David Axelrod – 1969

Where’s my mind right now? Right now its shifting towards more pastoral, and organic music. What does this mean? it means, that its the time of the season when I indulge a bit in my love of folk music. That’s not to say that its entirely just strum and wailing kind of music that it gets typecasted as being, but that there is a more progressive one that people might forget exists as well. My track of the day, David Axelrod’s “The School Boy” from 1969’s Song of Experience on the face of it stretches what folk and tradition is? Here’s this brilliant Los Angelino trying to put into music, poet William Blake’s “The School Boy” and somehow capture its dark, pastoral quality without saying a lick of a word!

Songs of Experience album cover.

What makes the song work is that it captures the melancholia of the poem itself. You could use the spare acoustic guitar to make out the stanza, but something amazing appears when those ginormous strings pop up, its the sound of the musical phrasing inherent in the poem and the vocabulary William uses himself. There’s something about these widescreen arrangements that conjure up the changing environment, from rural to industrial living and all the separation and darkness that comes with it, when you don’t know exactly what kind of future such change would bring. That in itself is perfectly contemplated musically here.

Further listening:
1968: Songs of Innocence
1969: Songs of Experience (best album)
1970: Earth Rot
1975: Seriously Deep
Recording as the Electric Prunes – 1968: Release of an Oath