Ebo Taylor – Life Stories: Highlife & Afrobeat Classics 1973-1980

Hot on the heals of the Love And Death, Strut have sensibly dug deep into the back catalogue for a fantastic double CD which is a must have ‘Best Of’ his Highlife & Afrobeat Classics 1973-1980

When got hold of the original version of ’s track ‘Love And Death’ it would not be much of an exaggeration to say that he almost played it to death (and probably again yesterday at Peterson’s ‘Pop-Up’ shop, see review HERE).
Back to Taylor, obviously being sampled by Usher & “serious actor” Ludacris (on ‘She Don’t Know’) was a great break but it’s I comes as a bit of a surprise the strength in depth of his recordings on this compilation.
The set starts with tracks called ‘Heaven’ (the sampled one) and ‘Atwer Aborba’ that mark the standard of funky highlife for the Afrobeat dancefloor with Taylor’s guitar taking on the horns and drums.
If you can image a Grant Green version of Fela Kuti, you’ll be pretty much spot on. The ‘Love And Death’ track is one of three here recorded with Uhuru-Yenzu and as the story is told/sung in English (with a more folky feel to it that the other songs), it’s one that’s most accessible.
But on this showing, the prolific Taylor was on form constantly as there’s the equally reflective ‘What Is Life?’ and the warrior chant of ‘Victory’ (you’ll recall there’s the instrumental version on the Love And Death from last year).
It’s a shame ‘Victory’ is faded out after less than 5 minutes but we have no length problems with ‘Peace On Earth’ and ‘Aba Yaa’ (this one coming in at 15 minutes!)
The Showband tracks are obviously more on the Highlife side of things but not less energetic or percussive, there’s some great organ on ‘Kwaku Ananse’ and ‘Mumde’ in best Afro-psych traditions. ‘Tempo Nyi Ekyir’ features a mighty fine guitar solo and ‘Yes Indeed’ is both joyous and sunny. There’s so many great tracks here it’s hard to pick out the best, although I’m particularly enjoying the summer jam of ‘Ohye Atar Gyan’ at the moment (expect to hear this one at the next Chronicles – details below) but it could equally be the CK Mann Big Band’s ‘Etuei’ that gently cooks away.
As the period covers seven years and various group set ups (Taylor was the in-house arranger and producer for the Essiebons label), the 2CDs never get stuck in any one groove.
And the in true Strut fashion, the packaging is just as good with rare photos and sleeve notes from the authoritative Miles Cleret who has released the compilations Ghana Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds and Ghanaian Blues 1968-81 and Ghana Soundz Volume 2 on his own Soundway label.
Taylor recorded Love And Death with his backing band Afrobeat Academy and they are touring this year so we expect him to be massive at Festivals this summer and will no doubt blow up big like Mulatu a couple of years ago – as Gilles Peterson said recently, “there’s no reason not to play ‘Love And Death’ at any time”. It’s a classic amongst other classics.
I can’t emphasis enough how good this album is from start to finish so that’s two years in a row that Ebo Taylor will feature in the “top 10 album of the year” list; Aba Yaa, yes indeed!
Reviewed: Ebo Taylor – Life Stories: Highlife & Afrobeat Classics 1973-1980 (Strut) Cat. No. STRUT072CD/2LP Release date: 18th April 2011
Tracklisting: CD1
1. Heaven (6:06)
2. Atwer Aroba (8:15)
3. Ebo Taylor & Unuru-Yenzu – Victory (4:23)
4. Asaasw Ase – Ohiani Sua Efir (4:02)
5. The Apagya Showband – Kwaku Ananse (3:12)
6. Peace Of Earth (7:48)
7. Aba Yaa (15:01)
8. Pat Thomas & Ebo Taylor – Ene Nyame ‘A’ Mensuro (6:20)
1. The Apagya Showband – Tempo Nyi Ekyir (3:57)
2. Ebo Taylor & Unuru-Yenzu – Love And Death (8:23)
3. Ohye Atar Gyan (6:09)
4. Super Sounds Namba – Yes Indeed (4:59)
5. The Apagya Showband – Mumude (3:03)
6. Ebo Taylor & Unuru-Yenzu – What Is Life? (4:43)
7. CK Mann Big Band – Etuei 6:29)
8. Ebo Taylor & The Pelikans – Egya Edu (10:01)
www.strut-records .com
The Metro p42-43 Monday 18st April 2011 The Big Interview Ludacris
Jazz Chronicles with Simon S, Martin Gordon and Gerry Hectic every first Saturday of the month – next up: 7th May at 3:00pm @ Sixty Million Postcards, Bournemouth

  • AT

    The man is legend, he of course is Ebo Taylor. Strut once again come with the truly exceptional releases and Life Stories is a monument of an album. This is more, more, more than just an Afro-beat album. If you really do know music, then you will know this is something very, very special.