|Akarma shows off obscurities with mini-LP CD packaging and audiophile vinyl
In 1997, two brothers, Giorgio and Enrico Mangora, both veterans of the Italian music industry, launched their own label, Comet Records, dedicating it to unearthing the kind of music that they, as collectors, had always sought for themselves. Nine years and four very separate subsidiary labels later, they have effortlessly achieved that goal, with one imprint in particolar, Akarma, now established among the most important and influential rock reissue labels in the world.
“We had to give the fans and collectors what they had been waiting for, for many years ,” said Giorgio and with 279 vinyl and CD releases to its name, Akarma has done precisely that, enabling fans and collectors of late-60s and ‘70s rock, prog-rock and blues psychedelia to bulk up their collections.
The label’s very first trio of releases represents a ferocious statement of intent. First up, AK-001 is a reissue of American guitarist Terry Brooks and Strange’s monster-stomping, acid-drenched 1973 album, Translucent World. British prog legenda High Tide featured future Hawkwind violinist Simon House and were caught on tape during a rehearsal in 1970, with the session given its first official release by Akarma (Precious Cargo - AK-002). Then Canned Heat’s Live At Topanga Corral – AK-003) completed Akarma’s initial triptych.
A further pair of Canned Heat albums, Far Out and Human Condition, later arrived and remain among the label’s top sellers, as do all seven of the Sun Ra albums in Akarma’s catalog. Prog-rock stars The Groundhogs’ Solid set proved equally popular, as did the long-awaited CD release of Pink Fairy drummer Twink’s Think Pink, an early ‘70s exercise in psychedelic lunacy.
Italian Le Stelle Di Mario Schifano and American Mike Bloomfield (The Red Hot and Blue album) rank among other label heroes, and then there’s Toad. Previously, this late-60s/early ‘70s Swiss band was virtually unknown outside of a small circle of fans; now an entire new generation of listeners has flocked to Toad’s strange brew of stomping, hard rock ‘n’ blues, slurping up all seven of the band’s sets Akarma have released.
Likewise, the label can take credit for introducing the 21st century to Top Drawer, a particularly obscure band from Kentucky, who self-released a mere 500 copies of their Solid Oak album in 1969. But the group’s musical virtuosità and electic sound, ranging from breezy Brit-beat to dreamy soundscapes and on to swaggering freak-beat, caught the label’s attention, and it was duly reissured last year.
Just how does Akarma find such things? “It’s all in the head and knowledge of Giorgio basically,” then marketing manager Guglielmo Pizzinelli quipped. Well, almost. Although Giorgio obviously knows his music, he admitted that he does have some help, discovering new artists and records “through the suggestions of fellow collectors and fans or musicians that released interesting or obscure stuff in the past.” Thus, Akarma has tracked down and reissured a wide range of music from both sides of the Atlantic, caterning to virtually every taste in the martketplace.
Folkies have been particularly well served, as Akarma has delved into archives as far removed as the Canterbury art scene and the recesses of the legendary Vanguard label. Many of that imprint’s scarcest (not to mention best-loved) ‘60s releases have been handsomely repackaged by Akarma, while fans of the ‘70s model Country Joe McDonald still thrill at the sight of the lavishly packaged A Reflection on Changing Times box set, which bundles together four of their hero’s lesser-know albums.
Prog-rockers turned blues birds Atomic Rooster received similar elaborate boxed treatment, as did both the Climax Blues Band and psychedelic heroes Ultimate Spinach, as Akarma trawled through the back catalogs of some of the ‘60s and ‘70s most revered names. But equal attention is paid to the never heard of ‘ems, with Psychedelic Crown Jewels, for example, treating obscurity fans to two vinyl discs a sparkle with ‘60s garage unknowns.
Pushing into heavy-metal territory came England’s Zior, veterans of the late ‘60s R&B scene who found Satan, Sabbath and a new metal sound. Their eponymous and sole album was much sought-after by collectors, all the more so since it originally appare on Vertigo’s short-lived Nepentha imprint, making the 2005 Akarma reissue the answer to many fiendish prayers. (Vertigo itself has been revisited by a host of Akarma reissues.)
The Human Beast, too, were Sabbath bound but equally beholden to Jimi Hendrix. Their eponymous album was also a favorite with collectors, both for the record’s rarità and the band’s virtuosity and was added to the Akarma catalog last year.
Few guitarists, however, were also blown away by Hendrix as Scott Finch. His band Gypsy’s The Velvet Groove album was one of Akarma’s most sumptuous releases, with both the CD box and the vinyl gatefold album cossetted, ap|| ||
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