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Big Mack Attack

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It's hard to say exactly when vintage funk/soul CD anthologies took off. Anybody remember that terrific Blaxploitation series out of the UK from the mid/late '90s?

Regardless, among archivally minded record labels, none has been more diligent and thorough of late than Chicago's Numero label which, while dipping into areas other than R&B (notably compilations on powerpop and femme folk), has built its brand largely on the strength of its aptly named "Eccentric Soul" series. Joining Numero #001 (an overview of Columbus, Ohio's Capsoul label), #003 (Chicago's Bandit) and #007 (Miami's Deep City), is #009: Eccentric Soul: The Big Mack Label. The latest comp is a chronicle of the tiny little Detroit company that could've and should've -- but didn't.

"This isn't a story like Motown or Fortune or Revilot," the painstakingly-researched liner notes inform us. "There are no million-dollar payouts, gold records or museums at the end. If Detroit was once an ocean of soul, the Big Mack label was certainly an island."

Founded in 1961 by deejay Ed McCoy, that island had sunk into the sea by 1980, leaving behind a catalog that, thanks to shoestring promotion, never made any impact beyond the Detroit city limits.

Highlights are a-plenty, though. There's Ms. Tyree "Sugar" Jones' "If You Feel It," a sultry, sex-kittenish come-on, and Soul President's "Got To Have It," a stanky slice of psychedelic funk, both of which sound like they were recorded in a stairwell with a single microphone. Contrastingly, both Edd Henry's smoky-soul "Your Replacement Is Here" (pure Marvin Gaye Motown) and Grand Prix's "I See Her Pretty Face" (a distinct Ben E. King "Spanish Harlem" influence) sound pristine other than some direct-from-vinyl surface noise. Despite occasional budget-conscious productions, there's an undeniable diamonds-in-the-rough brilliance about the Big Mack legacy.

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