Ebo Taylor

Life Stories: Highlife & Afrobeat Classics 1973-1980

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Ghanian composer, singer, guitarist, arranger, producer, and bandleader Ebo Taylor came to the attention of DJs in the U.K. and throughout Europe in the early part of the 21st century. His legend spread among hip-hop and dance music producers in the United States as well, resulting in a sample from his slamming track "Heaven" in Usher's hit "She Don’t Know." The seminal Strut imprint issued Taylor's first transglobal offering, Love & Death in 2010: it was a smash in club circles internationally. Strut has gone one better with Life Stories: Highlife & Afrobeat Classics 1973-1980, compiling two discs of Taylor's solo work and that of bands he's led, taken part in, or produced. The music here leans most heavily on Taylor's solo albums. It kicks off, of course, with the infectious, groove-laden "Heaven," but this isn't the high point. Tracks like the strangely beautiful "Peace on Earth" and the 15-minute uber-charged, Afro-Latin, jazz-funk orgy, "Aba Yaa" which open the first disc are arguably better. Disc one also features tracks by Taylor's side projects, the Apagya Show Band, and Assase Ase, and closes with "Ene Nyame Nam a Mensuro," a killer collaboration between Taylor and Pat Thomas, a fellow member of another band Taylor played in, the Blue Monks. Disc two focuses on side projects with a few solo tracks thrown in, including the original version of "Love and Death" that clocks in at near eight-and-a-half minutes. There two more excellent, funky tracks by the Apagya Show Band, and "Yes Indeed," a burning stepper by another of his short-lived outfits, Super Sounds Namba. Another highlight is a later production he did of Ghana's legendary C.K. Mann Big Band's "Etuei" (Taylor played in the band in the formative years of his career). The set is closed by the strange, tortured groove that haunts the dark and edgy “Egya Edu,” by Ebo Taylor & the Pelikans. Soundway's Miles Cleret's liner notes are characteristically exhaustive in research annotation and presentation. They provide not only a solid biographical portrait of Taylor, but a cultural one of his region and times, as well. The deluxe booklet in Life Stories: Highlife & Afrobeat Classics 1973-1980 includes loads of rare photos to boot, filling out the profile of a true world music legend. Fans of Love & Death will most certainly want this. We might now reasonably hope for proper reissues of Taylor's solo albums, as well.

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