollins and who wore a Press pork pie hat. No? Jack, the only child, who inherited the family fortune which he ‘wasted’ on girls, champagne and jazz records. Who, one sober day, bought all the tickets of a showing at Antwerp’s famous cinema Rex, and handed them all out to passersby. That guy. No?
Jack, the musicians musician, who joined Mickey Bunner’s band in 1945 playing Stan Kenton-style GI-friendly stuff before immersing himself in the blooming Belgian bebop scene before forming the Bebop All Stars Orchestra of “21 souls who love bop”. They wore working man’s clobber, those overalls and big bow ties. Cool, pioneering, ambitious but ultimately doomed to fail. THAT Jack Sels. Still no?
The Jack Sels who led a Miles Davis-ish Birth of Cool-style nonet, ran a Chamber music gig, supported Dizzy Gillespie on a couple of dates and toured Germany – playing for food, accommodation and, a princely, one German Mark per day. The Jack of whom, German magazine Das internationale Podium called his band “the best modern jazz band in the Montan-Union (an early EU ed.)”. He wrote and recorded the soundtrack to the first modern long play film in Belgian cinema, Seagulls Die in the Harbour. He recorded Bongo Jazz with Lucky Thompson and, in 1961, his first and only studio album. It featured Lou Bennett on organ, Oliver Jackson on drums and a cherubic 18 year-old Philip Catherine on guitar. Still nothing? No.
Jack Sels, the leader of Saxorama (I know) – a reeds and rhythm-section only band with 6 saxes and, old mate, Philip Catherine as one-quarter of the rhythm section. They made well over 50 recordings, some of which appear on ‘Minor Works’ for the first time. From those heights, Jack’s life quickly and inexplicably (although he did have an entertaining ability to upset people) started to unravel until his Jazz work thinned so much that, by 1966, he was forced to unload boats at Antwerp harbour to earn his crust. In 1970, while sitting at his harmonium Jack suffered a fatal cardiac arrest. One of Belgium’s most progressive modern jazz musicians, who’d played with Lester Young, Lucky Thompson and Dizzy Gillespie, died in poverty. Fellow musician, Willy Van Wiele, reported “Jack once told me ‘Willy, to go through everything I’ve been through, to live the life I lived, you would have to live for a hundred years’.”, while vibraphonist Fats Sadi praised him by saying “When Jack played, the gates of heaven opened. Jack was more Jazz than Jazz itself.” Wow.
There you go. It’s THAT Jack Sels. You remember now? No? Nothing? Me neither.

Minor works is a 2CD, double vinyl or digital release from SDBAN. It contains 27 tracks in total with 12 previously unreleased studio tracks and 8 live tracks. It highlights Jack, who received no formal musical training, as a versatile and charming arranger/composer. The album swings and endears through bebop standards, Hammerstein pops and, my favourite era, the 4-piece soul jazz jams.
Jack’s story gives an absorbing narrative to his Grey/Rollins blessed playing with Sonny’s influence making an early appearance on the first track, ‘Spanish Lady’. ‘Ginger’ is a relatively sombre affair with the spice coming from vibes and measured spoons of lyrical sax and piano soloing. ‘Dorian 047’ is a high energy, joyful train ride of a track from Jack’s Saxorama period with a twinkly, if unexplosive, Catherine solo. ‘Blue Triptichon’ is their have-a-go at Mingus with handsome, deep emotional sax layers leading into busy, dancing rhythms and Batman (TV series) horn stabs.

I’m proper hip to the smoky soul jazz of ‘African Dance’, ‘Softly As In A Morning Sunrise’ and ‘Blues for a Blond’e. They’re probably the highlight for me and sit loosely in Stanley Turrentine territory with Lou Bennett’s organ bringing the warm truth and Sels and Catherine’s economic but poetic solos merrily chatting away. It’s hard not to like Sels’ playing – it’s characterful and he does have a handsome tone.
‘Tchack-Tchack’ works really well – a rolling percussive workout with tight, afro-lite staccato guitar, twinkly-toed piano and those ganged saxes again. Good energy. We’ve also got a version of ‘Night in Tunisia’ on here which is okay but they all suffer a bit after Tony Allen’s Tribute to Blakey’s version don’t they? Then there’s the unfortunately titled ‘Dong’ which is movingly suspenseful and filmic (making sense out of Sels being picked to score Seagulls Die in the Harbour) and ‘Minor 5’ which, as we might expect, sits in Brubeck space.
I do like this album as a whole. I like the highlights even more. There’s bags of character and variety and even more commitment to a cause. Mostly it hangs together really well and you get a feeling of camaraderie.
Final note to reader – if you’d already heard of Jack Sels and at the top of this review were screaming “Yes! Of course I know who Jack Sels is! Shut the **** up, Ian!”…then I must humbly apologise for peaking your ire and add that I’m really glad that I now know who Jack is too. Nice job SDBAN. 3 stars for the album. 4 stars for the highlights.

Ian Ward

Barre Phillips ‘End to End’ LP/CD (ECM) 4/5

A close friend of Manfred Eicher and a highly creative musician whose sphere of influence cuts across western classical, improvisational and jazz boundaries, double bassist Barre Phillips seldom records and is little known to a younger generation, but has nonetheless attracted a coterie of admirers along the way. First discovered performing at a parish church in London, but developing a close friendship with Manfred Eicher after the latter heard Phillips at Berlin club in the 1960s, Barre Phillips is a musician who has tended to avoid the limelight, yet is still highly respected among musicians.

He is in fact reputed to be the first musician to record a bass solo album as far back as 1968, ‘Journal Violone’, on his own MS label, but followed that up with his first offering on ECM, a collaborative double bass duet recording with Dave Holland, ‘Music For Two Basses’ (ECM 1971), and at a later date, a second bass solo effort, ‘Call Me When You Get There’, (ECM 1983). This new recording dates from 2017 at La Buissonne and retains an intimate and reposing feel throughout. For those unfamiliar with his work, Phillips’ musical influences are diverse, but were particularly informed by avant-garde jazzmen such as Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp and even Johnny Griffin on the hard-bop side, third stream composers like Gunther Schuller, as well as classical tenures as soloist bassist with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein. In concert, Barre Phillips has performed with Paul Bley, Chick Corea, Don Ellis and George Russell, while in London he worked with Chris McGregor and other South African exiles. As part of a trio formed, Phillips has recorded with Stu Martin and John Surman.

The album is divided up into a series of three lengthy pieces, and, from a purely technical perspective, is fascinating to hear in that the high-pitched harmonies contrast markedly with the lower registers, and part of the skill that Phillips possesses is to make that transition appear seamless. Although the material is prepared, Barre Phillips manages to dissect the contents with a distinctive improvised feel and explore them within the setting of a studio, thus offering more of a live mood to proceedings. Some of the parts have an early music feel and there is a strong influence of J.S Bach, while both Corelli and Villa-Lobos are present in his compositions. On part two of, ‘Quest’, for example, the spirit of Bach permeates the music and that is even more pronounced on part five where Bach’s cello suite immediately springs to mind, but not in any derivative sense. With both the extensive and exemplary sleeve notes for this album, ECM is threatening to shed its usual minimalist reputation. However, in the case of Barre Phillips, that is no bad thing at all.

Tim Stenhouse

Marcin Wasilewski Trio ‘Live’ 2LP/CD (ECM) 4/5

A long awaited live recording from Polish pianist and trio leader, Marcin Wasilewski, a much earlier album was recorded in 1996. However, this new performance from the Jazz Middleheim Festival in Antwerp offers up a fresh perspective on material that is predominantly drawn from the 2014 ECM album, ‘Spark of life’. That may possibly disappoint some who would prefer to hear reworkings of the ‘Trio’ (ECM, 2005) and, ‘January’ (ECM, 2008) pieces, or even those from, ‘Faithful’ (ECM, 2011) and there are indeed worthy pieces for re-examination on all of those aforementioned recordings. However, listening pleasures are aplenty here and a few surprises in store into the bargain. Who, for example, would have expected an interpretation of Sting’s, ‘Message In A Bottle’, to be revisited in a jazz idiom? While an earlier studio reading by Wasilewski does indeed exist, this live performance far outweighs that somewhat politer and ultimately tamer version, and is significantly looser in outlook. As a matter of fact, Sting has enjoyed a long and proud association with jazz thanks to his collaborative work with Branford Marsalis, yet his reggae-tinged composition is taken in an altogether different direction here, with attractive chorus motif repeated, while the bass solo and deft percussive work breathe new life into the number. Even more of a surprise, and an extremely pleasant one at that, is the cover of Herbie Hancock’s, ‘Actual Proof’, taken from that composer/pianist’s Headhunters jazz-fusion period. Reworked in an acoustic trio setting, the phrasing conveys the delicate Hancock-esque touch, while both bass and drums are afforded the space to solo at length. A definite highlight and an indication that Wasilewski is widening his musical horizons. Combining some of the leader’s earlier originals, ‘Spark of Life’/’Sudovin Dance’, as a medley works a treat. Wasilewski first recorded in acoustic trio piano format on a tribute recording to fellow Polish composer/pianist Krzystof Komeda in 1995, when just twenty years of age. Now in his early forties, Marcin Wasilewski has gained invaluable experience as a regular member of the late Tomasz Stańko group and that training pays off handsomely on this occasion, and the exclusion of a tenor saxophonist to his regular line-up allows other musicians to take more of the limelight.

Tim Stenhouse

Bokanté + Metropole Orkest ‘What Heat’ LP/CD/DIG (Real World) 4/5

African, French Caribbean and big band jazz and classical strings all combine on this extremely well thought out and wide-ranging musical recording that has divided critical opinion. While some music writers have praised the laudable objectives of fusing such disparate musical elements, others have found the overall sound simply too complex to digest, and possibly, too all-embracing. This writer, while initially a tad reticent to the all-encompassing percussive surroundings of the opening piece, ‘All The Way Home’, was rapidly won over to the skillfully crafted arrangements of Jules Buckley, the impressive songwriting talents of Bokanté founding member Michael League, and the general production is certainly praiseworthy. In some respects, the wall of sound brings to mind the production values of Phil Spector. Here, however, there is more of a cinematic feel, invested with a jazzy tinge thanks to the considerable efforts of New York-based collective, Snarky Puppy. One key element in the overall mix is the vocals of Guadeloupean singer, Malika Tivolien, now resident in Montreal and when those superb French Creole lyrics are sung with the female lead chorus and background harmonies in English, the combination is truly enthralling. Several of the songs, as with the album as a whole, are real growers and that is certainly the case of, ‘Fanm’, which is notable for the use of western classical strings and the North African (extend that to the Machrek, with the omnipresent Egyptian musical influence on the Maghreb) oud with catchy and soulful call and response vocals. More social and political in its commentary, ‘Réparasyons’ (‘Reparations’), opens into a strong Afro-Beat number. Slide guitar, saxophone ensemble and oud in tandem with strings all feature on the marvellous, ‘Don’t Do It’, with a memorable breakdown and repeated motif.

The Metropole Orkest are a Dutch big band that has been in existence since 1945 whereas Bokanté have been a group for barely more than a year so an unusual pairing of musical minds. The 2016 debut of Bokanté (an instrumental piece from the album, ‘Strange Circles’, earned them a Grammy) introduced the mixture of African blues and funk, with elements of 1970s psychedelic soul and what this scribe especially warmed to was the subtle incorporation of acoustic world roots instrumentation and this blends in beautifully on occasion. What comes across above all throughout this album is the cross-fertilisation of the African roots (to include the global African diaspora) of the blues with the Arabic-speaking world. It is worth noting that the Guadeloupean Creole sung here is specific to that French administered island, one of the numerous Dom-Tom, or French Overseas Territories. That said, the dialect is similar to neighbouring Martinique. This could just prove to be one of those slow burner albums that grow with repeated listens.

Tim Stenhouse

Fatoumata Diawara ‘Fenfo’ CD/DIG (Montuno/Shanachie) 4/5

Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara endeared herself to world roots fans with her performance at Africa Oyé in Liverpool several summers ago. At the time, it was rather her terrific debut on World Circuit, ‘Fatou’ (2010), that became required listening and she followed that up with a surprise duet recording with Cuban pianist, Roberto Fonseca.

Now, Diawara returns with a world fusion hybrid that retains the essence of her West African roots and of the Malian blues in particular, while at the same time subtly interweaving elements of western music. Produced by Pierre Juarez, the album has an overall pared down feel and that is in fact reflected in the slow build up of the song, ‘Nterini’, which has an acoustic folk flavour in the guitar riff and sparse bass drum accompaniment, complete with collective hand claps. In some respects, it is strangely reminiscent of Ricky Lee Jones’, ‘Chuck E’s in love’. That 1970s parallel is continued further on, ‘Ou Y’an Ye’, with gentle acoustic guitar, soft keyboards, but then the number goes up a notch or two in intensity with the combined entrance of percussion and wah-wah guitar. What really comes across is how well producer Juarez has allowed the music to breathe organically, as on, ‘Takamba’, which flows effortlessly with talking drum in hot pursuit. For added variety, another number,’Dibi bo’, has a light reggae influence in the use of rhythm guitar, and indeed a tranquil insouciance permeates the song while the temperature is a good deal funkier on, ‘Negue negue’, which is a real favourite of this writer and that oh so catchy chorus makes it a leading contender for a single release. A somewhat passé pop-rock crossover is attempted on, ‘Bonya’, with electric drum and western drums both in attendance. However, far more convincing is the title track that has the emotive Malian blues seeping through and is beautifully laid back as is the song, ‘Kanou dan Yen’, with a decidedly echo-bound intro and the collective sounds of kora, bass guitar and percussion to ensure a gradual build up of intensity. This is one of those understated records that ever so gently gets under the skin, and that is testimony to the excellent work of singer and producer.

A fine return for Fatoumata Diawara with an extensive European and North American tour bringing her to the UK during November.

NOV 19 MON Sage Gateshead, United Kingdom
NOV 20 TUE EartH (Hackney Arts Centre) TEME TAN London, United Kingdom
NOV 21 WED Fiddlers Club Bristol, United Kingdom
NOV 22 THU Band on the Wall Manchester, United Kingdom
NOV 24 SAT Belgrave Music Hall Leeds, United Kingdom

Tim Stenhouse

Jack Wilkins ‘Windows’ LP (WeWantSounds) 4/5

Some readers may first have become aware of the classic Freddie Hubbard composition ‘Red Clay’ via the sampled version from A Tribe Called Quest on ‘Midnight Marauders’ album of the early 1990s. If that is the case, then what you heard was a laid back drum groove and distinctive electric bass interpretation from a trio guitar formation headed by Jack Wilkins on the guitar, and this is the first ever re-issue in the UK of that album. In reality, the album contains an awful lot more to enjoy, not least some of the lovely self-penned pieces by the leader. Wilkins had the knack of choosing a post-bop jazz number and invest the piece with his own virtuosity. Such is the case of Chick Corea’s ‘Windows’, which Stan Getz used on one of his most compelling Verve albums. Here, the gentle intro leads into a medium tempo waltz with bass in close attendance. Even more surprising is Wayne Shorter’s ‘Pinocchio’ from the tenorist’s tenure in the Miles Davis quintet. This is more problematic for a guitar trio to capture, yet the staccato intro is skilfully weaved in and, in the main motif, the piece is instantly recognisable. A genuine treat is in store on the subtly crafted take on the John Coltrane ballad, ‘Naima’, with deft brush work, and a clear delineated guitar solo. Of the originals, ‘Canzona’ impresses most, with a rapid rhythm guitar into and some heavy bass lines while the lively drum rolls are a joy to behold. Mainstream records released this album in 1973 and it pretty much sank without trace, before rappers and the hip-hop generation re-discovered the hidden gem. Available on vinyl only, this is a re-issue that is well worth checking out. A noteworthy point to mention Bill Goodwin, who was a favoured drummer of other musicians and featured on the well received Tom Waits double live in the studio outing, ‘Nighthawks At The Diner’ as well as recording elsewhere with Gary Burton, Hal Galper, Gábor Szabó and Paul Horn. His drumming and percussion work is the foundation for this 1973 release.

Tim Stenhouse

Soft Machine ‘Hidden Details’ CD/DIG (Dyad) 3/5

In the early 1970s Soft Machine were one of the most progressive British bands to emerge and seamlessly fused psychedelic jazz and challenging rock into a wholly distinctive sound. Of the original members, drummer and percussionist John Marshall and acoustic/electric guitarist John Etheridge remain, while bass guitarist Roy Babbington has been associated with the band as far back as 1971. More recent multi-reedist and Fender Rhodes player Theo Travis completes the current quartet and the band are at pains to indicate that the new material is not a re-enactment of the past. Post-Robert Wyatt and Karl Jenkins, Soft Machine have indulged fans in some of their legacy projects, but this new recording is exactly fifty years on form their debut self-titled album.

Thus, this much anticipated new album by the group poses questions for longer term fans of how the new music shapes up to their repertoire back in the 1970s. On this evidence alone, the music has a more concise and emphasized rock tinge, and is somewhat lighter on jazz content, though there are certainly some examples of lengthy keyboard and reed dominated passages on occasion. For example, on the two part ‘Out Bloody Intro’ and ‘Out Bloody Rageous, Part 1’, the gentle sound of the Fender leads into some excellent improvisation with guitar and soprano saxophone operating in tandem. Atmospheric percussion à la Pharoah Sanders from his explorative Impulse period offers more of an ambient feel on ‘Breathe’, with keyboard to the fore, while the gentle ballad, ‘Broken Hill’, has a strong Santana-esque guitar solo in the intro. One pleasing feature throughout are the melodic bass lines and on ‘The Man Who Waved At Trains’, it is the bass that combines resourcefully with Fender, electric guitar and flute. Something more akin to a jazz-folk sound is created on ‘Fourteen Hour Dream’, with a bustling bass line, while electric guitar and flute work effectively together. As the sleeve notes attest, this may well be an entirely different experience and performance when Soft Machine are heard live and playing some of their more familiar band repertoire, but this is strictly a studio recording only and judged solely on those terms. There is still a good deal of creativity in the new incarnation of the group, but some of that magic has sadly been lost with the passing of time.

Tim Stenhouse

Candi Staton ‘Unstoppable’ LP/CD/DIG (Beracah/Thirty Tigers) 3/5

Singer-songwriter Candi Staton has legendary status in the UK and rightly so. She started as a southern soul performer who recorded at Muscle Shoals and long-time soul devotees were hip to these sides, while in the mid-1970s her soulful take on disco made the highest echelons of the pop charts with ‘Young Hearts Run Free’, with the production talent of Dave Crawford. Out of favour in the 1980s when glossy drum machines came to the fore, Staton stormed back with another dancefloor take on the emergent house rhythm and resurfaced with the anthem, ‘You Got The Love’. In the early noughties, Candi Staton enjoyed a resurgence of interest via the enterprising Honest Jon’s label that re-issued some of her earlier southern soul sides, then recorded two new albums with her, with the 2006 ‘His Hands’ especially memorable and the best thing Candi Staton has recorded in the second half of her illustrious career. Re-issue label ACE then went the whole hog with the complete recordings on the Fame label, and a new generation was now au fait with her impressive back catalogue.

Fast forward to the present and to this independent release, co-produced by Mark Nevers and keyboardist Marcus Williams. The former seems to have misguided plans for Ms. Staton to be transformed into an early 1980s funkstress and that is confirmed by the opening song, ‘Confidence’, which in truth, is more Chaka Khan than Candi Staton, and features a plethora of synthesizer sounds akin to the early Prince aka ‘Controversy’. Is this really the Candi Staton we know and love? The formula is repeated time and again with, ‘It Ain’t Over’, and the drum happy, ‘People Have The Power’, which is, believe it or not, a song Patti Smith interpreted. Some of the trite lyrics elsewhere seem totally out-of-place with the Rimbaud-esque sophistication of the Smith repertoire.

Sadly, the soulstress that is so beloved is only allowed to come to the fore on the very last number, ‘Can I Change My Mind?’, almost a plea from Candi to return to the style she is most comfortable with, and both a song that could/should have opened up the album and an obvious contender as a single. It is a reprise of the 1968 Tyrone Davis soul opus and, while the original is still the definitive take, this is nonetheless a cut above the rest.

In between the two extremes, to be fair there are some interesting soul-blues numbers with the subtle keyboard-led ‘I Fooled You, Didn’t I?’, an example of what can be done when Staton’s innate soulful voice is respected and wrapped up in cotton wool. A Steely Dan meets southern blues hybrid, ‘Love Is You’, works well with fine background female vocal harmonies apart from some intrusive 1980s synths. Combining the acoustic soul balladry of the Isley Brothers with Fleetwood Mac’s epic ‘Albatross’. ‘Revolution of Change’, hints at another way of caressing that voice in something more suitable, and the pared down instrumentation is definitely a case of less means more. As a whole, the album represents a missed opportunity, a bit like covering Dover sole in a sickly sweet sauce when a touch of lemon is all that is required.

Tim Stenhouse

Carol Williams ‘Reflections of Carol Williams’ LP/CD/DIG (BBE) 4/5

It was the 12″ single, ‘More’, that catapulted soul/disco diva Carol Williams to fame off the debut album for disco label par excellence Salsoul on, ‘lectric Lady’, in 1976. In fact, her name was kept in the spotlight by another single from 1978, ‘Love Has Come My Way’, but the follow up was still another year in the pipeline and, indeed, something of a forgotten item until now with its timely re-issue by BBE, with all the essential trimmings of a facsimile of gatefold sleeve and full discographical details. Those percussive soulful strings and brass arrangements that made the Salsoul recording so enjoyable are skilfully reproduced by little known yet highly respected producer Tony Valor who himself came to prominence via a 1976 album by Maryann Fara. As a whole, the second album combines both soulful mid-tempo numbers with out-and-out disco winners, and the vulnerability in the voice is not without recalling Diana Ross in places. Of course, the opener, ‘Tell The World About Our Love’, rejigs the Salsoul recipe and is ripe for sampling by a new generation. That dance floor action is taken a step further on, ‘Dance The Night Away’, with heavyweight percussion a defining characteristic of the Valor production.

However, it is the more relaxed pace of, ‘Love Constitution’, that features the catchiest of choruses (complete with glorious background female vocal harmonies) and then morphs into a soulful disco groove, which impresses more. Tucked away on the second side is a lovely mid-tempo modern soul number in, ‘Baby’, that merely reinforces Williams’ impeccable soul credentials. These are cemented by the soul ballad, ‘He’s My Man’, with introductory monologue, and is a precursor of sorts to the Whitney Houston soul-pop power ballad. Well worth investigating for soul and disco fans alike. No extras.

Tim Stenhouse

David Axelrod ‘Song of Innocence’ LP/CD (Now-Again) 5/5

Originally released in April 1968, David Axelrod’s debut album receives another reissue, but this time on Egon’s Now-Again Records based in Los Angeles. An under performing curiosity at the time, ‘Song of Innocence’ is now heralded by many as an essential classic and has been an in demand record since the early 1990s when record collectors, DJs and sample based hip hop producers began searching for less obvious sounds to augment their expanding record collections.

‘Song of Innocence’ is a 7-track suite inspired by the 1789 illustrated collection of poems of the same name by English poet William Blake. Recorded the same year as Miles Davis’ ‘Filles de Kilimanjaro, Rotary Connection’s ‘Aladdin’ and Dorothy Ashby’s ‘Afro-Harping’, the musical and cultural climate in the US in mid and late 1960s revealed a degree of openness to experimentation and creativity with almost a disregard for commercial achievement, even records released on large record labels like this on Capitol Records. Axelrod, who at the time was a staff arranger and producer for Capitol, had previously worked with Lou Rawls and ‘Cannonball’ Adderley before producing garage rock group The Electric Prunes and their albums ‘Mass In F Minor’ and ‘Release of an Oath’ both in 1968. These two albums combined rock sensibilities with classical music elements, an avenue Axelrod would futher explore with his following work including with ‘Song of Innocence’.

The album begins with ‘Urizen’, a blend of 60s funk, soaring string arrangements and electric guitar pulses with additional church organ chops. The most well-known piece, ‘Holy Thursday’, is a deeply rich and textured composition featuring the breakbeat drumming of Earl Palmer, effective melodic vibraphone patterns, psychedelic electric guitar and highly evolved string orchestrations. In a 2013 list complied by Complex the US based media outlet, DJ and producers Kon and Amir proclaimed ‘Holy Thursday’ to be the ‘greatest hip hop sample of all time’. This template of exploiting contrasting musical elements of layered jazz, baroque rock, psychedelica and classical music is applied throughout the album and provides the listener with dense cinematic soundscapes and dynamic arrangements, which does yield a soundtrack quality including the use of repeated motifs throughout the record.

Axelrod didn’t actually play on any of the compositions as all performances were completed by high-end LA-based session musicians – now known colloquially as The Wrecking Crew. This group of musicians included celebrated bass player Carol Kaye, the aforementioned drummer Earl Palmer, guitarist Howard Roberts and pianist Don Randi, who also conducted the orchestra. Axelrod went on to further explore a more Third Stream methodology with his subsequent albums, maintaining a conceptual approach to composing and arranging throughout his career, with his follow up, ‘Songs of Experience’ (1969) also inspired by the work of William Blake.

Reports of several vinyl copies of the reissue being of less than high quality have been documented; yet others have additionally stated the opposite. ‘Song of Innocence’ has been reissued previously and it’s a pity that there has not been any unreleased material yet discovered from these sessions. And for such an epic and iconic album it’s remarkably that is has a very short running time of only 27 minutes. But for many ‘Song of Innocence’ is considered a masterpiece. Multi-layered, absorbing and original, it began a procession of albums from Axelrod that may not have been revered at the time of their release, but would later become highly regarded and celebrated.

And furthermore, I would wholly recommend ‘The Wrecking Crew’, a 2015 documentary from Magnolia Pictures regarding the LA based session musicians who performed on hundreds of recordings in the 1960s and ‘70s, often uncredited, including on many of the Axelrod albums.

Damian Wilkes

Astral Travelling Since 1993