Along with its counterpart "Songs of Experience" -both single, consecutive releases about William Blake's books of poems- "Songs of Innocence" represents, perhaps, the essence of Axelrod's daring and beautiful work.
Released in 1968, this album reflects much of what was going on with music then, and probably represents one of its most interesting documents. Axelrod, still rather young was already at a creative peak: Jazz discovering Rock and willing to embrace it, orchestral arrangements that are bold and pushing the envelope of the traditional big band concept and -along with the addition of electric guitars- engage in full psychedelic flight without indulging in trippiness for trippiness' sake.
Where its succesor, Song of Experience, can be dark and ominous at times, something that would be even more pronounced in the albums that follow these, Songs of Innocence is hopeful, the wide-eyed wonder of someone wanting to tell you all the promise they see ahead.
As you listen to it, you may find difficult not to be swept by this music and be impressed by its visionary power. Don't be surprised if you find sounds you might have credit other artists for, who only got there years later.
I recommend that you get both albums and listen to them in tandem. Of course begin here with "...Innocence" -just like life does- and then move on to "... Experience." Although both works stand alone and each is a distinct marvel, the combined listening experience will provide even more pleasure and insight into the mind and heart of one of a great contemporary composer who, given the weight and depth of what he has to offer, has been sadly under-recognized.