Ebo Taylor

Palaver

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AllMusic Review by

Sometimes the most impromptu recording sessions yield the best results. That goes double if the music lies dormant in a vault, forgotten about for nearly four decades. This is the case for Palaver, an unearthed highlife album by Ghanaian music legend Ebo Taylor. In 1980, his band was touring in Lagos, Nigeria. He made the acquaintance of Chief Tabansi of Tabansi Records who asked if he were interested in recording an album for the label. Taylor was. His band stopped in, cut it quickly, and resumed their tour. The two-inch masters were shelved for future release but somehow forgotten (no one remembers why) until the 21st century when BBE approached Joe Tabansi -- the chief's son who held the rights to the label's treasures -- with the intention of reissuing their catalogue. Tabansi asked BBE if that included unreleased material. When answered in the affirmative, he discovered the masters untouched, and a painstaking process of cross-indexing revealed them as Taylor's. Palaver had already been mixed and mastered, so the restoration project began.

Palaver was recorded during a particularly fruitful period for Taylor. In 1979 he'd released Me Kra Tsie on the Essiebons label fronting his hometown's Saltpond Barker's Choir. Immediately afterward, he released Conflict Nkru! And just before the end of 1980, Taylor and singer Pat Thomas cut the classic yet criminally underheard Sweeter Than Honey Calypso "Mahuno" and High Life's Celebration for Pan African Records. Chronologically, Palaver is slotted between the latter two. Nigeria's influence is firmly entrenched in the music found here, particularly in the meld of highlife grooves and funky political Afrobeat in "Help Africa." Likewise, the title track weds rural, guitar-driven highlife vamps to perky, jazzy horn charts, and features a sweet flute solo from George Amissah. Check the soul guitar vamps and R&B-inflected horn arrangements in the highlife of "Abebrese." "Make You No Mind" is a proverb-inspired "ballad" (though it still swings like mad), with killer saxophone and trumpet solos. Unfortunately, it's the shortest tune here at just under four minutes. Finally, there is "Nyame Dadaw," an old-school gospel highlife with sparse (yet driving) guitars under a propulsive skittering snare backbeat and close harmony from a female backing chorus. Combined, these five tracks span just 29 minutes yet account for some of the most relaxed and spontaneous music in Taylor's catalogue. It fleshes out an ambitious profile showcased by the previously mentioned albums, as a well as the subsequent Nsamanfo and Hitsville Re-Visited (1981 and 1982 respectively). All told, they account for what is perhaps the most inspired run in Taylor's career. Cut on the fly and forgotten until now, Palaver is not only an unexpected gift, but a newly discovered treasure from the archives of Ghanaian popular music.

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