Akim Voodoo Drums 45 (Pan World, 196?)
You can call me a freak (go ahead, you have my permission), but there are few things bring me a thrill chill like spending a buck on a record that I plunked out of a box for no other reason than one word on the label, a record, that when I drop needle, I can say nothing but "Uh uh uh uh wow!" That feeling makes all this record hunting worth it. It is a feeling that every digger, that every vinyl archaeologist knows well. It is what gives me the fuel to flip through hundreds of Mitch Miller, Anne Murray, and Styx albums, to ignore the headaches that come from sinuses stuffed with dust, and to drive through miles of suburban bleech.
Last Sunday, I stumbled on this record by Akim. It was just one of a stack of records that I brought home. The only thing setting it apart from the rest was one word in the title. The word is "voodoo." The single name of the artist, Akim, was cancelled out by the word "orchestra" on the label (though as this record proves, orchestra can mean many a sound). The record label is pretty cool looking but I've seen many a good looking record label on many a shitty record to know not to trust label art. So all I really had was one word and a small hope.
On Monday, I dropped needle on Akim's Voodoo Drums and...the damn needle jumped. Argh! The record is warped! I put a penny on the tone arm and tried again. My god! Th-th-this is one of the best song intros I've ever heard and that is not all. The record slides into a jungle groove. It is exotica, but it has the raw feel of a 60s garage band and one funky drummer. The vocals are great, the lyrics are great, the guitar is great, the bridge is great, and the drum break is fucking great. I've listening to this at least 15 times in a row and all I can think is great, great, great. I am sure you will flip over this one!
"Who is Akim?" you ask. I am not certain about this but if I was forced to guess I would say Akim is Aki Aleong, actor, song writer, record producer, and owner of Pan World Records. He was born in Trinidad, his mother from the island, his father from another island, Hong Kong. In 1949, he moved to Brooklyn with his mom, graduated high school, and started acting on Broadway. He appeared stage, television, and film, on shows such as Ben Casey and LA Law and in the movies Never So Few and The Hanoi Hilton.
Aleong's music career started with his penning the hit song, Tradewinds. In 1963, he formed Aki Aleong & the Nobles. He worked for Capitol, Vee Jay, Polydor and was a vice president of Liberty/United Artists. He produced the 5th Dimension, Roy Ayers, Bobby Womack, the Ojays, and this little gem.
On Voodoo Drums, Akim is backed by the Hank Levine Orchestra, a band you can hear on many a record, but perhaps best known among diggers as the guy who made the song Image. Backing vocals are done by The Ravels.