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. For the latest in the series, we’re taking a look back at one of the earliest releases from one of our favourites labels here at Vinyl Corner – Analog Africa.
Surveying the landscape of modern music, it’s difficult not to conclude that reissues labels now account for one of the most important – and easily one of the most interesting – sectors of the industry. Admirable as the efforts of such archival groups are in themselves, it’s the potential new audience that such labels afford to all-too-often overlooked movements and acts which make such entities more vital now than ever. Germany’s Analog Africa are one of the greatest exponents of this zeitgeist, their efforts to bring fantastic African music of yore to a new – and predominantly Western – audience enough in itself to weave into a broader and vital cultural conversation that is arguably more widespread now than it ever has been before. For that alone, it feels as though labels such as Analog Africa have existed for decades; as if they’re somehow almost as old as the music they tend to release. That, of course, isn’t so – a point which their latest release makes apparent. Hot on the heels of their excellent ‘La Locura De Machuca’ compilation comes a first-time vinyl pressing of Hallelujah Chicken Run Band’s ‘Take One’ – a collection of rarities from one of Zimbabwe’s most influential acts. Originally released by Analog Africa back in 2006, this excellent selection of fluid, memorable pieces – often centred around mellifluent, sumptuously melodic circuital guitar licks – proved one of the label’s first big successes. Appearing now on vinyl for the first time, ‘Take One’s re-emergence proves timely in multiples respects – not least because it’s something fans of the band have been demanding for years. Hallelujah Chicken Run Band produced a series of now almost impossible-to-find 7″ singles throughout the ’70s, riding high on the crest of inspiration and, in the process, leaving an enviable musical legacy in their wake. Those enamoured with the flowing melodies of their country’s music will find it thrillingly re-imagined here, resulting in a sound that is at once both startlingly fresh and transcendent of its era.
It should be of no surprise to long-term readers of Vinyl Corner that Analog Africa know how to produce a high-quality record. They’ve done it time and time again; despite working with musical acts who often recorded their songs on minimal (or sometimes nearly non-existent) budgets, the label’s remastering efforts never yield anything less than crisp audio, and the records into which such music is stamped are never anything less than impressive either. This long-awaited vinyl release of ‘Take One’ is no exception; pressed onto a single heavyweight slab of wax, visual inspection certainly presents the viewer with a promising precedent. Boasting glossy surfaces free of the cosmetic marking and generalised signs of handling which all-too-often appear on brand new records, this sturdy disc is aesthetically flawless and, true to that, it sits flat upon the platter during playback. By and large, sound quality is no less impressive; the noise floor is low to a fault and we picked up on only a few rare and insignificant instances of surface noise across the entirety of the album. In the case of our copy, there was nothing to distract from the rich sonics and flowing, vital musicality so abundant across this great selection of songs.
In addition to reliably impressive audio, Analog Africa are also a label well-versed in the rudiments of stout visual presentation. They’ve hit the right notes once more with this vinyl release of ‘Take One’; it appears in a sturdy gatefold cover boasting a broad spine and bold text emblazoned across it, its high-impact font enough to ensure that this is one title which will never be difficult to find on a busy shelf. The art direction is both distinctive and classy and, as per usual with the label’s vinyl releases, the barcode appears on a hype sticker attached to the shrinkwrap rather than being printed directly onto the cover. Although we often discuss the placement of UPCs here at Vinyl Corner, it really is refreshing to see an indie outfit with the common sense to do exactly what Analog Africa have done here – especially when so many decades-old major labels lack the same aesthetic insight. ‘Take One’ boasts excellent presentation in other regards, as well; open up that impressive gatefold and you’ll be greeted by a generously-proportioned set of liner notes spread across both panels, as well as images of the band. Rounding off the package is a download code attached to the generic paper inner sleeve as a sticker. Entry of its code into bandcamp yields a full-album download in practically any conceivable file-type – which, again, is refreshing considering that most major labels now either fail to include a download at all or, more likely, exclusively offer a lossy MP3.
Hallelujah Chicken Run Band are vital figures in their country’s musical lineage and this first-time vinyl release of ‘Take One’ offers an opportunity for exploration, both to those with a long-term interest in Zimbabwe’s rich artistic heritage and to those with a keen interest in any music as lively and harmonically distinctive as this.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org – it would be great to hear from you!