If the record industry had an equivalent to new journalism, it would be Chicago's Numero Group label. With the same passion and passionate abandon of a young Tom Wolfe or Hunter S. Thompson, this label goes beyond the pale in the field of reissues.
Numero Group was born in 2003 and currently has a catalogue numbering 12 releases. All the records are reissues of artists that have previously been released. So far the label has explored gospel funk, Caribbean disco, French electro-samba, and unsung folksingers from the '70s.
The packaging of any given Numero release is distinctly spare. Customers have complained that the record sleeves have no barcode, no track listing, and no artist name on the cover. The only identification is a small "N" symbol, the number of the release and an unlabeled photograph. In response to these complaints, Ken Shipley, founder and de facto spokesperson for the group, says, "Hallelujah! Who cares?"
This is a label that doesn't look to the Billboard charts for inspiration. Shipley has said Numero often looks to books for inspiration more than records (he counts the book Naked As A Jaybird, about a nudist magazine among his major influences). The passion for books is evident in the liner notes. Each accompanying booklet features backbreaking research, fastidious prose, archival photos, and, above all, personality.
Numero has gone and created a brand that no matter the genre, no matter the artist, and no matter the year, if you like Numero, you're gonna like the music. And therefore, it doesn't matter if there is no track-listing or artist name on the cover. As Ken Shipley says, "This isn't about convenience. This is about creating a library of unheard music."