In Which the Past Is the Best Present

Numero Group revives the forgotten gems of yesterday and rereleases them with today's sonic perks. Next up? Holiday jams that could not be farther from the season's mainstays.

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The Shades are the latest forgotten gem unearthed by Numero Group.
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Have you ever gone to "like" a song on SoundCloud, only to see that you've actually already done so? At a time when music is consumed as thoughtlessly as junk food, it's easy to feel like we've lost our taste for old-school music appreciation.

Numero's collection is larger than most.

Chicago-based music label Numero Group, however, certainly hasn't. In fact, the label was founded to combat just that. A Chicago trio of crate-diggers—Rob Sevier, Tom Lunt, and Ken Shipley (the latter previously served as the A&R manager for Rykodisc Records)—founded the label in 2003 with a mission to unearth obscure gems from years past. It's not the stuff your parents used to listen to, but rather the stuff that passed them by, too.

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To date, the trio has unearthed the dark stories of soul music's lesser shining stars (such as legendary D.C. underground producer Robert Hosea Williams), a micro-movement of post-Joni Mitchell early 1970s folk music, and the overlooked releases of C.E.S., Belize's calypso-fusion label.

For each of its 175 releases (and counting), Numero painstakingly remasters each treble note, bassline, and drum stroke to offer high-quality records that sound like they were made in a modern studio. Each release is then meticulously researched and packaged in original casing, complete with rare liner notes (a lost art!), band photos, and notes on the album's context.

Archiving is a messy job, but someone has to do it.

Numero's latest release features a girl-group called The Shades. Active in mid-'60s Indiana, The Shades' songs are sweet and slow, like the last dance at prom. The three members—Janice Gard, Suzannah Blodgett, and Cinda Stouder—have charming, earnest voices that sound as if they're making wishes on a star with every word. Two singles from the group, "Prancer's Got Some Red Spots" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," are releasing as a 45-rpm record on December 4. Get started with these by purchasing from the Numero website, then consider spending your next free Saturday doing some crate-digging of your own.

Nothing is left unconsidered at Numero.

"Prancer's Got Some Red Spots"/"Santa Claus is Coming To Town" 45-rpm record by The Shades (Numero Group), $15.

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