David Axelrod: producer

Ray Anthony
Swim, Swim, C’mon Let’s Swim
Capital T2188
ProducerS: David Axelrod & Bill Miller
Rating: *** (Noteworthy)

Jazz trumpeter and band leader Ray Anthony goes all rock & roll on us, which is usually a mistake for an aging big band leader, but here he blows the top off the thing, driving rhythm, sax honking,organ, guitar cranked, horns blasting, girls singing, black male lead vocalist on some cuts, a mix of instrumental and vocal cuts, dance craze and crazy, originals and covers–“Twist & Shout,” What’d I Say,” and a “Hard Day‘s Night.”


It’s all a little over the top, but forget all that early Beatles, this blows them back to England where they belonged.

The sleeve doesn’t provide credits except Dave Axelrod and Bill Miller as producers, Don Simpson showing up on several song credits. 

David McCallum
Capital ST 2748
Produced by David Axelrod
Arranged by H. B. Barnum


Noteworthy ***

The last of four McCallum sets produced by David Axelrod, orchestrated instrumentals focused on recent hits by various groups (the Monkees, Donovan, the Beatles, etc.), the set closing with three originals, one for each of the named contributors: Axelrod, Barnum and McCallum.  (It’s not clear what British actor McCallum contributed other than that one cut.)

Only Axelrod could pull something like this off, filling the sound with the Barnum arrangements and using his signature punches to lift this a few notches above elevator music.

(producer’s name misspelled on album.  Axelrod is the correct spelling.)

The rhythm section and other instruments rise out of the mix to provide the punches, then sink back down into the arrangements.  While the contributions of an unnamed guitarist doesn’t get a lot of spotlight, the rarity of those moments make them stand out.
(Likely the line up featured Howard Roberts, guitar; Carol Kaye, bass; and Earl Palmer, drums.)

On “Mercy Mercy Mercy” the groove briefly rises on a guitar-heavy bridge, but they soon descend into two feather-weight originals, the first by Barnum, the second by McCallum.  While it’s not really saying that much, the best of the three originals is clearly Axelrod’s contribution that closes the album. 

There’s nothing here worth searching for, but if this sort of thing is your bag, it’s worth a listen.  It’s pure 1960s and another page in the story of Axlerod.  

— winch

Howard Roberts
Spinning Wheel
Capital (ST-336)
Producer: David Axelrod
Rating: *** (Noteworthy)

While the title of this album obviously refers to the playful version of the Blood, Sweat & Tears number that opens this set, the metaphor also points out how the band runs through a variety of styles, stopping in Nashville for the second cut, then heading over to Memphis for the third cut, Roberts fingerpicking an acoustic guitar on “Country Shuffle” and then putting some fuzz distortion to the Memphis groove of “Gasoline Alley,” moving between these styles with an ease that makes the transition seem as natural as the fact that you can travel between the two cities without leaving the state.

Axelrod’s navigation also likely helped make the set sound fairly cohesive.  Band members get a chance to strut their stuff but keep from wandering too far from the longitude or latitude of the compositions.  The producer was likely part of that control as the music seems stamped with his involvement.

You could certainly use this set to show that Axelrod didn’t have the Midas touch, but while some cuts are quite lacking, others show elements of that balance of exploration and economy, that pop complexity, that punch that Axelrod was so good at helping deliver.  

Producing this album was perhaps the return of a favor, as Roberts had just played on Axelrod’s first two solo albums, Song of Innocence and Song of Experience
This album doesn’t come close to the dates that secured H.R.’s place in the annals of jazz, but a few cuts standout from some of his other commercial material.

Band members include Dave Grusin (keyboards), Chuck Domanico (bass), John Guerin (drums) & Tom Scott (sax, flute, organ). 

— winch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s