Ebo Taylor, “Mr Highlife” – the Ghanian bandleader, composer, guitarist and singer now in his 80s – might have just made the best album of his career; certainly a highlight, one of several high points, granted. But the effortlessness, the joy, the political energy and anger, the sheer musicality and liveliness just fires through this – from the opening salvo, Poverty No Good, through the nimble-fingered jazzy guitar licks of Akoma’m to the strut and slinky swagger of the title track and to the closing vocal round, Aba Yaa. There’s just not a dud or dull moment – this is Afrobeat in full swing, pun intended.
The horns that fire up early on Krumandey provide many album highlights, but always in the way they’re set against the rhythm tracks and with the vocals – a mix of languages including Pidgin English – driving home the themes and musical mantras.
Mumudey Mumudey might be the rousing highlight, you can hear in it – straight way – the shapes and sounds and moods and magic that has enticed all fans of African music as a source, as the source, from Fela to Tinariwen; this track alone a blueprint for what Eno and Byrne distilled on two important western art-pop albums in the early 1980s; the melody of it yet another purloined piece that Paul Simon placed – to great effect, of course – on his Rhythm of the Saints album.
Taylor’s 60 years of music-making is jammed with strong songs and vital performances but as with recent albums by Oumou Sangare and Tony Allen it’s possibly to hear this as among his very finest.
Abenkwan Puchaa is yet another standout track – almost the album highlight – in the way it manages to almost boil down every thrilling aspect of a decades-long career into one writhing, soulful three-minute explosion of musical feels; funk and jazz and undulating grooves.
Justin Adams, the man that has created so much of the fire deep inside the last few – thrilling, vital, brilliant – Robert Plant albums is in the producer’s chair here. His gifts are obvious. His touch is subtle, guiding, wise. He no doubt feels like he’s been bowing at the feet of a master.