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V/A - Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label

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Artist: V/A

Album: Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label

Label: The Numero Group

Review date: Nov. 22, 2004

For every act that gets national attention, there are countless scores of local dreamers. You don’t have to know precisely how corrupt the music biz can be to know a lot of the best stuff never sees any sunshine. It’s always been this way.

But matter can’t be destroyed. The historical dustbin gets plundered every day, not just by revival labels, but by upstart oldies wonks whose lack of scratch and free time doesn’t stop them from ripping their forgotten 45s and posting them online. As more and more bands sprout like ambitious fungi, more and more dormant curiosities from past decades get a second go-round. No one could keep up with it all, or find a perfect balance in one lifetime. It’s too much.

So thank god for Chicago’s Numero Group, some classy, well-informed gem-grubbers. Less than a year into its run, Numero’s taste in discarded soul and psychedelia is already the best in the reissue racket, and their packaging reminds us why, in the age of free downloads, there can still be something compelling about owning an object with music on it.

This first of two Eccentric Soul comps revisits Columbus, Ohio’s ill-fated Capsoul label. Words like “ill-fated” get tossed about a lot; let’s just say things went so badly for Capsoul that founder Bill Moss got locked out of his headquarters, lost his masters to water damage, and burned his remaining stock in disgust.

If this ramshackle R&B can be described as “eccentric,” its eccentricity springs from its shoestring creation more than any flippant quirkiness by its creators. These cats aimed to please. If Moss had had Chicago, New York or Cali connections, Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum and Durr’s searing, soaring ballad “You Can’t Blame Me,” Marion Black’s Bill Medley-ish “Who Knows” or Elijah & the Ebonites’ crackling novelty jam “Hot Grits!!!” would be worn-out wedding reception standards by now. They also would’ve been decked out in gooey string arrangements or pinballed off a “wall of sound,” and would be altogether less lovable for it.

Soul music has always dealt primarily with human suffering, the agony of yearning and the surreal uneasiness underlying the happy moments. Soul music knows it’s mortal, it knows heartbreak and frustration. Moss not only knew he was going to die someday, he knew there was a good chance no one would recognize his life’s work. As the Capsoul roster struggled against the crunch of low funds and morale, it spawned soul a shade more pure than anything that could flourish under more flush conditions.

Despite the wobbly fidelity, most of this music has weathered well, considering Moss’s attempts to crush it permanently. One amusing exception is the CEO’s own bracing but heavy-handed black pride anthem “Sock It To ‘Em Soul Brother,” which namechecks assorted figures on the ’60s civil rights scene. Unfortunately, O.J. Simpson is among them. Well, a lot of people forgave Ezra Pound for his shout-out to Mussolini. Besides, O.J. didn’t do it, right?

By Emerson Dameron

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