Album Reviews

Odion Iruoje: Down To Earth (Soundway)

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Odion Iruoje
Down To Earth
Soundway 

Not for nothing, but this super rare release from Nigerian musician, producer, and impresario Odion Iruoje is one of the happiest, most joyful records you’ll ever hear. Released in 1982, it sounds both contemporary—especially with the New York rap and funk scene—and otherworldly, as Iruoje blends futuristic beats with traditional African sounds and rhythms. It literally sounds like nothing you’ve ever experienced—a happiness that is alien yet intriguing, foreign and yet so, so…familiar.

Your first listen might not serve it justice; I highly recommend you give the record a second spin—to allow the shock of the new to wear off, because once you do, the album’s greatness starts to blossom. You’ll hear some fascinating stuff, too. “Identify With Your Root (Which One You De?)” is a call out to the African diaspora around the world, reminding peoples from around the world that though they may be of different nationalities, they are, at heart, African peoples. While such a message could be preachy and didactic, it’s to Iruoje’s credit that he throws it down over a fantastic Grandmaster Flash-style rhythm. Also excellent is “Love Cure,” a funk-minded song about loving one’s fellow man.  And even though one might not be conversant in the African dialects of the other four songs, it’s still not impossible to enjoy them. “Ikebe” is a frantic dance number that sounds like it was made for legendary clubs Danceteria and The Hacienda, while it’s the final track, “Are Affair (Crazy Scene),” that really shines. This number sounds like the Tom Tom Club meets Fela Kuti jam session you never thought to envision; it’s all groove, bassline, and super happy singing. (And that Fela Kuti comparison isn’t without merit; Iruoje signed him to EMI Nigeria and produced many of his records.)

After releasing Down To Earth, he seems to have disappeared back to his homeland, where he continued to produce and introduce talented artists to his local populations, not really exploring much outside his native lands. Pity, really, as Down To Earth is one of the most amazing, innovative, and downright blissfully perfect records you’ll EVER hear.

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