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. Today’s feature finds us assessing a new reissue of a long-time collector favourite. It’s a vivid slice of deep Ghanaian funk: Rob’s ‘Make It Fast, Make It Slow’.
Released in 1978, ‘Make it Fast, Make It Slow’ saw mononymous Ghanaian funkmeister Rob deliver on all of the promises made by his deeply groovy debut album which was released the year before. He ultimately released three records – all treasured by collectors of rare Africana – but this is the pick of the lot. The rhythms and arrangements on this record are deeply reverential of West Africa’s shared musical heritage – and, of course, of Ghana’s traditional culture in particular – but also audibly influenced by the American rhythm and blues artists of the preceding two decades. The result is an exciting and confident mixture of beat-scene strut and confident, slick African groove. Rob’s vocal delivery is confident and, at times, overtly sexual. The addressee of his affections is often ambiguous; at times it seems to be that of a lover but, at others, it’s surely of God – or perhaps both at the same time. Either way, the sensual moans of the title track certainly mark this record out as something unique even within its peer group. At only half an hour in length, ‘Make It Fast, Make It Slow’ certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome and, more than that, it’s also highly replayable.
Excellent British label Soundway first reissued ‘Make It Fast, Make It Slow’ back in 2012. It’s been an in-demand title ever since and the label have repressed it a number of times since. This 2019 repress is the first to feature distinguishing marks from earlier editions, thanks to the fact that MPO – the plant who pressed this release – have put into use new machines since the last pressing of this title. We’ve reviewed quite a few MPO titles recently and have mostly been impressed, despite a possible slackening of in-house quality control standards compared with those seen a few years ago. Whatever their general standards these days, it’s clear that MPO are capable of pressing a superb record when working with a label as quality-conscious as Soundway. This latest pressing of ‘Make It Fast, Make It Slow’ is essentially faultless. The noise floor is very low and there are no audible defects of any kind. Fidelity is excellent throughout – relative, at least, to the slightly lo-fidelity recording quality. The record’s surfaces really couldn’t have been cleaner and the disc is also flat as a pancake, which is something of a rarity these days considering that most new releases do have some sort of warpage, even if it is minor. This reissue is very impressive from an auditory perspective, so for that alone it comes highly recommended from us.
Those familiar with the challenges of collecting vintage African records will know that, rarity aside, one of the most significant roadblocks is finding an original pressing with a sleeve in acceptable condition. Due to the materials available, many ’70s African releases have sleeves made of very light, flimsy card and, as a result, are extremely worn today. Produced to modern standards, the sleeve of this Soundway reissue of ‘Make It Fast, Make It Slow’ is clearly superior to that of the original. Card stock used is reasonable and although the non-gatefold sleeve is quite lightweight, it feels solid enough to fare the subsequent years if cared well for. The image quality is also really nice, considering the age of the source material; and the print quality is great throughout. The label designs are unfussy and informative, which works just fine for us. If we were to nitpick, it would have been nice to have had the barcode printed onto a sticker rather than directly onto the back cover, but this is a minor quibble on a generally very nicely presented reissue.
Rob’s ‘Make It Fast, Make It Slow’ is a compelling and unique album in Ghanaian music and one that certainly deserves its hungry cult following. This latest Soundway reissue presents it in a very high quality and affordable reissue. The excellent sound here easily equals the quality of releases which, from a label with less scruples, would retail for far more than the £15 that this can be purchased for directly from the Soundway website. Those with an appreciation of compellingly deep funk should drop everything and run to this release.
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!