A few years ago I expressed (in this post) my preference for the more 'profane' work of Nigerian juju star Ebenezer Obey. "Profane" in the original sense that is, i.e. "not belonging to a church or religion".
On closer inspection, I have to take back what I wrote.
In fact there are, in my opinion, no better songs in Obey's extensive repertoire than the godfearing tracks collected on this album "Ebenezer Obey in the 60's".
This has been one of favourite juju albums (if not THE favourite) for over 25 years. And in all this time its shine has not diminished. On the contrary, the lp has only grown in stature, as a monument to the early work of the now chief commander.
Unlike the majority of juju music albums this lp does not contain two medleys, but a total of twelve short tracks. Among these there are several that, as far as I am concerned, can compete with the best tracks from the sixties by pan-african superstars like Franco and Kabasellé.
To me the very best of these is the concise but heavenly "Ori Bayemi". I get tears in my eyes every time I listen to this stupefyingly beautiful song. Obey manages to cram all of the good bits of juju music into less than three minutes, including - in order of appearance - some eternal guitar chords, very casual sounding but for exactly this reason brilliant lead and chorus interplay and a 'get down & shake it' drums bit.
The whole of the A-side is in fact of a surreal wonderfulness. "Ope Fun Oluwa" and "Gbe Bemi Oluwa", both songs filled to the brim with Jesus and Our Lord (Oluwa), offer stiff competition to "Ori Bayemi", with the rootsy (okay, you can shoot me now) "Ope Fun Oluwa" very close, if only for the great rhythm.
The only hint of profanity is in "Pauline", a song with sensual guitar balanced against manly vocals and chest-beating drums.
On the B-side there are some surprising jewels. Like "Edumare Lon Pese". After the opening notes I almost expect Tunde Nightingale to squeak in. I love the guitar in this song.
This lp is the first volume in a series of two. But if you ask me, the second volume does not get close to this (mono!!) evergreen of Nigerian - and African - music.
Decca WAP 432 or Decca WAP 432