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 feature, we’re taking a look at the first of three new releases from the UK’s excellent archival label Matsuli Music.
In this musical world of thriving reissue labels facilitated by the vinyl boom of the 2010s, many establishments who seek to rerelease half-forgotten or even previously unheard music from the past are described as “unearthing lost treasures” as though they’ve single-handedly stumbled upon the lost city of Atlantis itself. Of course, such hyperbole is only sometimes justified; after all, certain nary-heard obscurities failed to shift significant units at the time simply because they weren’t that good. Of all the UK’s archival labels, Matsuli Music have one of the most impressive track records by far. The long list of albums they’ve reissued is full of music genuinely deserving of such reappraisal and, more often than not, the label’s output is also sufficiently niche that most of those in the market to acquire their releases will never even have heard of the albums before snatching them off the shelves. Of all the albums which Matsuli have released, perhaps no other is as legitimately obscure as ‘Jump Uptight’ – the one and only album by South African quintet Zorro Five. The group issued just one 7″ single in addition to their LP; though the latter was only released in tiny quantities without South Africa, the former did make it over to both the UK and Italy, where it enjoyed modest hit status in both regions. Today that single fetches a healthy sum, as does the LP – provided you can find it, of course. Reissued for the first time on any format by Matsuli, those so inclined now have their first chance to discover Zorro Five’s bouncing groove and chirpy melodies anew. The group traded in a spry form of instrumental music which melded the smooth beat of Jamaican rocksteady with British beat music to rich effect. Theirs was a sound heavy enough on groove to fill a dance floor yet tight enough in its construction to intrigue even those listening with intent ears, its nuance little surprise considering that the band were comprised entirely of respected session musicians.
We’ve reviewed a number of releases from Matsuli Records in the past here on Vinyl Corner and one consistency across their output has been the quality of their vinyl pressings. Their reissue of Zorro Five’s ‘Jump Uptight’ is no exception to this rule, its weighty 180 gram slab of black wax proving itself to be a fittingly substantial form of delivery for these bassy, groove-centric compositions. A visual examination reveals a well-pressed record with clean surfaces – not always a given considering the overburdened state of the modern vinyl industry – and even a cursory listen proves the record to be as impressive auditorily as it is visually. This is a very tidy sonic experience; the music itself was evidently recorded on good technology for the time, as the crisp drums and sharp rhythm guitars hold up well even now. A glance at the deadwax shows this reissue to have been remastered by The Carvery; an audio mastering company whose standing as the go-to for UK-based archival and reissue labels has only grown in recent years. The playback quality is also clean; we detected only a lick of slight surface noise at a few rare points and the noise floor is impressively low, certainly setting this out as an admirably high-quality rerelease of this cult artefact. With original pressings being so genuinely rare that it can be years at a time between copies surfacing, this new Matsuli reissue may well be the only opportunity for the prospective buyer to acquire this curious yet beguiling album on wax. Fortunately, it’s such a professional issue of the album that few are likely to find themselves hankering for an original release after this rerelease hits the shelves later this month.
Packaging and presentation is fairly minimal on this Matsuli reissue of ‘Jump Uptight’ but, as a glance at the scant online information regarding the original pressing shows, that release was also presented in fairly barebones fashion. As it is, the presentation of this reissue is certainly more than satisfactory; the original artwork is reproduced in good quality and some brief background information on the album does appear on the back cover. The sleeve design is that of a standard width non-gatefold sleeve; the cardstock is moderate and feels solid enough in hand to remain sturdy, although we have certainly seen premium reissues presented in more expensive covers. There’re no inserts and no substantial liner notes but the spine text is clearly legible and the inner sleeve is a high quality generic one, so overall this is still a solidly presented release.
Matsuli Music have produced another high quality reissue with their release of Zorro Five’s ‘Jump Uptight’. It’s a record which only now receives its first reissue a full half-century on from its original release, so it’s unsurprising that the music contained within today seems resolutely of its time. That, of course, doesn’t for a moment mean that it has nothing to offer the present and, with this rerelease, it’s an album likely to enjoy a second wind.
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!