Vinyl Corner : Various ‘Edo Funk Explosion, Vol. 1’

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. This time, we’re spinning another new release from one of our favourite archival labels – Germany’s venerable Analog Africa

The Music:

Those readers who caught our recent article on Analog Africa’s new reissue of their excellent 2010 compilation ‘Afro-Beat Airways’ will doubtless have been given a fair impression of just how vital their work is. The label’s chosen task of reissuing vintage African music – and, in the process, bringing it to a global audience often likely to be previously unfamiliar with it – is both culturally important and musically fascinating. Their latest title, ‘Edo Funk Explosion Vol. 1’ serves as testament to the vitality of their output; a scintillating selection of recordings from Akaba Man, Sir Victor Uwaifo and Osayomore Joseph, this compilation anthologises the work of figures who are described on the back cover of this very release as ‘the 3 legends of Benin city’s sound’. Theirs is a playful, lively artistic direction – one in which the easy rhythmicality of funk meets a spartan yet undeniably compelling vision of dancefloor-friendly party music possessed by the spirit of disco yet just as influenced by the rich horn arrangements of reggae. No matter the influences upon this particular scene’s brightest and best, the result is a sound both entirely its own and immediately thrilling to any who have a stout appreciation of great funk music. Though recorded in the early ’80s, these pieces are defined by a timelessness which suggests that they could potentially have been set to tape a decade before or even after that period. Save for a few stabs of angular, buzzing synthesizer – technology which, at any rate, already existed in the early ’70s – this is music which resolutely sits outside of the international sonic zeitgeist of its era, instead being defined by a proud adherence to the auditory aesthetic preferred by its authors. That, in itself, is enough to establish the work anthologised in ‘Edo Funk Explosion Vol. 1’ as essential listening for funk-heads the world over – and, indeed, another great instalment in a series of releases from one of modern music’s most interesting and consistent reissue labels. 

The Pressing:

If the numerous and consistently excellent vinyl pressings offered by Analog Africa over the last decade were not proof enough of their ability to produce a great release on the format, then the superb execution of those titles that we’ve covered here at Vinyl Corner should serve as ample proof of their firm quality control when releasing physical product. True to that, the vinyl version of ‘Edo Funk Explosion Vol. 1’ is commendable, boasting – as it does – a pair of well-pressed LPs free of the defects which come as an all-too-frequent irritation on so many modern releases. Both discs sit flat upon the platter during playback and are likewise clean, with glistering surfaces unblemished by surface marking or signs of handling from the factory line. The audio itself is equally strong; we’ve waxed lyrical about Analog Africa’s ability to remaster potentially lo-fidelity vintage recordings in the past but such a trait bears repeating, considering just how good ‘Edo Funk Explosion Vol. 1’ sounds. Its drums are crisp, its basses are full and its guitars and synthesizers are as vibrant and immediate as the songs they serve. The vocals boast a similarly impactful timbre, enriched with a clarity that brings these bold, enthusiastic cries to the forefront of the soundstage. There’re plenty of worthwhile reissue labels incapable of remastering recordings of a similar vintage to such high a standard, so such an ability ultimately stands as one of Analog Africa’s most winning traits.

The Packaging:

Anyone who’s handled an Analog Africa release over the past few years will likely have been struck by the sheer luxuriance of their preferred style of packaging and presentation, particularly in the case of their vinyl releases. Their mainline titles – double or sometimes even triple LP sets typically compiling work from various artists working within a certain country, region or musical scene – tend to be packaged in well-made gatefold covers replete with thick, beautifully printed LP-sized booklet inserts which offer the prospective reader a wealth of historical context for the music itself. Such additions stand amongst the most rewarding inclusions in the typical presentation of any label we frequently cover here at Vinyl Corner. ‘Edo Funk Explosion Vol. 1’ is no exception in this regard, boasting both a beautiful gatefold cover wrought from sturdy cardstock and a striking booklet brimming with rare images of the artists anthologised on the compilation. In addition to that, the booklet offers a hugely informative, well-written selection of liner notes which come as a boon for those of us compelled by the music in question but unaware of the context in which it was produced. Not only that but the records themselves are found in high-quality generic polylined inner sleeves – a welcome inclusion which only serves to reinforce the evident love with which this title has been assembled.

Final Thoughts:

‘Edo Funk Explosion Vol. 1’ serves as both another triumphant compilation from Analog Africa and as a searing treatise on the distinctive and deeply compelling music being produced in Benin City during the early ’80s. Those sufficiently intrigued by what they hear will find a physical package as compelling as the music itself in this compilation’s vinyl release; with clean pressings sure to please even the pickiest of audiophiles, a sturdy gatefold cover which looks great on even the busiest of record shelves and a deeply informative liner notes booklet to wrap things up. Would-be archival labels, take note – this is how you reissue vintage 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 martin.leitch@gigsoupmusic.com – it would be great to hear from you!