Founded in 2003, Chicago-based Numero Group have built a devoted following as the world's highest-calibre archival record label. Like reissue labels Bear Family, Ace, or Cherry Red, they dig deep into archives and search for obscure and overlooked records that have stood the test of time. These could be masterpieces that just happened to flop, or rare relics costing hundreds of dollars.
Unlike other reissue labels, Numero Group stand out by being compilation-oriented. To co-founder Ken Shipley, the decision is a matter of quality above all else. "There are plenty of albums that we could do, but that's not what we are about as a company. We clean out all the bad stuff. If you're going to own a record of the Deep City label, own our record. There are no duds," he explained in a 2006 interview.
Numero Group also sets themselves apart by inviting producers to remix and reinvent these records. Their latest offering is "Once in a Lifetime," a gorgeous re-issue from an obscure early-80s Chicago group called The Universal Togetherness Band. The group was comprised of students from Columbia College's audio engineering program, who spent five semesters crafting their studio album—an immensely danceable medley of funk, post-disco and soul. That album was never released, and would have been buried by history if Numero hadn't rescued it from obscurity and put it in the hands of Sean Marquand, a DJ and member of the psychedelic soul band Phenomenal Handclap Band. "It was instantly clear from the first listen of the rough mixes that there were real songs and performances underneath the tape hiss and raw engineering," Marquand told Numero. "I also happen to love modern soul from the early '80s, so I knew it would be a pleasure to dig in on this material."
The result: eight tracks from the archives that have been pressed onto an LP worthy of modern club PAs. The record immediately started circling amongst plugged-in DJs, with Justin Vandervolgen of Out Hud and !!!! trying his hand at an extended edit.
In partnership with Blend.io, Numero Group are now calling on producers of all makes to give "Once In A Lifetime" the remix treatment. All you have to do is make an account and download the stems. Here's your chance to resurrect the ghosts of funk from 80s Chicago. Give it a go.
Ziad Ramley is on Twitter