Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound
The inimitable music historians at the Numero Group explore the origins of the synth-and electric guitar-laced funk and soul of the “Minneapolis Sound” popularized by Prince but sculpted by a host of worthy precurors including heavyweight producers Jimmy “Jam” Harris and Terry Lewis and futuristic funk crooner Andrew Cymone. Like all of the Little Village-based label’s output, Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound is swathed in gorgeous packaging and includes a meticulously researched book of liner notes that includes insightful, and sometimes hilarious photos, and ephemera.
“Fame Goes to Your Head”
Small but mighty Milwaukee reissue label Dope Folks, known for its work unearthing underground gems from hip-hop’s golden era, breathed new life into the work of Black A.G., an old school Chicago rap talent active in the early ’90s. Their rerelease of six-song EP “Fame Goes to Your Head” is a must for serious rap and hip-hop collectors or vinyl enthusiasts seeking new, funky party jams with a classic vibe.
Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions
In the late 1990s Woody Guthrie’s daughter Nora discovered a box of lyrics penned by her famous folkie father that had been hidden in the Guthrie home on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island since the 1940s, and had never been set to music. She tapped English folk activist Billy Bragg to set the lyrics to song and he in turn enlisted the help of hometown alt-country stalwarts Wilco. The first set of recordings, Mermaid Avenue, received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1998 and Mermaid volumes two and three followed in years after. Last year the folks at Nonesuch packaged all three albums into one deluxe CD + DVD edition, with liner notes penned by Nora Guthrie, and this year the label reissued each volume on 180 gram vinyl. In short: You have options. Check them all out here.
In 2008 reclusive indie-folk songbird Will Oldham, who performs under the stage name Bonnie “Prince” Billy, formed a super group of Chicago talent for his backing band and guest vocalists—ranging from free jazz notables such as Nicole Mitchell and Rob Mazurek to singer-songwriters Azita Yousseffi and Jon Langford—for his beautiful 2009 album, Beware, recorded at Engine Studios in Chicago and recently back in print on LP through Drag City with custom tweaks (including the cover art) made by Oldham himself.
Kill Yourself Dancing: The Story of Sunset Records Inc.
Chicago House forever changed the landscape of dance music, melding the infectious blueprint of disco with the mechanical, futuristic sounds of Roland drum machines and base synthesizers. This year Chicago-based reissue label Still Music tells the story of an obscure but essential contributor with Kill Yourself Dancing: The Story of Sunset Records Inc., a deluxe release documenting the early sounds of the scene that includes extensive liner notes by Chicago House expert Jacob Arnold.
Master Plan Inc.
Success has been a long time coming for Chicago native Doug Shorts, the brain and silky voice behind Chicago soul and funk outfit Master Plan Inc., whose mind-blowing catalog was horribly mistreated in the hands of numerous labels in the ’70s and ’80s. The songs were finally given a proper release this year, more than 30 years after its creation (though the band did release one single back in the day that’s so rare that its sells for thousands of dollars online). There is no one who will not like this record.