Numero 013: Twinight’s Lunar Rotation (The Numero Group)

cd_numero13For every Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin there are a hundred Syl Johnsons, a big name if you know soul, a "No, I don't think I ever heard of him," if you don't.

 

 

 

 

I don't get it. I just don't get it. I don't know if my ears are hearing something different, or everybody else's just haven't heard enough. It seems absurd that a music as beautiful as soul, with a history as rich, can remain always in the dark, a back-corner-of-the-record-store genre, cast off as music from time past, only meant for a few soulful souls.

For every Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin there are a hundred Syl Johnsons, a big name if you know soul, a "No, I don't think I ever heard of him," if you don't. And for every Syl Johnson there are 50 Renaldo Dominos and Sidney Pinchbacks and Annette Poindexters, singers who never made it out of wherever they're from, who never made it past one 45 cut in a makeshift studio, whose only contribution to soul is three minutes of theirs. It's the story of high school talent shows, of $50-dollar handshakes to get a record on a late-night spin, of the greatest music never heard.

And to the rescue, saving our ears from ignorance is the Numero Group, the best at the best at dusting off the dust covering soul. This time it's Numero 013: Twinight's Lunar Rotation, a two-disc set of the best of the Twinight label, a Chicago imprint with only 55 45's to its name. And Numero never fails to bless us with music that we were never supposed to hear, by names we were never supposed to know.

"Temptation Is Too Hard to Fight" by George McGregor & the Bronzettes is the pinnacle of the compilation, an absolutely stunning performance by McGregor that never got its due. Annette Poindexter & the Pieces of Peace's "Mama" is equally beautiful, a request for help from daughter to mother: "Oh mama, mama, try to understand how I love this man." Stormy's "The Devastator" is super-fine proto-funk, an unhumble song as songs go, about a man who most women should wish they knew. Renaldo Domino, with a voice as sweet as the sugar that shares his name, is startling on "Not Too Cool to Cry," a beautifully composed ballad about love turned cold. And then there is "Put Out the Fire" by the Mystiques. They were teenagers when they made it, discovered in a high school talent show on southside Chicago; they cut one two-sided 45, and they vanished. But they left us this absolute gem, their one blip on soul's dark map.

And so this is it. This is soul music. Absolutely spectacular music song by absolute nobodies—talent-show winners and girlfriends with good voices and disc jockeys who wanted to see if they could get on the other side of the record just once who for one week had made it big, and by the next, were back to being nobodies. But what happened in that one week resurfaces every-so-often. Team Numero, as always, thank you for dusting off the dust. | Sam Levy

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