Numero Group | Numero 017: The Outskirts of Deep City

cd_numero-17.jpgAs they built The Deep City Label release and turned over the rocks, a giant web emerged: names and leads and stories of late-night jam sessions in the Magic City.

 

 

 

It’s like they tried to outdo themselves. It’s like they tried to dig deeper than deep, tried to uncover what the first shine of their flashlights couldn’t expose. The Numero Group, whose Eccentric Soul compilations are goddamn works of art, has gone back to Miami, there to collect what 2006’s Numero 007: The Deep City Label left behind. They tracked down new leads and new stories, new boxes of old 45’s stored in old closets in old condos, all of it in search of music on the outskirts of the Deep City story.

Numero 017: Outskirts of Deep City is maybe The Numero Group’s finest work. Musically, it’s flat-out incredible from front to back. The Miami sound is the sound of Florida A&M University’s Incomparable Marching 100—shoulder-holstered bass and snare drums, giant crash symbols and spit drenched French horns. Between 1956 and 1962, three of Miami soul’s most important figures — Arnold Albury, Willie Clarke, and Johnny Pearsall—played in the Incomparable Marching 100; after they graduated, they all became players in the Miami nightlife scene. Along with Clarke-Pearsall Productions based out of Pearsall’s Johnny’s Records storefront, Clarke and Pearsall founded a slew of short-lived labels: Concho, Lloyd, Reedsville, Reid, Green Gold, Solid Soul, and finally, the Deep City label, which would be the most successful of their failures. Albury was their arranger, and the founding member of The Rising Sun would provide the funky backdrop for the talent that Pearsall and Clarke’s would recruit. 

The Outskirts of Deep City is a collection of what was happening on those other labels, those other branches of the Deep City tree. Most were one-off labels—they cut one 45, the money dried up, and they went the way of the buffalo—but the music on that one 45 is something to be heard. There’s Helene’s Smith’s "True Love Don’t Grow on Trees," and Lynn Williams’ "Don’t Be Surprised," slow and dynamic soul ballads, the tension in the melody so strong that you can’t help but feel it in your chest. The queen of Miami soul, Betty Wright, appears with "Thank You Baby," one of the rarest records in Miami’s soul history. The King to Wright’s Queen, Clarence Reid, appears twice, with "No Way Out" and "Don’t Be a Fool."

Before Numero 007, little was known about the Deep City story. But as they built The Deep City Label release and turned over the rocks, a giant web emerged: names and leads and stories of late-night jam sessions in the Magic City. They had to cut the exploration short and go home, but they knew the story wasn’t done telling. And so they went back. And what that trip produced is Numero’s deepest dig.

There’ve been many Miami Soul compilations, covering the Betty Wright’s and Clarence Reid’s and Gwen McCrae’s. This is the appendix to all of those stories: commercial failures that sound like dangerously funky successes. A | Sam Levy

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