8 Songs, 44 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

“Criminally unknown” is one of the first descriptors that comes to mind when talking about Ghanan guitarist Ebo Taylor. With Nigerian artists like Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade dominating the Afrobeat and highlife music scene, casual American fans had to be diligent if they hoped to discover the lesser-known names. Serious fans of the genre know Ebo Taylor as a revered composer and musician who for decades has worked as a producer and arranger for Ghana’s biggest record labels. Love & Death is the astonishing new recording by Taylor, who, into his ‘70s, sounds as fresh and energetic as he did on recordings from decades past; his voice is only slightly worn, and is still warm and passionate. New versions of “Love & Death” and “Victory” are rich and vibrant, with their horn-driven funk and glinting guitar tapestry epitomizing the brilliance of Taylor and his backing band, Berlin’s Afrobeat Academy (comprised of members of classic Afrobeat bands like Marijata). A stunning example of a living legend staying true to his vision, this ridiculously belated foray by Taylor into the international market is simply dazzling.

EDITORS’ NOTES

“Criminally unknown” is one of the first descriptors that comes to mind when talking about Ghanan guitarist Ebo Taylor. With Nigerian artists like Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade dominating the Afrobeat and highlife music scene, casual American fans had to be diligent if they hoped to discover the lesser-known names. Serious fans of the genre know Ebo Taylor as a revered composer and musician who for decades has worked as a producer and arranger for Ghana’s biggest record labels. Love & Death is the astonishing new recording by Taylor, who, into his ‘70s, sounds as fresh and energetic as he did on recordings from decades past; his voice is only slightly worn, and is still warm and passionate. New versions of “Love & Death” and “Victory” are rich and vibrant, with their horn-driven funk and glinting guitar tapestry epitomizing the brilliance of Taylor and his backing band, Berlin’s Afrobeat Academy (comprised of members of classic Afrobeat bands like Marijata). A stunning example of a living legend staying true to his vision, this ridiculously belated foray by Taylor into the international market is simply dazzling.

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About Ebo Taylor

Born in 1936, guitarist, composer, arranger, bandleader, and producer Ebo Taylor has been a vital figure on the Ghanaian music scene for over six decades. In the late '50s he was active in the influential highlife bands the Stargazers and the Broadway Dance Band, and in 1962 he took his own group, the Black Star Highlife Band, to London, which led to collaborations with Fela Kuti and other African musicians in Britain at the time. Returning to Ghana, he worked as a producer, crafting recordings for Pat Thomas, C.K. Mann, and others, as well as exploring his own projects, combining traditional Ghanaian material with Afro-beat, jazz, and funk rhythms to create his own recognizable sound in the '70s. Taylor's work became popular internationally with hip-hop producers in the 21st century, which led to the release of Love and Death on Strut Records in 2010, his first internationally distributed album. Its success prompted Strut to issue the stellar retrospective Life Stories: Highlife & Afrobeat Classics 1973-1980, in the spring of 2011. A year later, in 2012, a third Strut album, the deeply personal Appia Kwa Bridge, appeared, and showed that at 76, Taylor was still intensely creative and focused, mixing traditional Fante songs and chants with children's rhymes and personal matters into his own sharp vision of highlife.

That record marked the beginning of a popular renaissance for Taylor around thw world. Early singles and other tracks appeared on a number of compilations over the next couple of years, and in 2015, his rarest album, Ebo Taylor & The Pelicans got a grand reissue treatment. His early hit, the Ghana funk anthem "Come Along" made DJ playlists globally.

In February 2016, at age 80, he opened the MOGO Festival's Nights with Music Greats. The gig proved to be a precursor for the deluxe reissue of his 1975 album, My Love and Music on Mr. Bongo. ~ Steve Leggett

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