V/A: Eccentric Soul: the Bandit Label LP
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In 2004, with the release of their third label retrospective, Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label, the Numero Group - with just a year in the books by that point - had, by all accounts, told the first truly fascinating account of R&B’s underworld.
From the original liner notes: "Arrow Brown inhabited the same south side Chicago landscape as Afro-Noir author Iceberg Slim’s ghetto heroes, and it’s hard to imagine he didn’t draw inspiration from the same dark sources as Airtight Willie, White Folks, or Blue Howard. By all accounts, Brown was drawn to the underground, fancying himself a rogue entrepreneur and, most likely, a bit of a pimp or con man. Throughout the late ’60s, his business, both personal and professional, though largely unknown, is generally speculated to have been outside the law.
"Yet, not unlike Slim, he had massive creative impulses searching for a way to get out. And so, by the early ’70s, Brown put together an oddball cast of family, friends, and girlfriends, all of them interchangeable, and created what amounted to a musical commune; a band, a production company and a record label to produce his own music. Seemingly unwilling to completely divorce himself from his former life, he named this company Bandit."
Half a decade after the release of The Bandit Label, the story Numero stuffed into their 2000-word, 16-page booklet was feeling woefully incomplete. Survivors and hangers-on from Arrow Brown’s derelict kingdom had stepped forward, and new tracks had been discovered. Their CD package was losing any traction it had gained, and its admirers kept elbowing Numero to captain Bandit’s inevitable return to wax and its native formats.
Never close to content with throwing a product together, cut to fill only its hole in the marketplace, the Numero Group - older, wiser, stronger - has instead subjected 003 Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label to a full-on rebuild, adding stories to the edifice along the way. Their formerly paltry liner notes are now a 20,000-word work of astonishing nonfiction.
They’ve de-grimed four dozen new domestic and promotional images, placing them all in an LP-sized ’70s-style pulp paperback, cloaked in Eliza Childress’s sumptuous two-panel cover art. The original CD’s 20 tracks get blown out into a whopping 36, spread out across three LPs.