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 today’s instalment we’re taking a look at a new release from Matsuli Music, a great reissue label focusing on rare jazz, funk and psych from South Africa.
British reissue label Matsuli Music have been focusing upon rarities from the world of South African jazz for a number of years now, unearthing and rereleasing more than their fair share of desirable titles in that time. Of all their releases, however, Hugh Masekela’s ‘Live In Lesotho’ may be their most important. The live set – originally released as a now-scarce vinyl pressing in 1981 – pulled an audience of some 75,000 and finds Masekela and company on strong form, playing with a virtuosity and passion befitting the concert’s socially-conscious theme. Devised as a protest against apartheid, the concert is a powerfully compelling combination of funk, jazz and bluesy soul in its own right, and those qualities only seem richer in the context of the important message they stood for.
The original 1981 vinyl release of ‘Live In Lesotho’ was pressed as a single LP, fitting a little over fifty minutes of music across one disc. While such a runtime is not enormously excessive for a single LP, it does certainly exceed the optimal length for one disc and Matsuli have prudently chosen to spread the album across two discs for this reissue. The records themselves have been pressed by France’s historic MPO. They’ve been in the business for over sixty years and, although they’re not above producing the odd noisy record, their output is generally excellent. This rings true here as both of these LPs sound fantastic. This is partly down to the fresh remastering for this rerelease; despite the live nature of the record, plenty of detail has been brought out of the soundscape and the results are clear and punchy, with plenty of definition and poise in the instrumental parts. The vocals also impress with an energetic, raw quality that suits the energy of a live recording well. The excellent fidelity is also no-doubt partway down to the short track sides. None of the four sides are particularly long and, as a result, there’s plenty of breathing space left through which the music can resound with clarity. The pressing quality is also consistently excellent, matching the high bar set by the fidelity and sonics. The noise floor is low and all four sides benefit from tidy surfaces free of anything but the most minor of background noise in a few rare spots. This combination of strong sonics and steadfast pressing quality lends itself to a great listening experience.
Just as Matsuli Records saw fit to upgrade this reissue from a single LP to a two disc set, the label also expanded the original release’s single-pocket sleeve into an appealingly chunky, well-made gatefold cover. The beautiful original artwork is reproduced in full across the front and back covers and an informative and highly worthwhile new essay is included on one of the inner-gatefold panels, as is a portrait of Masekela. This augmentation of the original art direction offers a tasteful expansion and represents a high-quality reissue label making the most of their rereleases’ potential. The records are found in generic, non-polylined inner sleeves. As always, we would advise swapping these out for higher quality polylined inners and it would have been nice to see those included with the release from new. Even so, this is a very appealingly presented release. Refreshingly, there’s no barcode to be seen anywhere on the release, which is perhaps surprising but also very welcome. The cover itself is made from a good, solid cardstock that feels sturdy in hand and a textured, slightly rough finish to the card adds a pleasingly tactile dimension to the presentation. Likewise, the spine also impresses; not only with its width but also the bold font which helps the album to stand out, even on a packed shelf.
This is another beautiful rerelease from Matsuli Music. Masekela is on top form here and this reissue reflects that, with a high quality pressing and slick, attractive presentation to complement the music.
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!