Appetite for the Obscure
The lovable lot at the Numero Group is at it again with another layer of American obscurity that will leave your jaw dropped and your ears hungry for more. The time is 1958 to 1993, the place is 12202 Union Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Boddie Recording Company, which issued nearly 300 LPs and 45s in its impressive run. Additionally there were more than a million hand-pressed records, 10,000 hours of tape and a whole lot of blood, sweat, and grooves.
The fine peeps at the Numero Group remind us that DIY is not now nor was it ever merely the province of punk and indie rawk. Thomas and Louise Boddie were the owners who spent virtually every waking moment churning out more homemade product for a small but respectable public. This three-disc collection is the result of a covenant ‘twixt Louise Boddie and the Numero Group. The collection focuses on three imprints—Thomas Boddie’s Soul Kitchen, Luau, and Bounty, and the variety of artists who graced their recordings.
As with past Numero releases, including Smart’s Palace, commemorating a Wichita, Kansas label and boutique, as well as a collection for the Tragar and Note labels, this package is as memorable for the unbridled works of genius it brings to light as for the sheer oddities, eccentricities and impressive flops. As you might expect, the Boddie collection demonstrates that despite having emerged from a secondary market the music from Cleveland—regardless of genre—retained a distinctive and remarkable flavor.
“World of Soul” from Chantells comes off as the closest thing to a Motown ripoff—the Gordy-esque drums and rubbery reverb are the key indicators, while the canned audience noises mark it as a decidedly independent production. But even that offers something more than average, a decidedly ragged but determined character that makes this box—and that tune in particular—a real joy to find.
Some of the more impressive material comes from the gospel corner of the label. The Reverend R.L. Hubbard’s “Child of the King” somehow manages to marry psychedelic sounds, reggae, soul to heavenly music in a fashion that is most unsettling and most original. Juanita Ellis’s “Make A Joyful Noise” is eerie, martial and heavier than most heavy rock albums of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Harvey And The Phenomenals’ “Darlene” is inexplicably weird and tuneful, replete with basketball court reverb and sax work that recalls King Curtis at his best. There’s also the heavy soul of Creations Unlimited with the unbelievably heavy “Chrystal Illusion” (Dig that spelling, man!) and the Latin-tinged “The Players” from Inter-Circle.
The more inexplicable tunes stick out—for the better. “Monkey Hips and Yice” from Little Anthony Mitchell & The Modern Detergents might have been utterly forgettable had it been exposed to a larger audience but here it’s in imaginary #1 record from yesteryear.
Hats off to the Numero gang for unearthing these gems and to Louise Boddie for opening her vault and her heart to them. The music here is outta sight and the archival images are wonders to be held as well.