Welcome back for Week Three of MP3 Monday. As always, songs will be available for download for a week. Sorry it’s appearing a little later than usual on Monday; an unexpected Sunday night in Houston will do that to you.
This week we have a theme: the wonderful releases of the Numero Group, a Chicago-based reissue label. Numero is dedicated to digging up great old records that never got the respect they deserved.
Numero’s chief series is its Eccentric Soul line, for which it scours the archives of the small regional funk and soul labels that thrived (artistically if not financially) in the 1970s. The first edition centered on the Capsoul label from the big city of Columbus, Ohio: home of Big Ten football, the Ohio State Fair, and my old office when I used to cover the Ohio Legislature.
This Marion Black track highlights his buttery baritone — but the real reason I link is that it may be familiar to the indie hip-hop heads out there. The great RJD2 also hails from Columbus, and “Who Knows” forms the vocal hook for his “Smoke and Mirrors” (from his excellent 2002 album Deadringer.
“Yellow Pills” was a 1990s zine published by one Jordan Oakes and devoted to that most maligned of subgenres, power pop. I say maligned because the basics of power pop are so elementary that it attracts a lot of no-talents — there’s a lot of bad power pop out there, and not everyone who hears a Big Star reissue should then pick up a guitar.
But this compilation, pulled together by Oakes, assembles only the finest acts in obscure power-pop — you’ve never heard of any of these guys, trust me — and the finest of the fine is The Trend. They were a wee small band from Kennett, Missouri, and they released just a single album in 1983. You can tell they listened to Chronic Town, but the burbling bass and speed-freak drums say they were up to something of their own. Also, if you’re like me, you won’t be able to stop humming this song.
One more track from The Trend: “She’s Hi-Fi.”
Where are they now? The Trend’s songwriter, a fellow named John McMullan, grew up to be a lawyer in his small town, although he still records some music on the side. (I only listened to a couple bits of his new stuff, but it seemed to confirm the truism that power-pop artists rarely age well.) Guitarist Mike Astrachan now does PR in Kansas City. Singer Matt Collier works for a company that makes bronze handrailings. Bassist Dennis Fuller does sports radio. Bill Joslyn brews beer. More about the band here.
Also, they were very handsome men. Notice the young woman in that photo; it’s the most famous Kennett, Missouri, native of them all.
Facts about Belize: It is the only English-speaking nation in Central America, a legacy of its British colonial status. Guatemala claims it’s not a nation at all but a renegade Guatemalan province. Belize celebrates Baron Bliss Day every March in honor of some old British dude. Its citrus industry is based around the Hummingbird Highway. And its music is a mix of soul, R&B, calypso, and reggae.
The Professionals’ cover of the Godfather theme has guitar buzz straight out of Iron Butterfly, but a reggae bass line and a calypso lilt. For comparison, here’s a version of the original Godfather track (actually called “Love Theme” officially) performed by the Milan Philharmonic Orchestra.
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Joshua Benton is the director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, among other things. Before that, he was a staff writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News. (More.)
Any opinions expressed here are solely mine, and not those of my employer. In many cases, they may not even be mine.