It’d be pointless to attempt a review of Joe El’s debut album, Timeless without comparing him with Tuface Idibia. I have two reasons for this supposition. First and foremost, Joe El Amadi, like you know, is the perfect stunt double to Tuface. His funny-shaped oblong head, the nose, the ears, the Ashawo eyes, and swagger resemble the ‘African Queen’ crooner so perfectly you’d assume they came from the same womb. Apart from that, Joe El’s got almost the same voice as Tu Baba, and had gone ahead to master his master’s style. Sometimes I think of Joe El and Tuface—coupled with the fact that just like the latter, Joe El is guided by “the Force”, Kenny Ogungbe that is—and get reminded of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Well, I guess Joe El set himself up for this inevitable comparison.
Forget the copycat syndrome that must have led to the creation of Joe EL’s brand, he’s quite talented. This is manifest in Timeless, an 18-track LP which features top-rated stars like Tuface Idibia, Iyanya, OritseFemi, Terry G and Phyno. Of the guests, the appearance of Tuace in the Intro and on the album’s biggest hit, ‘Hold On’ is the most significant. The intro has Joe EL, TuFace, Baba Keke and others clowning in the studio about the musical semblance of the two acts. Though it appears on the surface as the perfect way to introduce the album, you’ll agree with me that it’s no more than an attempt to make listeners subconsciously pardon Joe EL’s “photocopy”. Great idea all the same, I guess. It gets more interesting as you discover that the next track ‘Hold On’, displays Tuface’s thinly veiled endorsement of Joe EL. So the idea is: If Tu Baba is cool with Joe EL, who the hell are you to mind if the guy is a copycat. Wetin be Ya own?
The first 10 tracks, with the exception of ‘Like This’ (Track 12), and ‘I no Mind’ (Track 15), are the best productions of the album. I remember Tuface’s classics, Face 2 Face, Grass To Grace and Away and Beyond—each containing no more than 15 tracks—and wonder what a TP Timeless could have been. For me, an artiste’s best bet to making a classic album is to compile few tracks on his or her album. Such affords him or her chance to put in more work. It helps the fans too, you know, because if they get hooked on a 10-track Illmatic or a 13-track Away and Beyond for instance, it’d be easy to replay the experience for as much as they like in a single day. A 25-tracks album, no matter how excellent, is unfair on its target audience. That explains, to a level, the sense in a double CD album, doesn’t it?
On Timeless, Joe El endeavours to be versatile with his concepts as well as subject matters. Versatility is the number one quality people admire about 2face. Therefore, to convincingly clone Tuface, you must exhibit or clone this quality as well. Joe El makes an ambitious attempt in this regard. For example, he ensures that there are a number of love songs on Timeless like Tuface would do. Unfortunately, only ‘I no Mind’ and ‘Love Song’—a Masterkraft-produced slow tune upon which the artiste effortlessly freestyles—leave good impressions. Also like Tuface, Joe El attempts the inspirational, the conscious, the ‘party-head’ and the street as depicted in “Hold On”, “Fire”, “Onye” and “No Yawa” respectively. I believe he gives each his best shot. What’s more, the producers on Timeless are wide-ranging, with the combination of OJB Jezereel, Hak Samadhi and Masterkraft contributing to more than 65% of the productions on the album.
I’d sum up with three observations. First, the album confirms that Joe El is quite talented. He’d probably be bigger if he could be a bit unique. Second, the back of the album jacket states: “all songs written, composed and arranged by Joel Amadi, except on collaborative songs co-written by featured artistes.” But in the credits given to OJB and Hak Samadhi, we are informed that both producers actually co-wrote every song they produced with Joe El. That’s contradictory and confusing. Finally, does Joel succeed as a TuFace stunt double? Affirmative, I guess. But would he be remembered beyond being like Tuface? Thus far, I don’t think so. Notwithstanding, Timeless has revealed that ‘Photocopy’ is actually easy (apologies to 9ice). All you need is a talented act like Joe El, the business ingenuity of Baba Keke’s sort and the cloned—Tu baba in this case—to be a very “correct” individual.