Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. We’re taking a look at something truly unusual today: a newly reissued recording that originates in the ’80s but sounds some two thousand years older.
We’ve now reviewed almost 160 albums for Vinyl Corner, so it’s fair to say we’ve run the gamut of styles of the course of that time. Very few albums can make a reasonable claim to being truly unique but, if any release we’ve written about is, then it’s ‘Eze-Nri Royal Drummers Vol. 1’. A truly historic recording, this is an unfiltered and genuine recording of the ceremony used to usher in a new King of the Igbo people’s Nri Kingdom, a historical faction that existed in the area that is now Nigeria. A truly ancient culture, there’s evidence to suggest that the ceremony captured on this release is more or less unchanged from those that may have been performed as long ago as two thousand years. This recording was originally issued by Nigeria’s Tabansi Records in 1984 and is now, unsurprisingly, almost impossible to find. Newly reissued by the ever-excellent BBE records, those fascinated by any form of traditional ritual and culture would do well to seek out this beautiful, fascinating recording.
This is very subtle, nuanced music with plenty of quiet portions – indeed, the whole album is actually rather quiet – so a high quality pressing that produces clean, noise-free playback is essential. It’s no surprise that, fortunately, this is exactly what BBE have provided with their new reissue. As per usual, they have teamed up with German pressing plant Pallas to produce this release. Pallas’ output is almost always fantastic and their signature level of quality control is as apparent here as with any of the other BBE titles we’ve written about for Vinyl Corner. The noise floor is quiet as a whisper; this allows the intricate, beautifully performed rhythms to shine through uninterrupted. There are only a few very rare, unobtrusive crackles in the background at a few points. Such imperfections are essentially implicit to the vinyl format and, for all intents and purposes, this is absolutely as clean a pressing as you would expect in the case of such a sonically subtle, low-volume album. The record is also flat and free of warpage; of course, that should be the case with all new records but unfortunately it isn’t. Too many pressing plants produce records that are warped straight out of the shrinkwrap, so Pallas’ apparent ability to produce consistently flat records is refreshing.
Presented as a faithful replica of the original release, BBE’s adherence to ‘Eze-Nri Royal Drummers Vol. 1’s original aesthetic is admirable. The labels are particularly attractive, boasting an appealing, distinctive design that duplicates the labels found on the rare original pressing. The cover, too, is faithful to that vintage edition; although, naturally, modern additions – such as a barcode and updated copyright credits – do appear in the small print. As far as that barcode goes, we always say here at Vinyl Corner that, in an ideal world, all barcodes would be attached as stickers to the shrinkwrap rather than being printed directly onto the art but this is a minor nitpick on an otherwise well presented release. The sleeve itself is fairly standard in quality; it’s a non-gatefold design – presumably just as the original was – and the cardstock is roughly mid-weight. It feels sturdy enough in hand but there are also modern releases out there with harder-wearing covers than this – although it is worth noting that such deluxe additions come at a cost. The packaging quality here is certainly reasonable considering the moderate price point that this is available at. A full-sized insert is also included, which offers brief but informative liner notes providing some basic historical context for these recordings.
Of all the rare recordings reissued by labels such as BBE over the past few years, ‘Eze-Nri Royal Drummers Vol. 1’ is arguably one of the most culturally significant. It’s a very interesting and potent sonic artefact that has been reissued to high standards here. With great value both anthropological and musical, this is one not to be missed.
Enjoyed this feature? We’re always looking for further albums to highlight on Vinyl Corner – and if you have a vinyl release that you’d love to see written about here, please get in touch at email@example.com – it would be great to hear from you!