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’ve been funking it up here at Vinyl Corner recently and today’s highlighted album does nothing to buck that trend. We’re taking a look at the debut LP from hard-groovin’ Atlanta big-band Lightning Orchestra.
Such was the prescience of much of the best jazz and funk of the ’70s that those sounds have never really gone out of fashion since their inception. If proof of that fact were needed, then it could easily be seen in the proliferation of labels which thrive solely upon reissuing assorted rarities of irresistible funk and inarguable hard-groovin’. If such a second wind has lent more than a few such artefacts a new fanbase, then it’s a sonic half-life which can be fully heard in the influences of the genre’s many record-collector-friendly revivalist acts. It’s a busy genre right now and the most successful clutch of such groups have experienced a reception warm enough that their own fame has not infrequently exceeded those of the records they so evidently hold dear. The latest such act to throw their numerous hats into the ring is the Atlanta-based collective Lightning Orchestra. A whopping eighteen people receive player credits here and that enormous lineup is reflected in an intensely bombastic reimagining of deep-pocket funk music that has as much to do with Phil Spector’s overwhelming wall of noise production technique as it does with the snappy rhythms of James Brown or the heady psychedelics of Funkadelic. That intensity does preclude Lightning Orchestra’s debut LP ‘Source And Deliver’ from the kind of subtlety possessed by many of the collective’s vintage influences but the immediacy and impact of their blaring horns and jumpy rhythm section is hard to deny. Frontman Travis Murphy’s drawling sneer lends the project a certain start-smart swagger which suits these extended pieces well, defined as they are by the kind of frenzied frisson which could only come from a band at work in the midst of a bustling metropolis.
Although a US-based act, Lightning Orchestra have found a home on London indie institution Acid Jazz records. They’re a time-tested label evidently experienced enough to know how to produce a solid yet affordable vinyl release, as their issue of ‘Source And Deliver’ ably demonstrates. We’ve noted in past Vinyl Corner articles that the Czech Republic’s GZ Media are – despite being one of the most in-demand pressing plants in the world – a company whose output is more than somewhat inconsistent. We’ve heard near-spotless pressings from them but they’ve also produced discs marred by crackle issues. In fairness, Lightning Orchestra’s booming soundscapes are grandiose enough to mask any minor surface noise issues anyway – yet, even so, GZ have produced a very clean pressing here. Our copy is pressed on an eye-popping shade of neon yellow as loud as the music contained within its grooves; it’s a really distinctive colour and although it does make cueing up a specific track almost impossible, that’s hardly an issue here as the album is best heard in its entirety. The record is roughly mid-weight and appears to be free of marks from the manufacturing process – though, again, it would be hard to tell in this case even if it weren’t. Our copy of the record sits flat on the platter during playback and audio is excellent throughout. We picked up on barely a crackle anywhere across the album, which certainly makes for a welcome break in an age where such a significant proportion of new vinyl releases suffer from noise issues.
‘Source And Deliver’s packaging is relatively basic but that’s more than fair considering the reasonable price point at which this title is being released and presentation is distinctive throughout. The album’s art direction is certainly eye-catching and although the cover – being a standard-width non-gatefold design – is unremarkable from a construction perspective, it does feel solid enough in hand to be perfectly reasonable bearing the price-point in mind. Print quality is sharp throughout and, although it would have been nice to see the barcode attached to the shrinkwrap as a sticker rather than printed directly onto the back cover, it is at least small enough to be easily overlooked. A printed inner sleeve is also included, offering both lyrics to the full album and in-depth credits for the many involved in the album’s creation.
Those intrigued by the idea of a distinctly hard-hitting modern-day interpretation of classically-styled psych-funk should find Lightning Orchestra’s ‘Source And Deliver’ to be of interest; and those sufficiently taken by it will find a solid and fairly-priced vinyl release in this neon yellow pressing.
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!