Jul 15, 2011, 06:21AM

Cream of the Crop

The Numero Group has been reissuing high quality, rare soul at a staggering pace - and offer a vinyl subscription service that caters to record collectors unique mania.

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The Numero Group has been setting the gold standard for reissues since 2003, with nary a dud in their entire catalog, but recently they’ve taken the art of compiling obscure soul music to new heights. It’s hard to overstate the service they’re providing to music lovers, and their vinyl subscription series is a dream come true for a vinyl fetishist like myself.

It’s such a thrill to see the cardboard box with the Numero Group label stamped on it on sitting on the porch, that it’s hard to imagine how you can afford not to drop the measly $165 ($150 for previous subscribers) they charge for what amounts to a priceless amount of soul. The first half of their 2011 subscription just wrapped, and they’re currently taking orders for the next run of records due to be released over the summer. If you’ve slept on it—fear not, all their 2011 releases are still in print (excepting the limited Pressed at Boddie Record Store Day exclusive release).

The Numero Group is a self-professed “cream of the crop” label, a claim that seems humble when you take into account the quality and care they put into every release. Each and every record comes with thoroughly researched liner notes, a bevy of photographs, and beautiful packaging. Taking a cue from the 1960s jazz label Impulse, Numero has maintained a consistent design aesthetic since their very first release—utilizing heavy cardboard and gatefolds that make the spines the very first thing you notice when you look at a shelf of records. Being the ultimate record nerds themselves, Numero honchos Rob Sevier, Ken Shipley and Tom Lunt understand other record nerds’ fiendish drive towards completism—and once you start lining up those Numero Group releases, it’s difficult to stop until you’ve filled in the gaps.

If you need a place to start, you couldn’t do much better than #038, Willie Wright’s Telling The Truth. Originally released in 1977 in an edition of 1000 and sold exclusively at Rhode Island resorts, the private folk/soul/rock gem trades hands for well into triple digits, if you are lucky enough to find a copy for sale, whereas Numero’s version will only set you back 20 bones and comes with Wright’s lone 45—a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Right On For The Darkness” with his original “Africa,” on the flip. It’s the kind of record you can recommend to anyone, Mamas or compadres.

Pressed on translucent gold vinyl, Telling The Truth oozes with mature soul and Wright’s ragged weariness. The crude (but effective) original cover is repurposed as the inner sleeve, and notes in bold letters on the back somewhat hilariously (but not untruthfully) “—One of the greatest singers of all times, and one of the most relaxed,” as well as “WARNING: —This is not a disco record. It’s designed for ADULTS of the world. TEENAGERS, this album may be too lyrically heavy for you, especially if you’re into fast music. YOU WILL, however, enjoy this record if you’re into GUITARS!” Now that’s some snappy copy! Who wouldn’t want to buy into that? And who would try and write a better description?

As for future releases included in the next vinyl subscription, the list is tantalizing. It starts with an LP on the Cali-Tex label (DJ Shadow’s imprint) from a band of paranoid Vietnam vets called Stone Coal White, compiled from incredibly nasty, incredibly rare funk sides from found in the basement of on Dayton, Ohio motorcycle gang, A 4LP (+ bonus 10”!) compilation of Missouri power pop label, Titan, three 45’s from 70s Southside Chicago blues band Lil’ Ed & The Soundmasters, a 12” from obscure Cleveland early hip hop group Doc Rhymin…. and a massive, no expense-spared FIVE LP box set of highlights from the Boddie Recording Company catalog. That’s a staggering 11 LP’s and three 45’s delivered to your door, musical enlightenment on the super-cheap.

If this comes off as an extended advertisement, so be it. I can’t think of a label more worthy of additional funding than Numero. Because, as I’ve learned through no lack of effort, there is no bottom to the pool of tremendous music out there—the more you dig, the deeper you get. Numero is on a whole other level from your average record aficionado, and maybe some day they will truly find every obscure piece of wax worth hearing—but I doubt it, and I don’t mind funding the expedition.

Sign up for the 2011 Vinyl Subscription here.


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