CD Review: Eccentric Soul: The Young Disciples (The Numero Group)

I am not sure how they do it, but the folks at The Numero Group (Which has swiftly become one of my favorite labels of all time – seriously, every release on the label is chock full of great music and worth having. How many labels can you say that about?) keep coming up with great concepts for their interesting, informative and all-around great releases. Usually, the label focuses their sights on an obscure little long-gone label which specialized in either R&B, reggae, or sometimes even power pop and releases the best of their meager output (and sometimes their entire output) on one of their great comps. This time, Numero has gone a different way. While the music on this collection is R&B, the contents of this comp did not come from a long-lost label’s dusty boxes of forgotten master tapes found in someone’s closet, garage or storage area.

The music on this comp came from the youth group at a community center in East St. Louis in the ’60’s which was run by Allen Merry, a music producer and erstwhile community organizer. Merry, seeking to give these troubled kids a shred of hope in a hopeless situation, brought them into his studio and organized them into various groups and pairings and recorded them. As you might think, the results of this project aren’t always of great quality but you’d be surprised how good some of these tracks actually are. Some performances feature flat, offtune vocals, some are listless and/or lacking focus, but then, every so often, there is a cut that is excellent.

While some might question the point of releasing music which is sometimes less than pleasing to the ears, the release of the entire output of this musical humanitarian gesture carries on its’ back the weight and legacy of music itself. It sounds hokey to say something like “music can save lives” but it can and we all know it. Music, at least at the time, saved and healed these hurting children and when someone stumbles upon one of the honest expressions of emotion contained on this disc, maybe they too will get saved by song. It can happen. Even as the powers that be tell us music doesn’t belong in our schools, this is an example of what music can mean to people when it is exposed properly. The participants on this album never grew up to be famous stars, but their songs now live again and may inspire others to release their inner talents and strive to make their dreams come true.

And you ask your little question, “why”…….