Later this month, Numero Group will put out Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday, the long lost followup to 24-Carat Black’s now-revered, Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth. NERDTORIOUS features a lot of Numero’s stuff and we’ll keep doing so as long as they keep coming correct like this. The packaging, the histories, the photos (how dope is the one above?) and the music itself, are all stellar examples of Numero’s excellence. Here is Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday‘s backstory and some song snippets from it, including a lost track that Numero left off the upcoming release…
For years, Dale Warren’s work came in carefully planned arrangements for other artists. He was a classically trained musician and acknowledged as a piano, cello, and violin prodigy by age 12. By the late ’60s, he’d arranged strings at Motown before moving to Stax for the bulk of his work—famously composing strings on Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul, including the epic 12-minute version of “Walk On By”. But of all his work, it would be 24-Carat Black’s lone album, Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth, which he is most known for.
Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth was a concept album documenting inner-city life, full of abrupt shifts in the arrangement (which included gospel, spoken word, chimes, strings, breaks, etc). It brimmed with dark imagery, highlighting themes found in most of the country’s low-income communities. Many of its segments went on to be sampled by Dr. Dre, Jay Z, Keith Murray, Digable Planets, Eric B and more. It’s highly sought after these days, but the entire record (not just the famously sampled parts) is a thorough listen, centered on Warren’s vision and 24-Carat’s performance. But Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth was a commercial flop, unsuccessful because it was neither pop friendly nor embraced by its target audience. After small promotional tours, the album was left to slowly sink.
Nevertheless, a second 24-Carat Black project, Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday, began early stages of production. It would deviate from Warren’s original concepts, more listener-friendly and less political. The young, vital musicians that made up 24-Carat Black continued to record, even as members came and went through the years.
Keyboardist and session engineer Bruce Thompson remained however, never leaving his post and is largely credited for keeping the second project afloat. But the process dragged and dragged, abandoned by Dale Warren as he receded through debt and alcoholism. What Bruce Thompson was able to record was discarded, left in a small pile at his Chicago recording studio for next 35 years.
24-Carat Black’s second album, Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday, sat untouched as their debut gained quiet fame. The reels of the second album, tattered with time, left only 20 songs to choose from. And of those 20, “We’ve refurbished the six that hadn’t flaked off the reels”, according to Ken Shipley of the Numero Group. And while the 6 tracks are admittedly “skeletal” and “unfinished”, they do feature active arrangements that define the first one. These surviving recordings show Dale Warren’s attempt at reinvention, featuring love songs, rather than bleak inner-city themes. The songs apparently date way back to 1965 when Warren was with Motown (and smaller imprints like Shrine).
Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday isn’t a sequel to Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth nor does it fully represent Dale Warren’s final hurrah. But the quality is extraordinarily high and the emotion is all there. It isn’t the masterwork that Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth is, but it’s more interesting compared anything recently out or reissued. It was conceived in a time that was at once socially, politically, (and for Warren, personally) uproarious. Now, three decades later, here it is.
Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday will be out on Numero later this month, 7/28. For more info and soundclips, please visit Numero’s storefront. All photos courtesy of Numero.