The Edge: 1966-1970

Artist: David AxelrodTitle: The Edge: 1966-1970Rating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Paine

When Hip-Hop was still a block party, David Axelrod’s records were probably much too slow for any cue-burn under Flash’s needles. But as Rap production grew exponentially in the 1990’s, Dr. Dre, Diamond, and Madlib all brought Axelrod riffs to life in hit-making form. While other sampled geniuses have only embraced Rap’s royalty checks, Axelrod has gone as far as to work with Hip-Hop artists, including his stellar Ras Kass collaboration, “The Little Children.” In tribute of the Axe, Stones Throw Records’ own Soul-scholar, Egon compiled The Edge: 1966-1970 (EMI) some of David Axelrod’s best productions in Jazz and Soul in five magical years that would later shape Hip-Hop beats.

Of the selections, Axelrod’s vision is very clear in his work with Lou Rawls. The version of “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” throws out the book on the original, and covers it with soulful grace [De La fans will also recognize the buttery opening chord]. The samples Hip-Hop fans know are dominated by “The Edge,” which has been retooled and used by Dr. Dre, Missin’ Linx, and Masta Ace in varying ways. From the modern perspective, Axelrod’s knack for evocative grooves is very audible. The Edge reveals Axelrod’s work with Soul artists such as Lou Rawls, as well as Jazz greats like Cannonball Adderly on “Tensity.” Spanning the genres, the percussion and guitar accents remain to thread a signature style in each work. Twenty years prior to Premier and RZA, Axelrod put his stamp on anything – and took on an array of projects.

Like Pass the Peas by the J.B.’s or Tommy Boy’s Hip-Hop Roots, this compilation endures because it’s geared for Hip-Hop ears. Egon not only shows us samples we know from the past, but he shows us the infinite possibility of David Axelrod’s work. This is an album that plays end-to-end: whether writing to it, loving to it, or just studying it. “Theme From The Fox” means something different at each play, or nothing at all – to your discretion. Outside of sampling, David Axelrod is largely known for scoring 70’s cop dramas, though Hill Street Blues and Streets of San Francisco are barely even in syndication anymore –the music’s legacy endures for bringing drama to a collage of kicks and snares.

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