Ebo Taylor - Life Stories: Highlife & Afrobeat Classics 1975-80
Highlife guitar hero Ebo Taylor is still bringing the stinging in his latest release, "Love and Death," which criminally is his debut international offering. This is a good a time as any to pay tribute to the massive catlog of funky soul that Taylor has been delivering since the mid-60s. "Life Stories: Highlife & Afrobeat Classics 1975-80" is a textbook for understanding Highlife, and further proof of the cauldron of genius that was popular music in Ghana, Nigeria, Benin and other West African countries in the 60s-70s.
Taylor contributed mightily to that genius. That his music continues to be sampled (by the likes of Usher, with "Heaven," included here) and celebrated, is a testament to the man's contribution to world music. "Life Stories" boils over with Taylor's sharp and tight guitar, and an assortment of horn and conga players that maintain a mellow but hot beat. Most of the tracks are taken from his 70s solo records, though there are selections from some of his many bands, especially the Apagya Show Band and Super Sounds Namba, whose "Yes, Indeed" is as tight as funk can get. Taylor's own "Peace on Earth" showcases his guitar style within a band setting, offering space to the horn players, though his guitar screams out for center-stage. The key track is the fifteen minute "Aba Yaa," an epic distillation of funk, highlife and Caribbean rhythms. Taylor for the most part plays rhythm guitar here, but its pulse is felt throughout.
Any wide release of Ebo Taylor is welcome, and "Life Stories: Highlife & Afrobeat Classics 1975-80" fits the bill nicely, drawing from an embarrassingly rich catalog of solo and band work that, in such a short period, staggers with its infectious and deeply soulful melodies and passionate singing. This is the real deal.
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