Miami had a different slant on soul music than other Southern cities. New Orleans had the second-line rhythms and bayou flavor; Memphis, Nashville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, had both quartet gospel and down-home blues in their corners. However, the musicians in Miami were fairly sophisticated, as equally influenced by Motown and Chicago’s makeout music as they were the South. The Outskirts of Deep City is Numero’s second excavation from the vaults of Miami’s Deep City label. Both albums are all over the map stylistically, and although this second volume offers more of the same, its contents are hardly unused leftovers.
The Rollers’ “Knocking at the Wrong Door” is a working definition of the “Miami Sound” as it was back then: near-pop melodies grafted onto a hard Memphis-style backbeat (though Deep City had several one-off anomalies that didn’t fit that template). This goody bag includes smooth vocal chanteuses like Helene Smith and Lynn Williams, right alongside nascent funk bands like James Knight and the Butlers. The Nasty Dog Catchers and Perk Badger bolt straight for the dance floor with their offhanded soul shuffles. Betty Wright, arguably the most famous artist here, is heard in her prehit days, working out on “Mr. Lucky,” aided by some riotously out-of-place gunshot sound effects that don’t seem to fit the story line, unless Mr. Lucky is some kinda badass: “Mr. Lucky, that’s what your name should be_/_’Cause you’re lucky to still have me.” Even Clarence Reid turns in a couple of straight-ahead soul numbers that don’t give any clue he’d later don a mask and record X-rated parodies of popular songs as Blowfly.
Numero apparently went through quite a lot to get a hold of these masters. Fortunately, the effort was not in vain.