Numero Group: By The Numbers

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

WTNG: Solid Bronze (And Blue and Pink and Black)
April 16, 2012, 10:27 am
Filed under: Record Store Day, WTNG

Record Store Day is less than a week away, and boxes full of Numero items are flying across the planet by land, air, and sea. Several shops and distributors are making serious grabs for our limited edition Record Store Day item du jour, WTNG: Solid Bronze. Our tribute to the radio station compilations of yore features 11 unique tunes about taking it easy, love crashing around people, magic lamps, and golden ponies. One song even features “Mike McDonald” on keyboards, lending it serious yacht credibility. Shuffled into many (but not all) orders are translucent blue vinyl and opaque pink vinyl (about 300 of each). When you divide this by the number of stores and subscribers we’re satisfying, there’s no telling which version anyone will get, and there is no outward indication what type of vinyl awaits inside. The pink could be described as Barbie Corvette and the blue could be compared to the Great Lake that graces the album’s facade. But it’s not the color of the grooves that matters, it’s what’s inside. Even those who get block-out-the-sun black will still be listening to one remarkable album clear on through to Labor Day and beyond. Check out the variations below, and the dust-jacket collage that accompanies.

April 6, 2012, 3:33 pm
Filed under: Record Store Day, WTNG

WTNG CDs are moving at high speeds to music shops world wide for Record Store Day. WTNG 89.9 is a tribute to the micro-genre of radio station compilations, wherein several hundred regional acts would “battle” for a coveted spot on their hometown station’s sampler. “Already the careers of the Jon Butcher Axis (Polydor), John Bongiovi [sic] (Polydor), Twister Sister (Atlantic), and 1981’s national winners, the Stompers (Boardwalk) have exploded since participation in the Search for the Superstars of the ’80s” is the takeaway line from the Miller Highlife Rock to Riches compilation. Back at fictional frequency 89.9, we deliver not only 11 great rock-and-soul tracks, but a survey of facades–a cross section of compilations–that served as inspiration for this monstrosity. A fold-out lyric sheet and poster reveals the diverse cast of musicians involved. A disproportionate amount of time, energy, and resources went into making this album, which is hilarious because we’re only making a couple thousand and have no plans to repress. This comes as bad news for anyone who snoozes, thereby forfeiting the right to listen to Winston-Salem, NC’s Roach Band at their leisure. Coincidentally the only way to listen to WTNG is at your leisure.

WTNG Staff Meeting: J Michael Henderson
March 30, 2012, 12:56 pm
Filed under: Record Store Day, WTNG

While fielding comparisons to Stevie Wonder and Steely Dan, J. Michael Henderson eloquently confessed, “We were all running on the same treadmill back then.” A native of Muncie, Indiana, Henderson recorded two substantial albums at 700 West in “nearby” New Palestine in the late ’70s (actually closer to Indianapolis). Henderson, who has since moved to Southern California, maintains one of the most comprehensive websites of anyone on the Numero roster. Finding it hard to pick just one photo out of the dozens provided, we decided a J. Michael Henderson animated .Gif was the best way to resolve such a matter.

“Nite People,” the title track from his second full-length, is a jovial ode to nocturnal types, and will be included in our approaching Record-Store Day release, WTNG. Chicago residents and commuters are encouraged to attend the Numero Pop-Up Store at 1035 North Western Avenue (aka The Empty Bottle) on April 21st, where some of the Midwest’s finest wheelers and dealers will be selling new and used vinyl, executing DJ sets, and generally acting a fool because they’ve been awake since 5 am, all to be broadcasted LIVE on 89.9-FM. We’ll have a Numero 45 that you can only purchase on site, and it’s just going to be great. “Nite People” WILL be played, and that is a guarantee.

WTNG Staff Meeting: The Leder Brothers
March 22, 2012, 4:59 pm
Filed under: Record Store Day, WTNG


“I’d Like to Touch a Star” was one of the first tracks to fall for our record-store day compilation. With it’s inspirational refrain and chart-seeking production, it served as a guiding light for this project, as other succinct contenders were vetted for inclusion.

The Leder Brothers Department Store of Eastern North Carolina predates our combo by a near half-century. By the time Sheldon and Steven Leder had cut “I’d Like to Touch a Star” at Mega Sound Studios in nearby Bailey, father and uncle team Leon and Morris Leder had been selling everything from suits to work boots under the same name for decades, starting in 1934. Having fled Eastern Europe a decade earlier, the Leder Brothers were hardly observers of segregation, and everyone from the mayor to Lee Fields were considered valued customers.

Although we include the Mega Sound mix here and on the compilation, an additional mix was produced by the hit makers at Criteria Studios in Miami. In a March Madness-style upset, the Mega mix takes the title, and shimmers with newly realized fidelity, having been re-mastered directly from tape.

WTNG Staff Meeting: Greenflow
March 13, 2012, 11:28 am
Filed under: Record Store Day, WTNG

WTNG, Numero’s single-LP homage to the regional radio station comps of yore, features 11 unique acts from across North America. With so many new faces (responsible for so many new flavors), we thought we should introduce some of the folks who will be making their Numero debut via our Record Store Day release (4/21).

Greenflow was an agile soul group that delivered the lion’s share of their performances on military bases from the Aleutian Islands to Wuerzburg, Germany, along with several strategic points in between. Bandleader A.J. Greene was an ex-marine who far preferred entertaining personnel to active duty. “After carrying a gun, it was nice to carry a trombone,” he recently remarked from his home in Pasadena, California. Although Greenflow’s roster fluctuated over the years, prominent on this recording was his younger sister Eleanora, whose previous gig with the Superbs yielded a few significant titles on Dore Records in the mid-1960s.

Greenflow’s contribution to WTNG, “I Got’Cha,” is one of the compilation’s catchiest offerings; the chorus is sung no fewer than a dozen times a day at Numero Headquarters. We feel Greenflow makes a fine addition to the WTNG roster, and we hope you will let their infectious melodies nest inside your brain like they’ve done in ours.

P.S. “I Got’Cha!”

Presenting Archie James Cavanaugh
February 29, 2012, 10:05 am
Filed under: WTNG

Meet one of the participants in the WTNG Talent Search, Archie James Cavanaugh, and check out what went into the recording of his soon-to-be smash bit, “Take It Easy”. For more smooth rock and mellow moods, freeze your dial at 88.9 FM.

WTNG 89.9FM: Solid Bronze REVEALED
February 28, 2012, 4:42 pm
Filed under: Record Store Day, WTNG

Last Record Store Day we went all out and made an epic double album sister compilation to our Boddie Recording Company box set. This year we mellowed out a bit, compiling a smooth LP from the comfort of our company hot tub. No, really.

WTNG was a pirate radio station we launched last Record Store Day, servicing a five mile radius in Chicago with a plethora of Numero weirdness.  WTNG 89.9FM: Solid Bronze is an ode to radio station compilation albums of yore, back in the days of when FM jocks stoked the flames of stage acts in their broadcast area with hyped-up talent shows, invaluable airplay, and homegrown LPs stacked with the best efforts of bands not more than a few counties away. Solid Bronze covers all of that ground and then some: smooth rock, AOR, easy glide, hot tub soul, and earnest yacht rock sailing gentle radio waves. Fans of the Dans—Fogelberg, Steely, Seals, and Hill—this is your Numero record.


Here’s where we wax poetic:

There was a time when your hometown station really was your hometown station. Before media conglomerates demanded your coastal burg’s FM band be auto-shuffled via hard drive from a bunker in Alberta, regional frequencies battled tooth-and-nail for listener loyalty. Your allegiance was hard fought for by nicknamed jocks like Mad Dog Mike, The Big Bumper, and Captain Whammo, guerilla marketers high on major label cash and coke who’d stoop to any gimmick to keep the listener tuned in. They’d hand out keys to shiny new convertibles at remote broadcasts from Dairy Queen whilst skywriters spewed call letters over their broadcast domain. Free t-shirts were promised to eleventh callers who could recite station jingles. Repurposed weather copters spotted bumper stickers during drive time, offering the registered owner tix to REO Speedwagon’s gig at the county fair. At Chicago’s Comiskey Park, WLUP’s Disco Demolition Night rigged 100,000 unwanted LPs with explosives, detonating the pile on-field between games at a White Sox doubleheader and sparking a riot of fans united only by radio-promoted anger at a pop genre. At their best, though, radio stations offered coin of unique value back to their listeners. Though local acts got less than 5% of any given playlist, even such airwave leftovers kept small-time hopes alive. “Battles of the Bands” were staged, judged by on-air personalities and regional A&R reps, and winners got their shot at the big time. A handful of these epic contests were committed to wax for posterity, ad dollars, or tax shelter; only in hindsight is their full brilliance apparent.

When done correctly and courageously, radio station comps were referenda on the local pop talent, generating minor mountains of magnetic tape piled upon Program Directors’ desks, and culminating in alternately grueling and inspiring late-night listening sessions. Most groups hoped to emulate contemporary hitmakers, tailoring their sounds to the fickle tastes of major label brass. Unlike run-of-the-mill custom-recorded and privately issued amateur LPs, these best possible efforts of a listening area’s crop got the sheen of professionalism that obscures their “local” status: Ordained into service by radio overlords, these tracks were gonna make it. How could their humble creators ever doubt it?

In the spirit of the Great Radio Comp, we present WTNG 89.9 FM: Solid Bronze, in tribute to 11 would-be chart-climbers that scaled only their given city’s broadcast tower and fell. Here are working artists who deserve acknowledgement for their working-class commitment. None of them “made it,” but they believed—and so will you—in their one great song, that single shining moment in which everything came together and even those who owned the airwaves had to stop…and listen. These shouts into the void inspired momentary dreams of the big show, sold out in hours by a 15,000-seater’s box office, and a single pair of tickets left, awarded only to the 89th caller.

Phone lines remain open.

WTNG 89.9FM: Solid Bronze will be available on CD and LP, with both formats limited to 1000 copies, on April 21st 2012.

Track list:

Timothy – Your Love Rolled Over Me
Leder Brothers – I’d Like To Touch A Star
Cream & Sugar – Between Us
J. Michael Henderson – Nite People
Archie James Cavanaugh – Take It Easy
Caroline Peyton – Try To Be True
Roach Band – Aladdin
Greenflow – I Got’Cha
Dwain Vigil – Heaven’s Child
Donna Kime – Golden Pony
Lorren Cornelius – Fantasy Woman