'Imaginational Anthem' due Oct. 25.
The first release by new label Near Mint (distributed by Fontana) will be a compilation of acoustic guitar music dubbed "Imaginational Anthem." Due Oct. 25, the 16-track set spans 40 years of performances from 1965-2005 and was compiled by Near Mint founder/former Sony Music executive Josh Rosenthal.
"I've been a devotee of solo acoustic guitar music since I bought my first John Fahey record when in high school," Rosenthal tells Billboard.biz. "About two years ago, I found a very rare LP, 'Contemporary Guitar, Spring '67,' on Takoma. The album featured Bukka White, Robbie Basho, Fahey, Max Ochs and Harry Taussig. I was haunted by the Ochs and Taussig tracks and needed to know what happened to these two artists in particular, as I could not find any info about them. I wanted to unearth some great players from that exciting experimental time in music and juxtapose them with today's torchbearers."
Some of the album's highlights include a 1965 recording by Fahey contemporary Harry Taussig (previously issued only on a long-unavailable private pressing), an unreleased track by the late Sandy Bull, the first-ever acoustic guitar track by Ornette Coleman collaborator Bern Nix and a rare Fahey cut from a 1991 Christmas album. Also featured are tracks by Kaki King, Glenn Jones and Terry Riley and his son Gyan.
"The Harry Taussig track is from a private-press 1965 LP, 'Fate Is Only Once,' which I only got by the good graces of Taussig himself, as it is insanely rare," Rosenthal says. "I have purchased the master and will reissue the album at some point. This very rare album is fascinating because most of the 'folk' records made within this time frame are very stuffy and not anywhere near as free flowing. It is definitely ahead of its time in that respect.
But as Rosenthal attests, tracing down some of these artists (some of which hadn't recorded in decades) proved to be a daunting task. "There were a few happy accidents that led me to certain players," he says. "I had never heard of Bob Hadley, who recorded three incredible albums on Kicking Mule, the last one released in 1980. Harris Newman turned me on to him, and Hadley contributed his first instrumental in 25 years to the comp."
Janet Smith, who recorded a lone album in the '60s, helped Rosenthal locate long-lost California guitarist Steve Mann, who recorded his first track in 27 years for the set. Twelve-string giant Suni McGrath was located on a farm in Eastern Indiana, having not recorded in 33 years. McGrath is now working on a new album for Near Mint.
A second volume of "Imaginational Anthem" is already planned for May 2006, and will feature unreleased tracks from Fahey, Basho and Fred Gerlach (a favorite of Jimmy Page), as well as new recordings by Sharron Kraus, Christina Carter, Billy Faier, Peter Lang, Sean Smith, James Blackshaw and Jesse Sparhawk. Near Mint's Web site  is also selling 7-inch vinyl singles from Ochs and McGrath.
"Imaginational Anthem" will be celebrated with an Oct. 28 show at New York's Housing Works, featuring Jack Rose, Glenn Jones and other artists to be announced. A West Coast concert is also in the works.