« Numero Group: the crate-digging record label’s top 10 », The Guardian
Numero Group has become a legendary label in less than 20 years of existence.
Since 2003, founders Ken Shipley and Rob Sevier have dug through the most obscure record collections to unearth long-forgotten gems, from soul and rock to folk and blues.
From criminals funded by prostitutes to Nicaraguan political scions who escaped to New Orleans, the Chicago-based reissue label Numero Group has had them all. It has built a reputation for scrabbling through the dust of history to let the talented forgotten shine out. The label’s bread and butter may be classic soul, but it has also found room in its catalogue for Belgian lounge-pop (Antena), spectral outsider gospel (Otis G Johnson), and, in the forthcoming collection of tracks by Iasos, transcendent new age synth music made on a San Franciscan houseboat. Next week marks 10 years since Numero Group began; here, its founders Ken Shipley and Rob Sevier pick the 10 records that define their label:
1- Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label (NUM001) -Their first release was a collection of classic soul from Columbus label Capsoul, which burned brightly from 1970-1974
2- Wee – You Can Fly On My Aeroplane – Released on the Asterisk sub-label and recorded in 1977, Wee was the band of Norman Whiteside, a Capsoul artist who has been in prison since 1986
3- Pisces – A Lovely Sight (NUM029) – A small-time 1966 garage rock band from Rockford, Illinois, they released the odd 7in here and there. When scouting for other records at the home of the band’s songwriter, Jim Krein, Sevier discovered an acetate of an unreleased Pisces album
4- Light: On The South Side (NUM033) – A box set featuring a book of photos by Michael Abramson, who captured the nightlife of Chicago’s South Side in the 1970s, plus two LPs of electric blues – it earned the first of Numero’s three Grammy nominations
5- Boddie Recording Company: Cleveland, Ohio (NUM035) – Three CDs and tonnes of paraphernalia presented in a cloth-bound set of files, this documented the Cleveland recording studio Boddie. From 1958 to 1993, Thomas and Louise Boddie put out 300 releases and pressed more than a million records from their back yard
6- Willie Wright – Telling The Truth (NUM038) – An LP of Van Morrisonesque soulful folk released by a black songwriter in 1977, the sleeve for Telling The Truth originally had the following printed on the sleeve: « This is not a disco record. It’s designed for the ADULTS of the world. TEENAGERS, this album may be too lyrically heavy for you, especially if you’re into fast music. »
7- Alfonso Lovo – La Gigantona (NUM046) – Lovo was a Nicaraguan whose family were part of the country’s political elite – he was shot six times during a plane hijacking in 1971, and later escaped to New Orleans when the Sandinistas took over the country, taking the only acetate of La Gigantona with him
8- Codeine – When I See The Sun (NUM201) – Amid all the soul, gospel and funk came this curveball, an ultra-lavish vinyl box set of 90s slowcore band Codeine, released in 2012
9- Medusa – First Step Beyond (NUM048.5) – An ass-kicking, psychedelic, midwestern take on hard rock housed in a velvet-coloured LP sleeve, Medusa is unlike anything else in the Numero catalogue.Rob: When I talked to the lead singer he was initially very cagey. It’s funny now to look back at the emails because I can’t believe they’re from him – now he’s so excited and happy to be doing this. But he originally said he wouldn’t talk about doing anything until all the band members were involved, and he didn’t know how to get in touch with them because he hadn’t talked to them for 30 years … and I found them in half an hour online. It’s a dance: you have to build enough trust to get them to share their music, but at the same time make it clear you’re reviewing it, that there’s no guarantee that you’ll do what they want
10- Penny and the Quarters – You And Me (NUM-ES-018) – Also released on Numero 015, Eccentric Soul: The Prix Label, this 7in became wildly popular after being used in the film Blue Valentine, and sparked a hunt for the band’s members.