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. Reissue label Wewantsounds strike gold once again with the focus of today’s feature, Fairuz’s ‘Wahdon’.
Although not necessarily well-known to a Western audience, Fairuz’s huge discography and lengthy career has ensured her place as a significant figure in Middle Eastern music. Her body of work stretches all the way back to the late ’50s and the styles she’s covered in the subsequent decades run the gauntlet from funk to folk with plenty in-between. Her output is intimidating in its enormity, so a helping hand from a trust-worthy reissue label would serve as a welcome gateway into her work. Just such a guiding light has come in the form of the first-ever vinyl reissue of her 1979 classical-folk-funk barnstormer ‘Wahdon’, courtesy of Wewantsounds. Original Lebanese pressings have been known to change hands for £300, so a fairly priced reissue is likely to be of relief to a great many cost-conscious collectors. The album’s lengthy songs boast a heady mixture of trance-inducing grooves and soaring Lebanese classicisms that are as affecting as they are ornate. Fairuz’s rich voice soars above it all. Stirring stuff.
Last month found us looking at a Wewantsounds reissue of Akiko Yano’s ‘Iroha Ni Konpeitou’ and, in that article, we concluded that it was an excellent reissue in all respects. Hot on the heels of that release, it’s the same label that have reissued ‘Wahdon’ and it’s clear that they’ve invested no less effort here. A hype sticker upon the shrinkwrap proudly proclaims that the audio has been remastered and, upon dropping the stylus down, that certainly becomes apparent. It’s worth remembering that many vintage Middle Eastern recordings have a relatively lo-fi sound by modern standards. While it is true that ‘Wahdon’ is not conventionally hi-fi, it’s clear that every last drop of quality has been wrung out of the original recording via the remastering process. The string section buzzes and throbs with energy, while the percussion – which gallops along at an eager peace – is no less impressive. Fairuz’s voice is, of course, the centre of attention here and the sonics on this reissue respect that fact with a clear and rich tone boasting plenty of presence. The record itself has been produced by the Czech Republic’s GZ Media – a titan of vinyl manufacturing responsible for producing a significant chunk of the world’s records these days. Their output can sometimes suffer from surface noise issues, however their quality control standards do seem to have risen of late and this particular pressing is extremely clean. Our copy bore not a single pop or click and very little surface noise, even during the comparatively quiet ballad that closes the album. Couple this with a low noise floor and you end up with a pressing sure to satisfy even the most exacting of listeners.
Unlike some of the previous CD reissues of ‘Wahdon’, this new Wewantsounds rerelease retains the original cover art as found on the first pressing, albeit with some slight alterations. Naturally the catalogue numbers and copyright details have been changed but, for all intents and purposes, this is a full reproduction of the original cover art. The image quality is impressive considering the age of the artwork. Text is sharply printed and well-defined, while photographs are also of decent quality, if slightly grainy. However this may well be the case on the original sleeve as well – there’s no way of knowing without having both side-by-side. Regardless, this is a nice looking sleeve. Faithful to the original release, there’re no inserts and the sleeve is non-gatefold. The record itself is sleeved inside a generic white inner sleeve. Since it isn’t polylined, we’d advise caution when removing the wax so as to avoid potential damage. Much like the cover, the labels go a long way to authentically replicate those of the original issue. Once again, legalese has been changed but the art direction and colour scheme of the first pressing remains fully intact here.
Wewantsounds have done it again with their release of ‘Wahdon’. This is a great sounding reissue with clean, tidy presentation and solid sound. The album is likely to be a first-time listen for many fans of the label and one that deserves any new-found following it gains.
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!