Published Sep 09, 2014To paraphrase the 1977 Lamont Dozier hit that he co-wrote, Orlando Julius is "Going Back to His Roots." For his first album since the mid-1980s, the Nigerian sax man and bandleader is revisiting compositions from his early years that have never been recorded. Julius is probably best known for 1966's groundbreaking album Super Afro Soul, which fused highlife with American soul sounds and which, in turn, influenced generations of African and American soul, Afro funk and Afrobeat artists. London psychedelic funk innovators the Heliocentrics are no stranger to collaborations with legendary figures ⎯ they've recorded collaborative albums with Mulatu Astatke and Dr. Lloyd Miller.
The exuberant opening cut, "Buje Buje," simmers for eight minutes, and while drummer Malcom Catto lays down some hypnotic percussion and there are some subtle dynamic changes and psych touches, it's immediately clear that the Heliocentrics are reining in some of their more abrasive penchants in favour of a more focused sense of groove, which allows Julius to do his thing. "Be Counted" is a monster Afrobeat jam that ranks with the output of Julius's former band member Fela, and features the most frenetic sax work of his career alongside a rock-solid rhythm base that doesn't lose its direction throughout the track's 11-and-a-half minutes. "Aseni" is percolating Afro-funk with particularly vigorous horn charts, and a cover of James Brown's "In The Middle" is a joyous example of diasporic cross-pollination. Jaiyede Afro is not only a welcome return for Orlando Julius but also an excellent primer for newcomers. (Strut)