Benjamin Wright was inducted into the Numero Group catalog by way of his stellar arrangements for Arrow Brown and his role in the Twinight/Brunswick wrecking crew, Pieces of Peace, and not to mention arrangements for Rokk. But that is simply fodder for the first page of Wright’s expansive resume. So far as iceberg tips go, you can’t list a more compelling body of arrangements than Jeff “Chairman” Mao did in his written intro to his recent interview with Wright: “Michael Jackson‘s ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ and ‘Rock With You,’ and Earth Wind & Fire‘s ‘Boogie Wonderland’ – and even Justin Timberlake‘s ‘Mirrors’ and Andre 3000‘s Sinatra-style dolo endeavor, ‘The Love Below (Intro).’ Check out Benjamin Wright’s fireside chat on Red Bull Music Academy Radio for some stellar story telling.
Filed under: Bandit
This has been out for a few weeks, but we just got around to taking this thing apart and turning it into something worth watching. All of this was inspired by Oscar Rickett’s excellent Bandit feature in the latest issue of Vice.
Chicagoans, Midwesterners, sweat/dust/dusty sweat enthusiasts: Heading to the Pitchfork Music Festival this weekend? Numero will once again cart our boxed-up wares headlong into the heat and noise, with that painted wooden Trevor Dandy placard marking our territory in lazy fashion. Walk the damp tennis court surface of the CHIRP Record Fair tent with us, where we’ll be handselling copies of our deluxe Bandit Label LP set, Eccentric KC Soul on the Forte CD, plus the ambient summer of Iasos and Express Rising. All the old favorites on LP, CD, 45, cassette, t-shirt, trading card, and Omnibus will attend as well. Box of hardly imperfect LP dingers marked down to insanely low prices? Yes. Reports are rolling in to indicate that 2013’s limited edition Numero bin cards work great as both bin cards and as hand fans. Reports from meteorologists also indicate that you’re gonna need a hand fan. Stop by, fix glaring holes in your Numero shrine, then go stare at Wire or whatever.
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:
Filed under: Bandit, Methodology | Tags: Dan Rather, Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label
Our original Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label CD felt like a massive accomplishment in 2004. We’d spent over a year trying to track the elusive Brown family, going from one distant relative to the next before receiving a call from Tridia Brown wondering what we were so interested in. The story began to pour out from there, captured in roughly 3000 words and 16 pages. Looking back now, they seem paltry in comparison to our recent work.
We began working on an expanded edition of Bandit in the early part of 2011, and have put it on hold many times since then. The liner notes have gone through too many drafts to count, and we’re certain that our editor Judson Picco is sick of reading about Arrow Brown. As of yesterday, all 14,000 words of this harrowing tale are edited and being imported into a 12″x12″ 52-page book. Kudos to Ryan Boyle and Bob Mehr for bringing this story back to life. Boyle spent the better part of a year re-interviewing all of our subjects and turned in a sprawling 20,000 word mess that covered everything from the Great Migration to the kidnapping of Dan Rather. Mehr came in and scraped 5000 words out. Judson Picco, Ken Shipley, and Rob Sevier did the remaining damage.
A large part of our work is spent trying to tell stories. Most buy our records for the sound, but if you get a spare moment to spend with this new Bandit record, pull the novella out and give it a read.