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:
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