Numero Group: By The Numbers

94 East on the Upbeat Dancer Show
November 8, 2013, 11:02 am
Filed under: Eccentric Soul 45s, Purple Snow

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 1.50.51 PM

While 94 East is often celebrated for providing Prince Nelson with his first recording opportunity back in 1975, there is as much magic in the songwriting of bandleader Pepe Willie, who moved from his native Brooklyn to Minneapolis a few years earlier on the arm of Shauntel Manderville—Nelson’s cousin. In the years since his star pupil rocketed into funk-rock infamy, Willie has continued to write and record (and reside) with 94 East principals Kristie Lazenberry and Marcy Ingvoldstad. Their new songs bear a striking and refreshing resemblance to the vintage Minneapolis Sounds the group began minting nearly 40 years ago.

And somehow this segment bears some resemblance to a music video the group might have made during their salad days. However, the video was shot and broadcast in Orlando a few weeks ago as part of the regional Upbeat Dancer Show. “Dial My Number” has been stewing in 94 East’s home studio for years, and features the keyboard work of Minneapolis rock luminary James Walsh (Gypsy).

94 East’s “If You See Me” serves as the starter pistol for Purple Snow, which if you didn’t know, hits shelves December 3rd. “If You See Me” along with session highlight “Games” share sides of a pic-sleeve 45 which is available on our website or where ever 7-inch records are sold.

Weekend Warriors: 48 Hours in the Twin Cities
August 27, 2013, 10:10 am
Filed under: Eccentric Soul 45s, Lewis Connection, Mind & Matter, Purple Snow, Uncategorized

If you know nothing about the Numero process, it typically involves finding a spot on Earth where important music was made, and then boring down into the ground until lava starts bubbling up. After two years spent strip mining the Twin Cities, I was afforded the opportunity to visit the Land of 10,000 as a tourist, not as a detective. Conversations flowed freely, and without the need for note taking. Here are a few cool things that can happen in Minneapolis once you’ve sent Purple Snow to the printers and presses.

1.) You can DJ somewhere:


Brian Engel, Greg Waletski, and George Rodriguez constitute a dense portion of the Minneapolis vinyl firmament. On Friday, they celebrated 11 years of the Hipshaker Dance Party, and invited me to join. Being able to work with and celebrate the musical veterans of the Twin Cities has been an honor, but it’s just as encouraging to receive the blessings of your record collecting peers. These guys (along with friendly rivals Hotpants) are really carrying their weight, keeping old records alive in the Twin Cities.

2.) You can eat at the diner from Alexander O’Neal’s debut album:


Mickey’s Dining Car is a 24/7 institution, located at 36 7th Street in St. Paul. The building in the background has been there as long as the diner, meaning that Alexander’s famous visit was made possible by generous amounts of airbrushing.


In actuality, the scene probably looked more like this:


3.) You can go to the fair:


Just talking about the Minnesota State Fair can shake lose interesting facts from native notables. Bill Gaskill, whose saxophone solos season much of Purple Snow, informed me that his grandfather put together the first traveling midway specifically to play the Minnesota State Fair in 1904. Hymie’s Records owner Dave Hoenack revealed he’d never eaten fried alligator, despite having workied in the Fried Alligator Booth several years consecutively. I visited the Caterpillar Kingdom and met this friendly fellow.


The pressed penny machine offers advice for the ages:


4. You can hang with the Peanuts Gang:


Charles Schultz was from St. Paul.

5. You can go to the Spruce Lounge:


Although it’s changed names over the years, this structure near the corner of 36th Street South and 4th Avenue has been serving refreshments to the community for a half century, and invokes the spirit of many legendary haunts documented in Purple Snow.


A fluctuating cast of local legends perform every Sunday from 6pm – 9pm. Notable participants this week include Herman Jones, Pierre Lewis (The Lewis Connection) and guitarist Johnny McGhee (LTD).



Me and Everett Pettiford of Mind & Matter at the Spruce Lounge. Mind & Matter’s diabolical full-length LP/CD will be available 10/29/13.


Herman Jones with the Herman Jones 45 and Pierre Lewis with the 94 East 45, on which he plays piano.

From Minnesota, with Love…


Six Feet Under Gary
August 16, 2013, 1:38 pm
Filed under: Eccentric Soul 45s, Subscription


It’s not every day that a 45 rpm record warrants its very own Cast of Characters. But look, we’re telling you: The “Cemetery” two-parter, available only to Numero’s 2013 LP, CD, and 45 subscribers, is an afterlife away from your everyday 45. We wouldn’t put a weird and hellish beast on the label unless there’s weird and hellish beastliness to be had in the black that encircles him:


• Maniac Murgatroyd Beauregard, The Ghoul

• King Richard Rigor Mortis III

• Princess Sally, daughter to King Richard

• A Chorus

As for setting, some of the gothic and occultish funk action (recorded in Chicago in the late 1970s by who knows who) takes place on March 12, 1801. Some of it happens 200 years later, on March 12, 2001. All of it is pretty fucking creepy. And there’s solid evidence that it all goes down at Oak Hill Cemetery of Gary, Indiana. Oh, and there’s at least one corpse involved, depending on how you count corpses.

Get buried.


Purple Snow = Violet vinyl
August 14, 2013, 2:16 pm
Filed under: Eccentric Soul 45s, Purple Snow, Subscription


A snowflake-labeled translucent violet, to be exact. Has to be held to be truly appreciated. Get all three, get ’em one by one, or go whole hog on little records (about which more below). Numero 050, better known as Purple Snow, piles on 45-style as follows:

ES-036 Flyte Tyme “It’s the Things That You Do” b/w “I’ve Got You On My Mind”
Two unreleased Minneapolis tracks featuring star bassist Terry Lewis, “Funkytown” vocalist Cynthia Johnson, drummer Garry “Jellybean” Johnson, and guitarist Tony Johnson. Future the Time keyboardist Monte Moir delivers a few synth solos that often get mimed/performed a capella by Numero staffers.

ES-037 94 East “If You See Me” b/w “Games”
From recordings known colloquially as “The Cookhouse 5,” Pepe Willie’s session highlight “If You See Me” makes its vinyl debut here, prior to its coming appearance on Purple Snow: Forecasting The Minneapolis Sound. The b-side, “Games,” is a 45 exclusive.

ES-038 Herman Jones “I Love You” b/w “Ladie”
Herman Jones’ unreleased “I Love You” remains the most consistently sung ditty around the Numero office. The never-before-released flip side is exclusive to this 45.

Is That All? It Is Not.

By popular demand, our 2013 Eccentric Soul 45 subscription reopens today, for a very limited time. The Eccentric Soul 45 subscription guarantees twelve 45s delivered directly to your door, featuring previously unissued material and straight-up rare-as-all-get-out 45s from the soul diaspora. All singles are housed in glorious duotone sleeves, tailor made for the Numero 45 box. Your $75 (plus a little extra shipping for overseas subscribers) nets you all three Purple Snow 45s, plus these five:

ES-030 Signs Of The Time “Hurts So Bad” b/w “I Think Of You”
The St. Louis group’s previously unreleased cover of Boyce & Hart’s “Hurts So Bad” infuses the tune with a unique eeriness.

ES-031 Notations “That Girl” b/w “I’m For Real”
Though Chicago soul outfit The Notations scored several minor hits on the Twinight label before its 1971 demise, later tunes “I’m For Real” and “That Girl,” cut at far west side Cash Recording Studio, were assumed part of the group’s “lost” period—until now.

ES-032 James Dockery “My Faith In You Is All Gone” b/w “Giving You The Love You Need”
James Dockery, a Chicago-to-LA soul transplant, performs the infectious “My Faith In You Is All Gone” by one-time Al Green and future Syl Johnson songwriter Earl Randle.

ES-033 Brown Bombers & Soul Partners “Wait For Me” b/w “Just Fun”
Detroit teens The Brown Bombers are classily backed by the Soul Partners on an a-side filled with soaring strings and sweet vocals, living up to their Joe Louis-sourced nickname.

ES-035 Young Souls “Quit Waiting For Tomorrow to Come” b/w “Puppet On A String”
“Quit Waiting For Tomorrow To Come” is a midtempo stepper guaranteed to instantly earn its spot in discerning deejay play boxes, while “Puppet On A String” fulfills the tasteful group harmony ballad prerequisite.

And these four, shipping in December:

ES-034 Calvin Harris “Love’s Recipe” b/w “Wives Get Lonely Too”
ES-039 Master Plan Inc “Try It (You’ll Like It)” b/w “Master Plan Intro”
ES-040 Unnatural Funk Band “Strange Happenings” b/w “Living In The Past”
ES-041 Bump & the Soul Stompers “I Can Remember” b/w “Standing On The Outside”

Finally, we drive you insane with a bonus 45 for LP, CD, and 45 subscribers that looks like this:


…and sounds like:

A trio of new 45s have arrived…
June 3, 2013, 1:14 pm
Filed under: Eccentric Soul 45s



A few years before Maurice White and Earth, Wind & Fire established their Los Angeles outpost, James Dockery made that same Chicago-to-LA trek alone and deeply embedded himself in the soul music culture of the Left Coast. Alert soul aficionados will note the name Art Monday IV, better known as Arthur Monday for his “What Goes Around Comes Around” 45 on Stage Music. Monday brought that record’s same buoyant production to Dockery’s solo turn on “My Faith In You Is All Gone,” penned by one-time Syl Johnson— and future Al Green—songwriter Earl Randle. Sporting Soul Craft’s unadorned red label, “My Faith” is not only gold in the North of England, but a contagious soul eccentricity with appeal for ears in every cardinal direction.

Get back the Faith.



Though boxing titan Joe Louis was throwing his last professional punches before they were born, teen group the Brown Bombers befit the Detroit ring legend’s ballistic nickname. Standouts among pubescent groups of their era, the Bombers naturally got lost in the fog of Motown’s Jackson Family explosion. While their unflappable energy is a prime mover on the a-side, the real treat here is elegant work from backing band the Soul Partners. Bearing the Amazing banner, this disc marked the first recorded appearance of the band that evolved into Al Hudson’s Soul Partners (“Spread Love”) and eventually One Way. The flip hands the band its chance to shine with “Just Fun,” a simple—and essential—reprise of “Wait For Me” as instrumental.

Stop Waiting. 



The nothing that is known about the Young Souls corresponds perfectly to the band’s brief existence, during which it never even eked out a single release. Their bid to leave a recorded legacy was left to producer/manager Earl Wiley, who commissioned a demo session to capture several of his own compositions. Stripped down to their bare bones, the Young Souls burn brilliant over minimal arrangements. “Quit Waiting For Tomorrow To Come” is a midtempo stepper guaranteed to instantly earn its spot in discerning deejay play boxes, while “Puppet On A String” fulfills the tasteful group harmony ballad prerequisite.

Tomorrow is here.

Snow Flakes: Twin Cities Singles Forecast 050
May 22, 2013, 11:58 am
Filed under: Eccentric Soul 45s, Purple Snow

Containing over 2 hours of music, detailed in a hardbound book boasting colorful photography and ephemeral oddities, our approaching Purple Snow box set promises to be a doozie. To give both purple-hearted die hards and the Minneapolis curious a taste of what this set encompasses, we’re issuing a limited run of colored-vinyl, picture-sleeve 45s, featuring some compilation highlights ahead of Purple Snow‘s October release date.


ES-037: 94 East has become a Minneapolis Sound buzzword owing to the fact that Brooklyn transplant and bandleader Pepe Willie hired a 16-year-old Prince Rogers Nelson to add lead guitar to a bundle of his originals at Minneapolis’s Cookhouse Studios in the winter of 1975. Known colloquially as “The Cookhouse 5,” session highlight “If You See Me” makes its vinyl debut on Purple Snow. The b-side, “Games,” is a 45 exclusive.


ES-036: A precursor to the Time, Flyte Tyme was a competitive moretet that provided a vehicle for dozens of Twin Cities musicians throughout the ’70s and early ’80s. The two unreleased songs featured here star bassist Terry Lewis, “Funkytown” vocalist Cynthia Johnson, drummer Garry “Jellybean” Johnson, and guitarist Tony Johnson (no relation). Before becoming Flyte Tyme, they were known as Wars of Armageddon. More on that later.


ES-038: Herman Jones backed and fronted various incarnations of St. Paul’s the Exciters, off and on. through the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. A tireless performer and respectable songwriter, the unreleased “I Love You,” is currently the most consistently sung ditty around the Numero office. The flip side is also unreleased, and is exclusive to this 45.

Enjoy the 30 second snippets, sequenced as above.

Coming to a database/record store near you: Rokk: I Want To Live High
April 9, 2013, 10:14 am
Filed under: Eccentric Soul 45s, Newsworthy | Tags: ,

Rokk-I Want To Live HighA debut album that never was, Rokk’s I Want To Live High is that rare misshapen pearl clenched tightly between the shells of a music industry shucked long ago. Too soulful for its disco-era release date, the sextet’s 1976 Tollie-issued 45 “Patience” (as featured in Eccentric Soul: Omnibus) tracked well in Rokk’s hometown of Los Angeles, but was withdrawn before patience ran out with the spring rains of 1977. Tracked simultaneously was this entire shelved album full of Rokk’s mid-tempo grooves, flute-lead funk, sultry female backing vocals, slap bass, chorus-drenched guitars, and lyrics about getting baked and eating baked apple pie. Jazzy, with plentiful slices of Broadway, Innervisions, and Rokk’s own stoned brand of horn-rock, had I Want To Live High ever gotten so high as actual record store shelves circa late 1977, it would’ve surely sobered up to the commercial onslaught of saturday night disco juggernauts and the pummeling forces of earth, wind, and fire.

In keeping with our recent Lewis Connection, Shoes, Syl Johnson, and Circuit Rider reissues, we’ll be issuing this title only on vinyl as part of our Jr. line, and at a price even a broke college kid can afford. Quality nuts, we’ve got you covered: Tip on jackets, 150 gram vinyl, and lacquers cut from the original master tapes

This early August release will mark our third foray into the tape archives of James Dockery, owner and proprietor of the Soul Craft label. The second will find its way to market in late May as we repress his “My Faith In You Is All Gone” b/w “Giving You The Love You Need” on 45 as part of our ongoing Eccentric Soul subscription series. We’ll be pressing the original red label version of that single, but for fans of their ’70s design.. fear not! We’re using the blue and yellow “Come Trip With Us” label for the Rokk LP. Maybe we’ll make a few shirts too.

Soul Craft Label

Now Available: Eccentric Soul: The Dynamic Label



Eccentric Soul? Can we continue to release records in our flagship series after going so far out into the stratosphere with the ridiculous 045 Eccentric Soul: Omnibus? It’s been a long time since we’ve even done a standard Eccentric Soul release (if there is such a thing), going back to last May’s Red, Black, & Green ProductionsIt’s going to take something really special to get this series back on track, and without a doubt The Dynamic Label is it. Even label proprietor Abie Epstein knew it was something special, and cordoned it off from the esoteric muddle that filled up his Cobra and Jox labels by the mid-1960s. The Commands were one of those groups that truly seemed destined for national or international greatness, and only a combination of foibles and missteps seemed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Webs moved on to New York and quite nearly made it there with a few songs that nibbled at the charts. The usual motley crew of one-offs (half-offs, really) and no-hitters supports as usual. Check out the needledrop here for a taste of the poison:


It doesn’t matter that this was several years in the making, that several other labels (over the decades) tried and failed to get a crack at issuing the Dynamic label’s bounty, this thing is, without hyperbole, a distillation of pure joy into musical form and the same feeling one feels the first time they hear soul music. Just as good listen after listen after listen (so say the folks who have had this stuff on repeat for years.) Buy the Dynamic label, it is on sale now (shipping to arrive close to the release date of March 14th. 

Notes from the Tribune
February 12, 2013, 1:13 pm
Filed under: Eccentric Soul 45s, Numero Press

The Chicago Tribune’s Jessica Hopper followed us around for a few hours a couple weeks back. We talked at great length about the 500 reels cluttering up our office that we procured last fall. You may remember them from this photo:


Although the story has many other dimensions, particularly the involvement of group harmony guru Bob Abrahamian who had access to Joe Lopez’s transfers and discussed the Marlynns record (mentioned in the story) with him. He has also been instrumental in identifying material from the master reels, but this truncated version of the story doesn’t mention him.

Full transcript below:

Like many great mysteries, this one begins with the extraordinary claims of a strange man.

“Every record store like this (Record Dugout) has a character like Joe Lopez,” says Numero Group’s Ken Shipley. Shipley, along with Rob Sevier, one of his two partners in the Chicago-based record label, has spent the last six months untangling a mystery that spans five years and 500 reels of recording tape, though it begins with Lopez, decades earlier.

It’s a buried treasure tale that also gets at the core of what Numero Group does and why that work matters. Sevier explains that though he didn’t know Lopez, he knows the type. “One of those guys who just shows up and spins yarns, one of those ‘I’ve got all the Chi-Lites master tapes at my house,’ kind of guys.”

Numero, which Shipley and Sevier founded along with Tom Lunt a decade ago, has grown to become one of America’s premier reissue labels.

The label, which has garnered Grammy nominations, operates out of a bungalow in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood and specializes in unearthing the lost legacies of boutique soul labels and artists of the ’60s and ’70s. The label then reissues new versions of the recordings.

But Numero’s true vocation is pulling a thread of truth from yarns such as Lopez’s and following it to a holy grail of old recordings rotting away in someone’s closet. With that task in mind, the two are headed to 63rd Street and Austin Boulevard with boxes of hundreds of old reel-to-reel tapes.

The story of the tapes begins in 2007 at Record Dugout where Steve Batinich, a lifelong collector, sells records as well as baseball and music memorabilia. It is a place where other collectors come to flip through vintage LPs and trade tales of their finds.

One day Sevier was visiting with Batinich when Dugout regular Lopez came in and began bragging about his piece of a fabled trove of Chicago soul recordings. This particular collection has gained an almost mythological stature among Chicago soul music die-hards: the Ed Cody tapes. Lopez tells them that he used to work with Cody in the mid-’60s when Cody was an engineer at Stereosonic, and he has many reels of Cody’s work in his possession, including tapes of unreleased sessions of The Jackson 5 and Chicago harmony soul group The Marlynns. Lopez says he is considering pressing some recordings, as The Marlynns records are quite valuable on the soul music collector market.

Sevier was skeptical. “It seemed unlikely that Joe Lopez could have worked on these sessions, because he would have been, like, 12 at the time.” Cody, who spent the ’60s and ’70s bouncing between Chicago studios and running small labels and is what Sevier calls “a bit of a hermit,” flatly refused all offers and entreaties for his audio archive. The prospect that somehow the tapes had been parsed out to Lopez seemed dubious.

Sevier thought little of the exchange with Lopez until several months later in 2008, when a freshly pressed Marlynns 45 rpm single showed up for auction on eBay, with the seller feigning ignorance of its provenance. Sevier created an alias to bid on it, and after winning the auction left public feedback saying the singles were bootlegs. The alias he created for no reason other than a humorous whim, BobMiner2007, was the name of an employee of Record Dugout. What happened as a result kicked off the odyssey of the Joe Lopez-Ed Cody tapes and another amazing Numero Group find.

Shortly after Sevier won the auction, Lopez stormed into Record Dugout and accused the real Bob Miner of ripping him off, effectively proving that Lopez did have the Marlynns masters he claimed and possibly others.

“That is our opening salvo,” Shipley explains. “That is our first knowledge of the existence of the tapes.”

From there, the tale of the tapes begins a circuitous route: A record dealer from Madison, Wis., contacted Shipley with a report of a storage unit in Rockford that contained hundreds of reels purported to be Chicago soul recordings. The unit’s owner was asking a half-million dollars for the collection. Then, acetates from various small labels Ed Cody worked with over the years began showing up at record fairs. By 2011, it became clear that someone who had access to sessions Cody recorded was parsing bits of them into the music collector underground.

Then a year goes by with no news of Lopez or his tapes, until Batinich gets a call in August from Lopez’s widow (he died of cancer). She had a storage locker full of these reels and was wondering if Batinich might be interested in them. Batinich struck a deal with her for the 500 unlabeled, decaying boxes of tape. Having no idea what was on them, only hopes of what could be, he reached out to the people who might know: Numero.

The terms of the deal were simple: Batinich would sell Numero whatever it wanted, but on the label had to identify and mark what it could. Fearful of missing something important or unheralded, Numero began dutifully combing through each and every tape, inventorying and labeling as best it could.

What was there? According to Sevier, “Dross, mostly. Recordings of baseball games. Transfers of LPs. Polka. Unknown gospel choirs. A Kool & The Gang radio spot. Someone’s anti-drug version of ‘Purple Rain.'” But Lopez had, at some point, separated some of the tapes, labeling them in a rudimentary way — “blues” and “good soul” — and had set aside a batch of recordings he felt were notable. Sometimes he was right, sometimes not, but his efforts gave Numero a little bit of a head start.

“Eighty-eight tapes,” Shipley says. That’s how many Numero ended up buying. The other 400-odd are in boxes with Sevier and Shipley, headed back to Batinich’s shop to continue their journey, whatever that may be, possibly to be parsed out to other labels, other interested parties or the trash collector.

“Did you burn CDs of the good stuff for me?” Batinich asks. Sevier shakes his head. “Any rockabilly?” Sevier’s answer is again, no. “This is a second copy of Amazing Farmer Singers’ ‘I’ve Got a Telephone In My Bosom,'” offers Sevier, holding up a small reel. He has no encouraging news for Batinich, as Numero has picked these boxes clean of their gems.

Of the 88 tapes Numero acquired, more than half have been identified, Sevier guesses.

“It’s about 25 percent is stuff that’s already been released, most of it legitimately,” he says. “About 10 or 15 are masters of Clarence Johnson-produced recordings. The next 25 percent is stuff that is in a real gray area; we know how complicated it would be to license and release it, and it’s not even worth it. Another 25 percent is indie stuff, our wheelhouse, that we have identified and in some cases people we already know and have worked with. Then the other 25 percent is stuff we have no idea what it is, and it runs from pretty awesome to totally awesome.”

Sevier’s favorite track among the pile of still unknowns is the strangest song they’ve found.

“It’s mysterious in origin and in what the band was trying to achieve,” he says with a laugh. “It was only labeled ‘Cemetery Song,’ and it’s a 14-minute psychedelic soul opus that is maybe Halloween-themed. We have no idea. There are no clues, no hints.”

The big finds among Lopez’s tape stash include a very rare single by Chicago vocal group The Ivories, two unreleased Don Gardner songs from his most famous session and the odd album of German hard rock band Epitaph, which happened to record for a local label. There were three unreleased songs from Stax recording artists Sons of Slum and a reel containing “This Love For Real” by Hands of Time, which was produced by Leroy Hutson of The Impressions.

While it’s exciting for Numero to be able to issue crucial singles from known artists, for Shipley and Sevier the most significant work that they have identified is a six-song session by long-dead soul singer Calvin Harris. How they did it makes it seem like these tapes were fated to fall into their hands.

About a year before Lopez’s tape cache took over the Numero office, Sevier was talking to Earl Wiley, a local booking agent-turned-producer, for research on an unrelated project. Wiley told him a story about a group “stealing” a song from him. In 1972, Wiley was in Cody’s Stereosonic studio producing a recording with an unknown but talented singer, Harris — a demo meant to showcase both Harris and Wiley’s talents. Nothing ever came of it, and the tapes essentially disappear. The following year, Wiley hears a song from his Harris demo, “Love Won’t Pay the Bills,” but it’s being performed by another group, Elevation, but has no idea how they got the song. Cody was the engineer on both sessions.

Forty years go by and then, one day, Numero engineer Haley Fohr cues up a tape at the Numero office, and Sevier and Shipley immediately recognize “Love Won’t Pay The Bills” as it comes out of the speakers. And it’s not the Elevation version; it’s the original. This is the lost Calvin Harris session.

“We had to be there, at that house, at that moment, in order to identify what was on this tape,” Shipley says.

From the 88 tapes, Shipley says, Numero will issue, tops, a handful of 45s. The rest they will archive for safekeeping.

“Someday, someone — a museum, another label, an archive — is going to want this,” Shipley says. “We are interested in saving what are historically significant. If Lopez’s widow just hadn’t called Record Dugout, I can guarantee these tapes would be in some landfill right now.”

So what’s coming first out of this batch? Two insanely good Calvin Harris 45s. Click for a sip of the juice:

Numero: The Year In Review

While the rest of the world polls minor celebrities and hipster-douchebag record label owners, we quietly sent out an email last week to our staff asking them to rank their top ten Numero releases for 2012. The surprising results are as follows:


10. Circuit Rider: S/T

Close your eyes and Imagine The Doors backing The Prophet Omega. Now open them upon a picture of Thorn Oehrig, the mind and voice behind Circuit Rider. The first thing that may pop to mind is “student council president.” He’s white, well-groomed and lacks the requisite thousand yard stare of a paranoid outlaw on the lam. And yet the music contained here is so defiled that you can imagine that if he did hold the power seat in high school, it brought forth his inner cult leader, biker gang honcho, and 19th Century sharecropper. Power driven by powerlessness; John Brown. Oerig’s vision is like civil war re-enactment applied to the sixties underground, sounding more like a field recording from the remnants of an Appalachian slave clan moved to the cheap side of Laurel Canyon than a perilously corralled Paul Rothchild production of drunken film students holed up in Morrison Hotel. Thoughout it all, it’s obvious that the guy isn’t kidding. He has been transformed. Beware. It’s contagious.—Tom Lunt


09. Shirley Ann Lee: Songs Of Light

Back in the spring of 2006, Ken Shipley, Rob Sevier and I holed up in a downtown Chicago studio and transferred a myriad of tapes from Ecorse, Michigan’s Revival Records label. At the time it was the biggest excavation that Numero had ever encountered. After listening to over 150 tapes and thousands of songs that year, we produced a remarkable compilation and created a new series with Local Customs: Downriver Revival.  By far the star of this release was Shirley Ann Lee, the gospel singer from Toledo, Ohio.  There were more tapes in the Revival cache of Shirley Ann Lee than any other artist that Felton Williams recorded at his home studio…and for good reason. Her voice is like none other that I have ever heard before. At times she sounds like a constant contradiction: raw and poetic, bitter and sweet, sinful and sacred.  After years of listening to hundreds of tracks by her, we were proud to present Shirley Ann Lee: Songs of Light in 2012 (the 3rd album in our Numerophon series).  It is comprised of 16 exceptional tracks that are both experimental, evocative, and forthright in their own special ways.—Michael Slaboch


08. Buttons: From Champaign To Chicago

Part A: On Facebook, re: Julian Leal’s “Get Away,” my brother Neal wrote: “Our mission is to make everybody like this song, if it’s the last thing we do.”

Part B: “Get Away” isn’t even my go-to track on this. It’s still Tom Orsi’s “Where Are You Now,” as power pop as that may not be.

Part C: Pro Packaging Personalization: Take your 2LP gatefold and put it in a plastic LP sleeve. Then select your favorite of the Buttons 7×7 artist promo slicks and put it in the front within the smaller plastic sleeve they all came in (I’m currently using The Names, for example). Next, position your slicks sleeve at bottom left, inside your Buttons LP sleeve, so that it decorates a corner of the Buttons front cover, partially obscuring Ken’s shirt-and-vest getup (but not the yellow Illinois lapel button) and allowing you, the obsessed owner, to tell the world which Buttons track is currently owning every synapse of your power pop neural network. —Judson Picco


07. Codeine: When I See The Sun

When the idea of taking a run at the ’90s first came up, the Numero office found itself at something of an ideological crossroads. Discussions about “catalog purity” gave way to arguments about our label’s scope, mission, and vision. Terms like “post-songwriting” were thrown out and thoughts of yet another label were pondered. Eventually we realized Numero was more like software, something that could be applied to anything with positive results. We’ve made DVDs, covered salsa, and soon will make our first foray into hard rock. If we couldn’t handle a sleepy early-’90s group from Manhattan, how could we expect to ever really chase our personal muses?

I’ll be the first to admit that Codeine was a passion project for me. I’d loved the band since high school, sneaking out to see them in Petaluma, California, on their last tour. Their three record arc remains a shining example of what happens when a band quits while they’re ahead. The idea of reissuing their smallish catalog came to me upon discovering that our one-time sales maven JR Robinson had made a record with former Codeine drummer Chris Brokaw. A few months later, Chris was sitting in my office. A few weeks later I was on the phone with Jon and Stephen. Then Sub Pop. A personal journey was completed in a matter of weeks, as I went from fan to piece of a complex puzzle. I was no longer just a proud owner of a Loser t-shirt, I was in the process of turning the Sub Pop logo on its head.

The unique packaging concept began with a question from Rob Sevier: Why can’t bonus CDs slide out of a little pocket in the same fashion an LP does? Henry Owings took that question, and, with the help of Jeff Kleinsmith’s original art, reinvented Codeine’s classic trilogy of records for a new generation. Judson Picco and myself spent weeks drafting and redrafting the liner notes, pulling on every thread until we were satisfied we’d told all the story there was to tell. Jeff Lipton grabbed victory from the jaws of DAT failure, rescuing a great many crunchy tracks over the process of remastering the 6LP/3CD set. The result feels like a Numero record, but has a distinct out of house flavor. Not quite a “Group” effort, but a Herculean one nonetheless.—Ken Shipley


06. Love Apple: S/T

Love Apple may be this year’s best kept secret. A single LP in Kraft paper jacket this dinghy is easily lost behind the armada of flagship releases this year.  Don’t let its modesty fool you, the Ragland produced, Boddie recorded sketches of three Cleveland sisters over a lone guitar and drums has seen heavy play in our headquarters this year.  With unique melodies that sway from elegant to eerie and sparse instrumentation this is the record MPC junkies dream of. Seriously, how has this not been sampled yet?—Nate Meiners


05. Eccentric Soul: A Red Black Green Production

In 2011, the world caught just a glimpse of D.C.’s  Robert “Jose” Williams and his studio wizardry when we released Father’s Children: Who’s Gonna Save The World. That album represented but a few tapes amongst a treasure trove of D.C. soul, including released and unreleased works by the Summits,  Skip Mahoaney & The Casuals, Promise, Dyson’s Faces, and the Exceptions. Dithering down the 30-odd tapes was no easy task, as originally this was slated to be a a four, possibly five, CD set with full albums by Dyson’s Faces, the Exceptions, Skip Mahoaney, and Father’s Children, with another disc of extras (including this femme falsetto gem). This unprecedented access to the source material gives RBG (as it’s lovingly referred to around the office) a polish and sheen not found on many other Eccentric Soul compilations. If you’re a sucker for low rider ballads, we encourage you to put your rub-off tear drop tattoo on, roll down the windows, and cruise.—Zach Myers


04. Lou Ragland: I Travel Alone

As Numero’s web specialist, I see lots of things float by our digital domain. I’m privileged (and sometimes horrified) to hear snippets of works-in-progress where I’m completely unaware of what the work actually is. That’s how I originally came across Lou Ragland. I was listening to a random swath of songs when I noticed several stand-out tracks which seemed to be related, but I wasn’t sure. These songs were tied together semi-stylistically, but what grabbed me was the warmth and depth that pervaded each and every track. When Lou Ragland: I Travel Alone landed on my desk at Numero’s New Jersey office, all was clear. I clearly need to get the fuck out of New Jersey.—Jonathan Land


03. Alfonso Lovo: La Gigantona

Had La Gigantona surfaced during my college years, it would be fossilized into the bedrock of my musical identity today. Between gravity bong hits of Lee Perry and keg stands of Herbie Hancock, Alfonso Lovo would have provided the perfect crossfade between my intensifying interests in jazz and Caribbean psychedelia.Then I would be able to reminisce with random classmates over the holidays—modern lawyers, bankers, sales reps—and they’d say, “Dude, remember how we used to listen to Alfonso Lovo ALL THE TIME?! We were obsessed with that record! I play it for my wife now and she hates it!”—Jon Kirby


02. WTNG 89.9: Solid Bronze

For those select fans still holding to the misguided notion that Numero Group is a “soul music” reissue label, 2012 must have been quite sobering.  Sure, there have been multitudes of non-soul or gospel titles on the label over the past ten years…Pisces, Lonestar Lowlands, and our two volumes of power pop via the Buttons series, but nothing could have prepared anyone for what we came up with for Record Store Day. Inspired by radio station compilations released throughout the ’70s and ’80s, the idea was to compile a sampler for our own (quasi fictitious) WTNG station; a literal “who’s that?” of a silky smooth style we lovingly refer to as “easy glide.”  After hundreds of hours of listening to potential inclusions, the eleven tracks that finally made the cut still found themselves on repeat play around the Numero office. This is the sort of record I never knew that I NEEDED in my life until it existed. I need more.—Dustin Drase


01. Eccentric Soul Omnibus

One box to rule them all. We thought many things about last year’s #1 set, the Boddie Recording Company. We thought we’d never spend longer on a project (wrong, some of this research started even before there was a Numero to release it). We thought we’d never see such a shipping nightmare in person (extraordinarily wrong, note the multiple injuries in the shipping department). And furthermore, we thought that any such project that would top last year’s #1 would surely blow its release date (on that point we were correct.) We present the 045 Eccentric Soul: Omnibus… 45 singles, 90 songs, 45,000 words of liner notes, 96,000 tears, 3 bottles of Adderall,  one nervous breakdown, all packaged lavishly in a handy classic 45 case. Now we’re really wondering how to top ourselves.—Rob Sevier