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Wee - You Can Fly On My Aeroplane

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Artist: Wee

Album: You Can Fly On My Aeroplane

Label: The Numero Group

Review date: Oct. 21, 2008

Since its inception in 2003, the Numero Group label has carved its niche into what seemed the all-too crowded market of soul restoration and revisionism. Whether through worthy connects, impeccable taste or pure missionary zeal (surely some mix of the three), the label has succeeded in unearthing not just slices but full blocks of soul strata from histories dusty piles.

Last year, the label unfolded its Asterisk imprint intended for full-lengths that, having floated to the surface in their endless pursuit of great and lost musics, stand strong enough for a slightly less librarian presentation than the usual Numero project. Their latest and fifth release, Wee’s You Can Fly On My Aeroplane fills one more crack in their remapping of Columbus, Ohio, as a soul center (or at least fascinating outpost).

For all intents and purposes, Wee is the solo outlet of small-time hustler Norman Whiteside. Although the band existed prior to his involvement, Whiteside usurped the group and brought them from bowling alley relegation to regularly sold-out shows at Columbus’ Joe’s Hole, capturing the hearts and underwear of the city’s finest prostitutes along the way. Whiteside’s life plays out something like an Eddie Bunker novel – auto theft, dope-peddling, petty robbery, shady cohorts, a web of baby mamas and one unfortunate and deadly car wreck – ultimately culminating in a prison sentence for a conspiracy to cover-up murder charge he unwaveringly claims is misattributed.

Aware of their predominately female audience, Wee cultivated a thick and buffed jazz-funk style full of Spanish Fly magic and sexual synaesthetics. Echoing Whiteside’s slick con-man persona, You Can Fly On My Aeroplane‘s dense arrangements are full of ‘70s excess and cocaine charm. Guitar phase, strong synth and slippery bass push Whiteside’s distinct tenor (and even stranger falsetto) afloat. It’s a rather fat reissue, too, including more outtakes and alternates than true album tracks.

You Can Fly On My Aeroplane is not the dug-up bones of some disinterested or distracted amateur; it’s the lone full-born, actualized dream of a man whose passion is making music and whose means to that end was criminal. Though he is still writing music, he is currently unable to bring those pages to life.

Manson family murderer Bobby Beausoleil was somehow able to soundtrack one of Kenneth Anger’s black magic spells on lock down and TRU soldier C-Murder dropped a phoned-in full-length from behind bars. We can only wish Whitefield the luck, clout or cash to achieve the same, or perhaps the free hands to pick up where he and Wee left off – cultivating his pheromone funk and putting it to real-life use.

By Sean Schuster-Craig

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