Songs of Experience is the second studio album by American composer and producer David Axelrod. It was released in October 1969 by Capitol Records. Axelrod composed, arranged, and produced the album while recording with session musicians such as guitarist Al Casey, bassist Carol Kaye, drummer Earl Palmer, and conductor Don Randi.
As with his 1968 debut album Song of Innocence, Axelrod and his musicians performed musical interpretations of English poet William Blake‘s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, an 18th-century illustrated collection of poems. A jazz fusion album, Songs of Experience explores darker sounds than its predecessor, as the poems Axelrod selected dealt with the darker side of humanity. Its music was partly inspired by composer Gunther Schuller‘s Third Stream concept. Axelrod composed Baroque orchestrations with rock, R&B, pop, and folk music elements.
Songs of Experience received retrospective acclaim from critics, who found Axelrod’s compositions musically varied and innovative. In the years since its original release, musicians also praised it as a source for sampling in hip hop production. Some of its songs have been sampled frequently by hip hop artists and producers. In 2000, the album was reissued by EMI.