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Capital City Soul: Numero Uno

Though it would take 30 years – an entire generation – before the legacy of Columbus soul was re-discovered and celebrated in 2003 with Numero Group’s survey of Bill Moss and Capsoul Records. In the decade since that release, the grooves laid on tape in Columbus during the late ’60s and throughout the ’70s, have become the gold standard for “eccentric” soul fans. Further excavations of Prix Records (the masters of which were found at an estate sale), Wee’s brilliant You Can Fly on My Aeroplane album, and now the nook and crannies of that scene found on Capitol City Soul proved our city held a much wider scope than that of Moss and his short-lived empire. Numero has made it their mission to tell as much of the Columbus story as they possibly can.

“Capsoul was its own vision,” said Rob Sevier, the soul archeologist, who along with his team of crate-diggers at the Chicago archival label Numero were responsible for the resurrection. “If anything stands out, it was quaint in comparison to what was happening in music at the time. Bill Moss’s heart was into mid-’60s Motown, into midwestern soul music. So what particularly stands out with this stuff is that he wasn’t changing with the times.”

With the first Capsoul re-issue, Sevier admitted that Numero was “pretty green” when it came to the practice of tracking down the artists and records, something that they’ve now made a fruitful business of doing. Capsoul was a learning experience, one that certainly helped in crafting future Eccentric Soul collections. These days artists like Kanye West are sampling the stuff, Ryan Gosling is putting it in his films, Blackberry is sound-tracking commercials with it, and given Numero’s cache, it’s become much easier to find what’s left. Forgotten classics are being salvaged from closets and studio vaults are scoured to find elusive pieces in the puzzle. This month will see Numero’s 51st release with Eccentric Soul: Capitol City Soul. It’s a compilation of odds and sods that provide that wider perspective of Columbus’ once-thriving soul scene. The set showcases other visionaries and smaller labels that were orbiting Moss and Capsoul at the time. Most prescient was Dean Francis, Capsoul’s in-house songwriter, who is showcased here in a solo capacity with his first roaring hit, “Funky Disposition,” and with his post-Capsoul output in Jupiter’s Release. Entire reels of Chandlers effusive doo-wop recordings were found just as they were left on the shelf at Musicol Recording, and unreleased cuts from Capsoul’s flagship groups, the Four Mints and Kool Blues, were unearthed among radio station air-checks. Relatively unknown sides from the Soul Partners and La’Fez get a proper debut here – all adding to the rich and labyrithine heritage of Columbus soul. “This time there were a lot more people in the fold. A big part of this new project is embellishing the Capsoul story, broadening it,” explained Sevier. “This is something that came about over the years. These records were in the middle of a large family tree of related material.” Through those years many of these local legends have passed, including Moss in 2005 and Francis in 2012, but their legend keeps growing. If anything, Capitol City Soul should serve as a testament that Moss’ initial dream sparked a vibrant and spartan sound in the streets and nightclubs of Columbus and the tenet of Numero that there’s so much more yet to dig.

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