Filed under: Medusa
Last week we got a short visit from Donna, Gary, and Pete of Medusa, reunited for the first time since the 1970s. We had a blast seeing them together and showing off the office collection of Krautrock. They paused to stuff a few Medusa LPs, and lamented the dismal space concerns in our warehouse with us. Their first LP was released just 40 years after they formed, check it out here.
In 2005, our friend Breck T. Bunce shared a mix disc with us of gospel songs through the lens of American funk. A handful of those songs would end up on NUM010 Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal, sending us down a path that would later touch down in Local Customs: Downriver Revival, Good God! Born Again Funk, and Boddie Recording Co.: Cleveland, Ohio. Earlier this month we issued our third volume in the Good God! series, NUM040 Good God! Apocryphal Hymns, which brought us full circle to our original 18 song collection with the second appearance of Melvin Kenniebrew’s Sensational Saints.
Some may recall Preacher & the Saints’ “Jesus Rhapsody” as the opening cut on Hymnal. But before Melvin was Preacher, he was just one of a revolving cast of Saints that had been operating in the Cleveland area since the late ’50s. The Sensational Saints issued an LP and a handful of 45s on James Bullard’s BOS label, several of which are being collected on our King Bullard Versions: Songs of the BOS Label LP this June. As the Saints were the best known group on the label, we originally opted to put them on the cover:
This may not be the last time you hear from the Saints. We accidentally mastered their You Won’t Believe It (Try Us You’ll Like It) LP earlier this year and need to find something to do with it. Gospel, however, is likely a genre we won’t be revisiting for a couple years. Those seeking salvation can use this checklist in the meantime:
NUM010 Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal
NUM026 Local Customs: Downriver Revival
NUM030 Good God! Born AGain Funk
NUM040 Good God! Apocryphal Hymns
44003 Shirley Ann Lee: Songs of Light
44004 King Bullard Versions: Songs of the BOS Label
JR.009 Otis G. Johnson: God Is Love
Another visit with our friend Steve Krakow AKA Plastic Crimewave and his recurring comix, Secret History of Chicago Music. This edition serves doubly as a preview of biographical notes in a forthcoming Numero edition.
Different artists, different eras, different styles, different instrumentation, (different labels)… but as we’ve spent the last few weeks listening to both these test pressings, it’s been putting the office into a warm, dreamy, summery place (as much as the open windows and billowing curtains). Today, we received a package that happened to contain both covers and it drove the point home: we’re going to have a mellow, pastoral vibe throughout this new season at Numero.
From portraits of a long-past Iasos circa 450 AD, we move on to the Iasos of the Carter administration. Tide yourself over toward the June 18 release of Numero’s inaugural visit to the New Age, 049 Iasos: Celestial Soul Portrait, with this half-hour video documentary. Shot in 1979, it clues the viewer in to Iasos’ performance technique, the benefits of headphone listening, his contorted, universal, and laughter-punctuated answers about his music’s origins, and the Arp-porn contents of his studio, the “total cybernetic environment” he felt fully at home in, among the electrons.
01. The Arrows – We Have Love
02. The Arrows – The Love I See Now
03. The Arrows – Boogedy Boogedy
04. The Arrows – Bring Back The One I Love
05. Johnny Davis – You’ve Got To Crawl To Me
06. Sandy Cleveland – My Heart Will Never Lie
07. Sandy Cleveland – We Love Together
01. Linda Balentine – You’re A Habit Hard To Break
02. Linda Balentine – Glad About That
03. Altyrone Deno Brown – Sweet Pea
04. Altyrone Deno Brown – If You Love Me
05. The Chosen Few – Lift This Hurt
06. The Chosen Few – You’ve Been Unfair
07. Hassan – Ghetto King
01. Majestic Arrows – One More Time Around
02. Majestic Arrows – Love Is All I Need
03. Majestic Arrows – Doing It For Us
04. Majestic Arrows – Going To Make A Time Machine
05. Majestic Arrows – Ladies And Wonderful Girls
01. Majestic Arrows – I’ll Never Cry For Another Boy
02. Majestic Arrows – We Love Together
03. Majestic Arrows – Another Day
04. Majestic Arrows – The Magic of Your Love
05. Majestic Arrows – Going To Make A Time Machine (Instrumental)
01. Michigan Avenue Sound Orchestra – Poon Tang Thump
02. Altyrone Deno Brown – I Will Find You
03. Altyrone Deno Brown – The Eclipse Of Love
04. Wind – Don’t Let Them Tell You
05. Wind – People
01. Majestic Arrows – One More Time Around (Rehearsal)
02. Majestic Arrows – Love Is All I Need (Rehearsal)
03. Majestic Arrows – If I Had A Little Love (Rehearsal)
04. Majestic Arrows – Make Yourself Over (Rehearsal)
05. Majestic Arrows – I’ll Never Cry For Another Boy (Rehearsal)
06. Altyrone Deno Brown – Thought I Was A Playboy
07. Unknown – Come Back Home
In 2004, with the release of our third compact disc, Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label, the Numero Group—with just a year in the books by that point—had, by all accounts, told the first truly fascinating account of R&B’s underworld. From the original liner notes:
Arrow Brown inhabited the same south side Chicago landscape as Afro-Noir author Iceberg Slim’s ghetto heroes, and it’s hard to imagine he didn’t draw inspiration from the same dark sources as Airtight Willie, White Folks, or Blue Howard. By all accounts, Brown was drawn to the underground, fancying himself a rogue entrepreneur and, most likely, a bit of a pimp or con man. Throughout the late ’60s, his business, both personal and professional, though largely unknown, is generally speculated to have been outside the law. Yet, not unlike Slim, he had massive creative impulses searching for a way to get out. And so, by the early ’70s, Brown put together an oddball cast of family, friends, and girlfriends, all of them interchangeable, and created what amounted to a musical commune; a band, a production company and a record label to produce his own music. Seemingly unwilling to completely divorce himself from his former life, he named this company Bandit.
And these, from the subsequent press kit:
“A strange, parallel soul universe.” —New York Times
“Pop music history is rife with tales of cracked visionaries, hustlers and single-minded Svengalis, but none were more bold or bizarre than Chicago soul impresario Arrow Brown. Wild kitchen sink productions that were over-the-top even by the era’s standard.”—Mojo
“A confluence of greed, paranoia and disorganization prevented Bandit from becoming anything beyond a home-brewed fantasy. Brown died without fanfare in 1990, soon after which one of his sons angrily pitched the label’s master tapes, records and notes into the alley. Numero began to reconstruct the Bandit legacy one the strength of one important clue: a phone number.” —Chicago Tribune
“A unique and bizarre history of one the strangest chapters in Chicago’s musical history. It’s a chapter that’s been mostly skipped over to this point, but that shouldn’t obscure the fact that Brown’s completely under-the-table recording company/commune/harem produced a clutch of impressive, honey-drenched soul tracks in its 12 years of operation.” —Pitchfork
Half a decade after the release of The Bandit Label, the story we stuffed into our 2000-word, 16-page booklet was feeling woefully incomplete. Survivors and hangers-on from Arrow Brown’s derelict kingdom had stepped forward, and new tracks had been discovered. Our CD package was losing any traction it had gained, and its admirers kept elbowing us re: Bandit’s inevitable return to wax and its native formats. Never close to content with throwing a product together, cut to fill only its hole in the marketplace, the Numero Group—older, wiser, stronger—has instead subjected 003 Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label to a full-on rebuild, adding stories to the edifice along the way. Our formerly paltry liner notes are now a 20,000-word work of astonishing nonfiction. We’ve de-grimed four dozen new domestic and promotional images, placing them all in an LP-sized ’70s-style pulp paperback, cloaked in Eliza Childress’s sumptuous two-panel cover art. The original CD’s 20 tracks get blown out into a whopping 36, spread out across three LPs, one them replicating 1975’s original insanely decorated Magic of the Majestic Arrows long-player.
In 2005, novelist/essayist Jonathan Lethem went out and bought Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label and sent to us this unsolicited note:
“Haunting…haunted…Like a little novel.”
That still sounds about right…this time only far, far moreso.
You can pre-order this beast here. It looks like this: