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Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Numero Group announce Eccentric Soul Omnibus Volume 1



Synopsis: 45 7" singles from the dustiest corners of the United States, replicated down to the tiniest detail. Housed in a custom Numero-patterned 45 box, replete with metal hardware and handle. Clothbound hardback book with a word count of almost 50,000, covering the bizarre histories of each group, the early history of Numero, plus an absurdly detailed series of indices. 

Background: Back in early 2003, when Numero was still in an embryonic state, the labels' inaugural release was envisioned as a 10-disc, 20-artist pile of peculiar soul 45s, packaged in a cardboard clamshell mailer. It was cobbled together from what, at the time, seemed like a unique selection of singles: off-key vocalists and over-the-top guitar soloists, one-piece string sections and piecemeal brass lines, each of them ostensibly helmed by a savant mad-scientist producer working in jury-rigged, barely functional studio conditions. Its working title was Eccentric Soul.

The imagined box of ten 45s was scrapped, replaced by Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label, the project that became Numero 001. From the wreckage of the original set, Altyrone Deno Brown turned out to be a bedrock voice, a central story, and the cover image on003, Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label; the Dynamic Tints brightened one small corner of Twinight's Lunar Rotation; and Lady Margo's "This Is My Prayer" later found a home inside Pepper's Jukebox, the double LP that accompanied Michael Abramson's photography in 2009's Light: On The South Side hardcover book.

All 14 volumes of Eccentric Soul that pre-date this Omnibus sketch a given skein of connective tissue, but fully fleshed out here are the colorful strands linking any given record to untold others: untimely deaths, racial injustice, kid groups dimmed of charm by oncoming adulthood, military base installment, the bitter duty of Vietnam, the state of Alaska, tantalizing flirtations with fame. All of it is evidence that the darkened corners of the music business looked much the same in the pale light of Fresno, California, or Owensboro, Kentucky, or Benton Harbor, Michigan: record labels run by wannabe gangsters, managers with sticky fingers, radio promotion men funneling payola into disc jockey pet projects, marching bands turning into stage bands, youth centers turned into soul schools, and master tapes lost to fire, storm, and flood. Most of these 45s appear austere and simple at a glance, but every crude, hand-drawn logo, every missing or misspelled bit of crucial information, every malapropism-laden band name belies a deep well of unique history. PVC footholds in an uphill battle against badly stacked odds, these were records willed into existence through pure determination.

Omnibus Vol. 1 is an attempt at laying bare a tangled mess of loose ends that Numero (and cohorts) have been tripping over for years. Too disconnected and isolated from one another for expansion into full-length CD or LP projects, we've bound together 90 songs and 45 stories, cross-referencing each town and year of issue, and gathering it all into a compact and elegant monument to America's soul diaspora.


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