Ebo Taylor — Life Stories: Highlife & Afrobeat Classics 1973-1980
Following a stunning collaboration with Berlin-based Afrobeat Academy, Ghanaian highlife legend Ebo Taylor releases Life Stories, a definitive compilation of his 1970s recordings.
Following in the footsteps of highlife pioneers, E.T Mensah, Bobby Bentsen and Cardinal Jim Rex Lawson, the young Ebo Taylor made his name as a composer, arranger and frontman of two well-known Ghanaian big bands: Stargazers and Broadway Dance Band. Alongside other West African rising stars such as Fela Kuti and Peter King, Taylor moved to London to study music, forming the Black Star Highlife Band. Just like Kuti, Taylor also began incorporating traditional highlife forms with jazz music and its driving rhythm, addictive riffs and funky beats. However, instead of playing the saxophone like Kuti, Taylor led his band with the guitar, providing breezy yet rousing solo motifs.
Celebrating Ebo Taylor’s musical heyday, Life Stories includes the anthemic track “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 two-CD collection also includes the delightfully danceable and sexy “Egya Edu”, as well as the extremely groovy “What is Life?”
Although Ebo Taylor’s music was to a certain extent overshadowed by Fela Kuti and his musical montage of brass and percussion, Life Stories provides a fresh and revitalising outlook on the West African afrobeat scene. What is more, with an exclusive package including rare photos, original album artwork and sleeve notes by Soundway Records’ Miles Claret, Taylor’s album is a truly timeless classic that deserves to be up there on par with certain afrobeat greats or, one may argue, even higher.
by Amy Cunningham
Life Stories was released by Strut Records on April 11th.