Feb 15, 2011

New album: Ebo Taylor - Life Stories

Information by Strut Records

ollowing his recent studio album with Afrobeat Academy, ’Love And Death’, his first international release, Ghanaian highlife guitar legend Ebo Taylor teams up again with Strut for a long overdue definitive compilation of his seminal 1970s recordings, ‘Life Stories’.

During Ghana’s highlife explosion during the 1950s and ‘60s following wartime highlife pioneers like E.T. Mensah, Ebo Taylor made his name as a prolific composer, arranger and frontman leading two of Ghana’s greatest big bands - Stargazers and Broadway Dance Band. Moving to London to study music in 1962 alongside West African luminaries like Fela Kuti and Peter King, Taylor formed the Black Star Highlife Band and began incorporating jazz elements into traditional highlife forms.

Returning to Ghana, Taylor became an in-house arranger and producer for Dick Essilfie-Bondzie’s Essiebons label, working with other major Ghanaian stars like C.K. Mann and Pat Thomas. Through the ’70s, he then recorded a number of solo projects, exploring unique fusions and borrowing elements from regional Ghanaian folk music, Afrobeat, jazz, soul and funk.

This compilation revisits this heyday of Taylor’s work, focusing on his solo albums and some of his lesser known side projects including the dynamite Apagya Show Band and short-lived Taylor-led combos Assase Ase, Super Sounds Namba and The Pelikans. The selection also touches on his writing and production work for C.K. Mann and a collaboration recording with fellow member of early ‘70s nightclub band Blue Monks, Pat Thomas.

Tracks include the anthemic ’Heaven’, sampled by Usher on his hit with Ludacris, ’She Don’t Know’, the original version of the poignant ’Love And Death’ and the rare 15-minute nugget, ’Aba Yaa’. The package features rare photos, original album artwork and sleeve notes by Soundway Records’ Miles Cleret.


An introduction by Marc Gabriel Amigone (afrobeatblog.blogspot.com)

As I've said before, Ebo Taylor is one of the funkiest people to ever walk the earth. Life Stories, his second collaboration with Strut Records set to be released April 11, 2011, is a retrospective compilation showcasing his work with several ensembles throughout his career. Any lover of African funk has to take notice of Ebo Taylor. His ability as a composer and arranger put him in an elite class of musicians and allowed for him to collaborate with some of the best musicians in West Africa throughout the 1960's and 70's.

Taylor released his first internationally distributed studio album, Love and Death, on Strut late last year. Life Stories represents his songwriting and arranging work with several different artists and ensembles. Taylor's ability to combine African rhythmic elements with the American funk aesthetic set him apart from other musicians of his generation. Talylor's signature wah-pedal infused guitar lines combined with inventive horn lines distinguished him as an arranger. Life Stories captures that signature style on several tracks throughout.

If you're serious about African funk or you simply have a passing interest, you should def check out this comp. To amass this much music in one place would have taken years of crate digging and several trips to Africa. Strut has done all the work, so take full advantage.


Review for "Love and death" from Marc Gabriel Amigone

Ebo Taylor is one of the funkiest people to ever walk the earth. Love and Death, his first internationally released studio album out October 24th on Strut Records, is a continuation of Taylor's already legendary legacy as a composer and performer of African music.

Starting in the late 1950's, Taylor was an extremely influential figure in the Ghanaian music scene. He composed, arranged and performed in several leading highlife bands such as the Stargazers and Broadway Dance Band. He traveled to London with his own ensemble in 1962, The Black Star Highlife Band sponsored by the Ghanaian High Commission. It was in London that he collaborated and experimented with other African musicians such as Fela Anikulapo Kuti, "I knew Fela very well. He was my friend.

Upon returning to Ghana, Taylor further cemented himself in the Accra music scene working as an in-house producer for the major record labels of the time such as Essiebons and Gapophone. He wrote for and recorded with other burgeoning stars like C.K. Mann and Pat Thomas. As his career continued to unfold, Taylor recorded several solo projects creating his own new sound. He melded elements of traditional Ghanaian music with afrobeat, jazz and funk, and recorded some of the most highly regarded Ghanaian funk music of the era.

As African funk music from the 1970's has become increasingly in demand over the last 5-10 years, Ebo Taylor's music has seen a resurgence in popularity appearing on compilations from Soundway Records and Analog Africa. His music has been sampled by contemporary hip-hop producers both in Africa and The United States. Taylor has always had an innate sense of how to emphasize certain Western elements in his music such as the wah-wah guitar pedal and JB's influenced horn lines to compliment the more pronounced African elements such as traditional African percussion and Ghanaian lyrics. Similar to Fela's afrobeat, his music was extremely funky while at the same time carrying a strong African persona.

Recorded with Berlin-based collective Afrobeat Academy, Love and Death is a conscious effort on the part of Taylor to advance the afrobeat movement: "For the new album, I wanted to advance the cause of Afrobeat music. Fela started it and we shouldn't just abandon it. We should push it so it is a standard form of music." Taylor accomplishes his goal and then some. Love and Death is an incredibly fluid album composed of eight tracks that attack from the first note and don't let up throughout. Tracks like "african woman," "victory," and "mizin" are all aggressive uptempo songs that use interlocking guitars parts, punchy horn lines, hard-driving drums and percussion to push the song forward.

Taylor's voice reveals the character and history of a 74-year old man. You can hear the experience and age as it cuts through the aggressive afrobeat soundscape. It's amazing to think that in a career filled with as much amazing music and as many prominent collaborations as Taylor's, Love and Death will be his first internationally distributed album.


01. Heaven - 6:06
02. Atwer Abroba - 8:12
03. Victory - 4:19
04. Ohiani Sua Efir - 4:02
05. Kwaku Ananse - 3:12
06. Peace On Earth - 7:44
07. Aba Yaa - 14:58
08. Ene Nyame 'A' Mensuro - 6:17
09. Tamfo Nyi Ekyir - 3:57
10. Love And Death - 8:18
11. Ohye Atar Gyan - 6:05
12. Yes Indeed - 4:54
13. Mumude - 3:03
14. What Is Life - 4:38
15. Etuei - 6:27
16. Egya Edu - 6:52

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