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Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label
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Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label takes a look at the bizarre side of Chicago soul through twenty tracks of blistering R&B, sweet soul, and discofied funk. Hundreds of hours were spent researching, interviewing, re-mastering, and compiling the history of Bandit and the life of Arrow Brown. Unearthed in the process were two cassette tapes worth of acappella rehearsals that Numero has done their best to preserve in their lo-fi, in-the-red state.
The Numero Group serves up a collection of unheard 70's soul from obscure South-side Chicago label Bandit Records. Between 1969 and 1981, the handful of 45s and single LP released on the Bandit imprint were orchestrated by musical/business mastermind Arrow Brown-- the reissue liner notes detail the somewhat incestuous group of family, friends, and oddballs he assembled to perform his compositions. The result is smooth vocal soul, heavy on the strings, informed as much by the Philly sound of the Spinners and the Delfonics as by Chicago natives the Chi-Lites. Highlights include The Majestic Arrows' falsetto stylings on "Doing It For Us" and "Going To Make A Time Machine", and the pre-adolescent love musings on "Sweet Pea" sung by the unusually-named Altyrone Deno Brown (7-year old son of label proprietor Arrow). --Ben HeegeSee all Editorial Reviews
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"It could almost be fiction. The house passing as a home, the harem passing as a family, the rising star brutally murdered in his prime, the dream, the con; the end. Arrow Brown inhabited the same south side Chicago landscape as Afro-Noir author Iceberg Slim's ghetto characters ... Most of the people involved in the dozen or so records that his tiny Chicago imprint released between 1969 and 1981 have either died, disappeared, or both. Those who survived try not to spend much time thinking about the music they made at 4114 South Martin Luther King Drive, or the man who ruled their lives with an iron fist."
That man, Arrow Brown, was indeed a musical dictator of sorts, but also a very talented one. He wrote and produced all the songs on this impressive CD. No exact dates are given for these recordings, except for a few notes in the booklet that tell you a certain record came out in 1969, or a few were made in 1972 or 1973. Certainly, the bulk of these songs were recorded in the early 70s when Brown had the money to keep putting out records. But as with most small companies, the Bandit label had difficulty getting both airplay and their records in stores, especially outside the Chicago area. And of course there was some bad luck. One of the singers that Brown produced in 1972, Johnny Davis, "was brutally murdered, thrown headfirst from a balcony, and stuffed into a trash incinerator" in 1973.
As for the music, these songs shimmer with the same magical vibes found in the best early 70s soul, recalling groups like the Chi-Lites, Stylistics, Three Degrees, and other silky, melodic groups. This compilation features both male and female vocalists, some groups, and a 7-year old boy who inevitably was compared to another child singer of that decade, Michael Jackson. For me, the most impressive act on here is the Majestic Arrows, two women and two men who excelled in making tunes coated in sweet harmony. This CD has 11 tracks by the Majestic Arrows (all apparently recorded in 1973), three of which are "extended play" bonus tracks that end the CD, and labeled as "rehearsal" takes. They are taken from cassette tapes, so the quality is rough, but the raw nature of these threadbare demos make them all the more powerful. Just listen to those girls sing! Voices to worship.
Read the rest of the informative liner notes in the thick booklet (as with other Numero releases, the booklet offer lots of details about the music and history of the label) for the rest of the sad and bizarre story of Arrow Brown. Another remarkable talent that is worthy of discovery. Kudos to the Numero Group for another outstanding release.