Vinyl Corner : Omar Souleyman ‘To Syria, With Love’

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 musical journey to Syria this time, courtesy of Omar Souleyman, with his latest effort ‘To Syria, With Love’, released through Mad Decent Records.

The Music:

Although Omar Souleyman cut his teeth throughout the ’90s as a prolific wedding singer – he’s managed to record some 500 live albums sold locally in his home country – it wasn’t until the past few years that the singer managed to carve out a larger, intercontinental fanbase. The internet has certainly been of help there, with Souleyman’s infectious brand of upbeat dance music pulling in millions of views on some of his videos. ‘To Syria, With Love’ is the latest produce of a prolific career and it’s everything that those familiar with the man’s output have come to expect: incessant, driving rhythms with an exultantly joyous atmosphere and gutsy, powerful vocals. It’s a charming sound that places a sense of fun above all else and the result is another likeable, immediate set of songs steeped in the culture from which they’re born but executed with a populist appeal that’s broadened Souleyman’s fanbase to one that goes far outside of his native land.

The Pressing:

Spread over two LPs and cut at 45rpm, this is a pressing that seeks top sound quality above all else. Sides definitely run short here; the album is only 45 minutes long so it’s fair to say the music could have been cut to one disc without any significant lessening in sound quality. That said, there’s no denying that the short side lengths do pay off as this pressing sounds great and playback is very clean indeed. Sonically the album is crisp and clear with good representation of all the frequencies and a punchy, bright sound. It’s likewise well mixed, with all the components easy to make out and the vinyl pressing does justice to this with quiet playback free of any unexpected noise. Also worthy of mention is the fact that both LPs come in a beautiful shade of marbled orange; it’s a particularly lovely tone used here and it really does look excellent.

The Packaging:

The presentation on the album is really attractive, with a bright eye-catching colour scheme and sharp, well printed art that really jumps out at you. Despite being a double LP, the sleeve is non-gatefold – it still houses both discs fine but a gatefold sleeve would have been a nice addition. However, the spine is still really nice on this release, again boasting a high contrast colour scheme that looks great. Inner sleeves are decent quality but non-polylined so those looking to keep the best care of the records long term may do well to house the records in something more protective. Also included in the package is a CD of the full album in addition to a bonus track not found on the wax; it’s a welcome addition and charmingly old-school. Although the inclusion of CDs with records was not unusual five to ten years ago, download codes have now more or less phased this out – so it’s a pleasant surprise to see one included here.

Final Thoughts:

This is an excellent release with great sound quality and punchy, attractive presentation. The inclusion of a CD is a welcome bonus and the coloured records look as good as they sound.