Numero Group: By The Numbers

“For People Who Like To Have Fun” – Way Out Records
March 5, 2014, 12:12 pm
Filed under: Boddie, Lou Ragland, Way Out


Way Out Records is just months from induction into the Eccentric Soul hall of fame. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been in especially close contact with our Forrest City allies, in search of 11th-hour odds and ends to complete this 3LP/2CD undertaking. Hunter/Gatherer, knowledgable collector, certified public accountant, and all-around good guy Cameron Kowall has been sending us mind-bending impressions from an endless stream of Cleveland Call and Post back issues that thread together numerous Cleveland titles from our back catalog. Below are a few highlights. The last clipping mention’s Lou Ragland’s debut, “Party at Lester’s,” a tribute to Way Out founder, Lester Johnson. With Eccentric Soul: The Way Out Label we pay tribute to all of the men and women of this prolific imprint. With this blog entry we pay tribute to Cameron Kowall! Keep up the good work, Cameron!

Eccentric Soul: The Way Out Label touches down June 24th, 2014.

basement rock group(From Pressed at Boddie)

Diplomats(Later, Elements)

Hot Chocolates Band(Music by Lou Ragland and the “Hot Chocolates Band”)

Lou Ragland Call and Post(or “Patty at Lester’s” as it were)

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

Lou Ragland Reclaims Cleveland : A Recap
August 27, 2012, 2:37 pm
Filed under: Lou Ragland

It should come as no mystery to Numero friends, fans, and followers that we have a large place in our heart for the city of Cleveland. While our occupations demand that we spend the majority of our days navigating the past, it’s both encouraging and reassuring to spend an epic night out in a place that you’ve only previously dusted for fossils. The Lou Ragland show Friday night at the Beachland Ballroom was very special, and we thank everyone who traveled across town (and in some instance, across country) to witness the Traveling Man play hits from his eccentric songbook. Enthusiastic citizens from old and new Cleveland were in attendance–grown folks, young folks, record store owners and operators, professional roller skaters, ladies playing air guitar with their walking sticks, et al. A man who was seen carrying his 9-foot dreadlocks for most of the night did the city a service by flying in saxophonist and Ragland collaborator Gus Hawkins (see also: S.O.U.L.) to join Ragland’s band, which included original Hot Chocolateers Herb Pruitt on bass and Pam Hamilton on violin. And while we’d spent plenty of time with Lou over the years, it was great to meet his children (two of which sang back-up for Friday’s concert), plus several of his grandchildren. Lou is beloved in Cleveland, and despite a 30-year hiatus from the Forrest City, he proved he can still command a crowd in his hometown. In a sentence: He’s still got it.

Lou Ragland, a self-desribbed “whipper snapper.”

Lou Ragland taking pictures with fans.


Gus Hawkins on the left, Lou Ragland on the right, and the owner of this business card in the center.

If you can’t tell, this business card is also a hologram.


Pam Hamilton, recreating the destructive violin solo from “Good for the Gander” (Live at Agency).

When you’re not looking for them, vintage photos of Lou Ragland pop up everywhere.

Lou Ragland to Rock Cleveland, August 24th
August 7, 2012, 11:30 am
Filed under: Lou Ragland

Attention Citizens of Cleveland,

August 24th is your lucky day. Native son Lou Ragland will be returning to the Buckeye State for a rare performance at the Beachland Ballroom. Fans of Num042 Lou Ragland – I Travel Alone who live in striking distance of the Forest City should have a pretty good idea of the potential set lists the Traveling Man has up his sleeve. “Understand Each Other”? “What’s Good For the Gander”? We’ll just have to wait and see. Nervous about it selling out? Purchase tickets here. Want a bundle of reasons that you might be missing the Cleveland concert of the year? Flip through the eccentric songbook of Lou Ragland on our storefront.

NPR Shows Love to Cleveland’s Love Apple
April 9, 2012, 4:03 pm
Filed under: Boddie, Lou Ragland, Love Apple, Press Archives

Although we feel Love Apple’s Boddie-minted rehearsal tape is worth of all manners of praise, it’s always nice to hear sentiments like that echoed by National Public Radio. With the trio’s entire recorded catalog gathering dust  in a converted dairy barn for the better part of three decades, NPR recently saw fit to honor Cleveland, Ohio’s Love Apple, along with a handful of other soulful women whose careers have been recently revisited.

Click here to read and/or hear the NPR spot. 

Click here to view the Love Apple EP at the Numero Store. 

A few nice words about Lou Ragland (with audio)
April 2, 2012, 8:10 am
Filed under: Lou Ragland

A week has passed since Lou Ragland: I Travel Alone hit physical and virtual shelves, and in that time we’ve been floored by the spate of glowing reviews our little 3CD/4LP box has received. If you’re on the fence, let these scribes help persuade you. We’ve added a little audio color of our own to seal the deal.

“Since You Said You’d Be Mine,” is Philly-via-Cleveland soul. With an addictive one-line refrain, a breezy rhythmic sway, and tasteful horns, strings and backing vocals, it rivals the great works of Gamble and Huff.—Dusted


“‘Good For The Gander’ is laced with post-Hendrix guitar in a Family Stone meets Funkadelic arrangement.”—Mojo

“”1971’s ‘Good For The Gander’ is explosive, raw funk with Eddie Hazel-esque fiery guitar. Amazing.”—Record Collector


“‘I Travel Alone’ is a slice of Northern Soul heaven. Crisp drumming, humming bass and Ragland’s high vocal line, accompanied by backing vocals, breaking for the brass section, the tempo never lets up for the 2:33 duration.”—Pop Matters



Brotherly Love : Bob Ragland Is Also Awesome
March 27, 2012, 12:10 pm
Filed under: Lou Ragland

Being several years Lou’s senior, Bob Ragland wasn’t around during much of Lou’s musical maturation. Entering the armed forces when his musical sibling was barely a teenager, Bob eventually settled in Colorado where he’s established himself as a painter and sculptor. There is an undeniable family resemblance in their respective work ethics, and Bob Ragland’s art manifesto, the Non-Starving Artist Program, combines business savvy with consistency, and emphasizes the crazy concept that artists need not starve (the “Heating and Eating” clause). To show our appreciation for Bob’s input and perspective on Lou’s I Travel Alone, which goes on sale today, Bob in turn sent us a bundle of press clippings and accompanying captions that made for a magnificent read.

If you should find yourself in the Denver area, consider purchasing a Ragland. It’s a name you can trust. The younger Ragland’s exhaustive I Travel Alone (042, if you’re counting) is available on our storefront today.

Lou Ragland: Between the Sheets
February 23, 2012, 1:20 pm
Filed under: Lou Ragland

Vinyl and compact disc proofs for Lou Ragland’s massive anthology arrived within 24 hours of one another. For the better part of the morning, our human/feline staff fawned over pages and pages of text and context, documenting the Cleveland genius in poster-sized bites.

I Travel Alone will land on nationwide record shelves March 27th, and will be available in 3-CD and 4-LP incarnations. Pre-order here.

After These Messages: Lou Ragland Hype Video Debut
February 7, 2012, 12:21 pm
Filed under: Lou Ragland

Lou Ragland’s 1967 single “I Travel Alone” is eccentric soul hall-of-fame material. It possesses all the necessary criteria—compositional integrity, thoughtful lyrics, a danceable beat, international notoriety, and +40 years of relative scarcity in the marketplace. It’s a song that we truly never tire of, even after hours of editing this promotional video for the Cleveland cannonball we’ll be lobbing into global record pools on March 27th. You can pre-order your 4LP or 3CD set here. In the meantime, good luck getting this song out of your head.

Numero 042.5: Love Apple Needle Drop
January 31, 2012, 9:50 am
Filed under: Lou Ragland, Love Apple

A perfect companion piece to the immersive I Travel Alone (March ’12), Love Apple was a presumably undocumented chapter in Lou Ragland’s recording career. But when a rehearsal tape from 1978 turned up in the Boddie archives, we knew that the two were destined to share shelf space. Below is a needle drop of some of the record’s most brilliant moments—the choice nugs, if you will. There are three ladies singing their hearts out, Lou Ragland on guitar, and Tony Roberson on drums (No bass—like the White Stripes!) These six songs, in their entirety, will go on sale February 28th, a full month before their bandleader’s dedicated release.

[audio ]