Numero Group: By The Numbers

December 21, 2015, 9:57 am
Filed under: Newsworthy, Office Antics

Do you have a favorite Numero Group record from 2015? The Numero Group’s staff numbskulls wrestled for a while, took a vote (making the wrestling sort of pointless), and came up with this Top Ten list, starting with from #10 (like David Lettermen would have done)…

unwound-empire-210. Unwound—Empire

Four years after reaching out to Justin, Vern, and Sara, we finally put our long running series of Unwound box sets to bed with the biggest of bangs: their swan song Leaves Turn Inside You coupled with the nervously broken Challenge For A Civilized Society. After beginning with rough brown kraft paper on Kid Is Gone, we moved into buff kraft for Rat Conspiracy, and stark white for No Energy, Empire pushed the ’90s paper trajectory to its logical conclusion: black on black with a high gloss finish.Not everybody is so lucky to crystalize their legacy so nicely,” Justin Trosper said. “I can’t really think of a better way to put the capstone on the whole experience. It’s given us a lot to reflect on and allowed me to process things that were left open. That period of my life was very defining and it’s nice to be able to move on but also have a beautiful document for other people to experience and learn from.”—Ken Shipley

saved-and-sanctified-songs-of-the-jade-label-29. Saved and Sanctified: Songs of the Jade Label

Not unlike the thirteen performers on this single disc slab of Sunday morning rock and roll, Numero has a knack for making it look easy. Well, it’s not easy, but loving what you do helps, and we do, and so did the Southern Faith Singers, and everyone else on Saved & Sanctified: Songs of the Jade Label. Gene Cash established Jade in Chicago in 1963, and kept at it for a dozen years, turning out countless recordings, most of which have never been heard by even the most fanatical gospel heads. As a project there’s not even that much to say about this onethe music speaks for itself and there’s not that much to add except to say we’re proud of this one.—By Committee  royal-jesters-english-oldies-2

8. Royal JestersEnglish Oldies 

Its always such a thrill to cut right to the heart of a local music scene, and The Royal Jesters’ English Oldies compilation did just this. So rare is it that local fans come out to support in the way that San Anto fans brought their love for Royal Jesters that we were totally unprepared for the initial demand. People were coming from all around South Texas just to get a chance to see their beloved Jesters in the (admittedly, wrinkled) flesh. The CD was so desireable in town we had every little Tejano shop that wouldn’t normally give us the time of day calling us up for copies. It felt like the old world record business where a record takes off unexpectedly and we were scrambling to get the product in all the local stores. Our release party was truly Jester-mania, with a line of ravenous fans around the block waiting for a glimpse of their beloved stars.—Rob Sevier


7. White Eyes—S/T

An exciting by-product of our “leave no stone unturned” approach to reissues is stumbling upon completely unissued material. While researching what would eventually become Local Customs: Cavern Sound, a lone business card for Missouri booking agency New Sound Projections and a sparse 1-sheet for a band called White Eyes would lead us to a sublime album of late-’60s psychedelia. Fans of Jefferson Airplane, Pisces, The Guess Who and dare we say it, Head-era Monkees, will undoubtedly fall in love with this road-hardened band that just never caught their big break.—Dustin Drase


6. Edge Of Daybreak—Eyes Of Love

Eyes of Love really stands out to me as one of the most outstanding Numero artifact of this year—danceable grooves, positive messages, and an  unlikely origin story. The overwhelming sense of optimism in the lyrics and music contrasts beautifully with the dark and grimy acoustics of the prison walls, and teaches us how to not be a prisoners of the past. I’m especially glad that all of these guys are free to enjoy this record’s rerelease and still looking sharp!—Stephen Arndt


5. Elyse Weinberg—Grease Paint Smile 

The Laurel Canyon scene produced several of the all time greatest SSW albums (Sweet Baby James, Blue, Tapestry, just to name a few). One of the things I love about the scene, was how so many legendary artists lived just a few blocks away from each other, drank coffee, ate meals, wrote songs, did drugs, and had sex with one another. It’s no doubt that this collaborative community is responsible generating so many amazing records over the course of just a few years.

Greasepaint Smile is a near perfect embodiment of the scene. It straddles the line between traditional and progressive folk, featuring a Carter family classic “Gospel Ship” butted against the politically driven “Collection Bureau.” And like most Laurel Canyon scene LPs, Greasepaint featured heavies like Neil Young and Nils Lofgren who made pro bono contributions of the face-melting variety. Yet the resultant long-player is simply more raw than any of it’s counterparts that were picked up by major labels. Seemingly Weinberg wasn’t interested in what L.A. had become. While David Crosby ingested a mountain of cocaine in the back of a limousine somewhere in the Hollywood Hills, she quietly packed up and left the City of Angels forever leaving Greasepaint unreleased.—Blake Rhein 


4. Ultra-High Frequencies: The Chicago Party 

Being a film major (at University of Iowa, but still), this was my first big visual project for Numero. The DVD that accompanies this set of high energy, post-disco tracks is only 80 minutes long, but it was culled from 12 hours of footage, most of which I watched 5 times over. So even though I am still undergoing therapy to get the Chicago Party theme out of my head, I will always cherish the time I spent with the ladies of MC2, the mostly naked contortionist, and the tutorial on the “electronics pinball machine” or Pac-Man as it’s more commonly called today.—Adam Luksetich

ork-records-new-york-new-york-23. Ork Records: New York, New York

Despite the issues inherent in romanticizing any historic period, when asked the old “If you could live in any time” question, the only reasonable answer I have is: “New York, late seventies.” In my defense (and for evidence of what might be the last heroic moment in Art history), I submit, the Ork Records boxed set. Displaying all the attributes of a revolutionary movement, these kids are willfully isolated, self proclaimed, highly aware, in opposition. As a simulacrum, the images and music therein do a pretty good job of capturing that feeling. Get into it for the glamorous depravity of Richard Hell’s torn triangles, stay for the postmodern paranoia of the Feelies… or Susan Springfield’s no-prisoners bravado. Oh, and that’s Basquiat’s “SAMO” scrawled on the door behind those two laughing women, and then there are a bunch of intentionally bad Stones covers that are actually really good, and who can forget the unknown hero giving us the double bird from the back seat of Charles Ball’s car? The thousands of photos we had to pass on are a testamentthe observers of this scene knew something special was happening. So yeah, helping make this document is as close as I will ever get to stepping into a time machine.—Tim Breen


2. Jeff Cowell—Lucky Strikes and Liquid Gold 

This thing tossed up and around a year ago? I’m not from Michigan—a Hoosier boy myself—but I think if I would of been kicking about up North in 1974, I would of bumped into Cowell at every darkened corner, bottles up. Can’t imagine that the landscape and environment are much different than down in my neck of the woods. It’s all still grabbing on to the night with some brews packed in your bag, heading into the woods, waiting for school days to leave you behind. Finding women—drinking—bearing a HEAVY LOAD. I mean, the guy had a softened heart. Who would have even noticed that puppy the old boy is gripping in his arms right in the midst of his whole rainwear set? Was our boy a Gemini? Down in the gutter—I’ll see you there, all days before Cowell.—Drew Davis


1. Universal Togetherness BandS/T

I guess I’m not surprised to see the Universal Togetherness Band at the top of this list; I think we all work at the Numero Group, hoping to encounter at least one Universal Togetherness Band during our tenure. For those of you just joining us, this quintet was completely undocumented and the music was completely unreleased. Where did we find them? On a 3/4″ U-Matic video cassette lip-synching on the illuminated dance floor of the CopHerBox II nightclub at 117th and Halsted, 1982. Oh, and the music? Imaginative, inspiring, uplifting, extraterrestrial soul music, pulled straight from the magnetic tape, and mixed in ultra-high fidelity by the remarkable Sean Marquand. To me, it’s the prototypical Numero release… plus, it’s from Chicago? As bandleader Andre Gibson entered the office each day with a bag of tapes and a smile, everyone got to experience the excitement of making a Numero record in real time. If you enjoy truly unique dance music, that which is impossible to categorize or compartmentalize, you’re on the right track. And if you happen to be a curmudgeonly reissue skeptic who thinks that there’s nothing left out there to excavate from the catacombs of music history, I encourage you to check out the Universal Togetherness Band before you embarrass yourself any further.—Jon Kirby

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