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The Numbers Band (aka 15-60-75) are a blues rock and experimental rock band formed in Kent, Ohio, in 1969 by singer/guitarist Robert Kidney and saxophonist Terry Hynde, who together remained the nucleus of the group throughout its decades of existence. Plenty of rock bands have used the blues as a jumping off point and messed with the form to make something new, but hardly anyone pushed the music into a more interesting and innovative direction while staying true to its roots. Though initially steeped in Chicago-style blues, the band quickly began expanding into jazz as well, forging the signature sound they continued to pursue for the duration of their career.
Their 1976 debut masterpiece, Jimmy Bell Is Still in Town, a live recording cut a year earlier at Cleveland's Agora Ballroom while opening for Bob Marley & The Wailers, is still considered by many to be one of the best albums ever to come out of Ohio's unique underground music scene. Pere Ubu's David Thomas refers to it as "the only good album ever recorded by anyone". The record manages to capture the band in all their shape-shifting glory, and what's most remarkable is how incredibly tight and unified the band is. The musicians perform with an intense focus that's all the more remarkable when you realize this was a live recording. The band pushes and pulls the sound from all directions, with the rhythm section laying out a steady and propulsive groove, additional percussionists throwing polyrhythms over the bed, the sax players blowing as if possessed by King Curtis and Ornette Coleman at once, the guitarists exploring the cosmos, and Robert Kidney declaiming like the last great undocumented beat poet. You can stream the full album HERE, and buy it HERE.
15-60-75 has been praised by almost every American music publication and several international ones since the beginning of their 30 year career. During all this time, they have never been offered a contract from any recording company in the industry. The majority of their recordings were financed by friends who loved the music enough to put up their money. Their second album was not released until 1982. Throughout the late-80's and early 90's, the Numbers Band released 2 more studio albums, another live recording and a retrospective entitled 15 60 75 Twenty. Their latest album, Inward City, was produced by David Thomas and released in 2009. Robert Kidney and his brother Jack also perform as The Kidney Brothers, and their first CD, Coal Tattoo, came out in 2013 on Chris Cutler's ReR Megacorp Records. The Numbers Band, now comprising the Kidney brothers, Hynde, Bill Watson (bass) and Clint Alguire (drums), are still going strong playing in their hometown circuit today.
"It wasn't all steel-mill Stooges action in 1970s Ohio. While Pere Ubu and Devo were in the early stages of mutation, the Numbers Band terrorized local saloons with a future blues of Sun Ra-style sax honk, raga-guitar spinout and funky "Sister Ray" surge: Bonnaroo in a bottle, way ahead of schedule."
David Fricke, Rolling Stone
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