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David Axelrod's Rock Interpretation of Handel's Messiah

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Audio CD, April 3, 2012
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Having already set a Catholic Mass to psychedelic guitar in 1967 with the Electric Prunes album Mass in F Minor, in 1971 legendary arranger/producer David Axelrod went for Baroque and set Georg Friedrich Handel's signature work Messiah to contemporary instrumentation as well. But he didn't do it alone frequent collaborator Julian "Cannonball" Adderley conducted the orchestra (the two were next to team on the cult classic concept albums Soul Zodiac and Soul of the Bible). The result was a record was a record far more restrained, even respectful, than Mass in F Minor, with touches of psychedelic guitar, a funk rhythm section, flute and electric piano the principal instruments in some very tasty, swinging instrumental passages. But perhaps the record s most inspired interpretive move was to set the vocal passages to a gospel choir, sounding for all the world at times like a more soulful Jesus Christ Superstar or Godspell (all of which, curiously, came out at about the same time this album was definitely reflected the early '70s zeitgeist). Needless to say, given Axelrod s reputation and the repertoire involved, this is very much a cult favorite, given its first reissue here of any kind, with new liner notes and photos. Another Real Gone (ahem) resurrection!

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Overture
  2. Comfort Ye My People
  3. And the Glory of the Lord
  4. Behold
  5. Pastoral Symphony
  6. And the Angel Said Unto Them
  7. Glory to God
  8. Hallelujah
  9. Worthy Is the Lamb


Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 3, 2012)
  • Original Release Date: April 3, 2012
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Real Gone Music
  • Run Time: 33 minutes
  • ASIN: B0073GQX46
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,807 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Producer/arranger David Axelrod's rock interpretation of Handel's Messiah has twin histories. Originally released in 1971, it was part of a stream of God rock that included Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell and popular hits like "Spirit in the Sky," "One Toke Over the Line" and "Jesus is Just Alright." But as part of Axelrod's personal oeuvre, it also followed in the footsteps of his literary and social-themed works of the late '60s and his 1968 albums with (or perhaps, "as") the Electric Prunes, Mass in F Minor and Release of an Oath. Taken in the retrospective stride of his full career, the album now feels less tethered to its 1971 theatrical contemporaries than to Axelrod's long-running exploration of concept albums, jazz, soul and rock orchestration.

All four of those influences are heard here, with string arrangements that are as much Chicago soul as philharmonic concert hall, and full-kit drumming and fuzz guitars that reach back to his earlier experiments with psychedelia. The album was recorded with key Los Angeles sessions players, such as Carol Kaye, and features a 38-piece orchestra conducted by jazz legend (and Axelrod collaborator) Cannonball Adderley.
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