Tower Of Power – 40th Anniversary – Mack Avenue Records

by | Apr 5, 2023 | Jazz CD Reviews, Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Mack Avenue Music Group and Tower Of Power team up for a great “live’ vinyl.

Tower Of Power – 40th Anniversary – Mack Avenue Records TOP300207LP Limited Edition translucent orange stereo double vinyl (includes digital download), 73:49 ****1/2:

Emilio Castillo – tenor saxophone; Doc Kupka – baritone saxophone; Rocco Prestia – bass; David Garibaldi – drums; Larry Braggs – lead vocals; Roger Smith – keyboards; Tom Politzer – lead tenor saxophone; Adolfo Acosta – lead trumpet, flugelhorn; Mike Bogart – lead trumpet, trombone; Mike Harper – guitar; plus many guests)

The pride of Oakland, California, Tower Of Power is an essential funk-based r & B ensemble. They were formed in 1968, and became a fixture in the San Francisco music scene. Tenor saxophonist Emilio Castillo and baritone saxophonist Doc Kupka were the leaders and remained with the band. As a group, they have recorded over twenty studio albums, including 8 charted singles. Additionally, they were in demand session players, having collaborated with Elton John, Little Feat, Eric Clapton, Santana, Stevie Nicks, Rod Stewart, Spyro Gyra and Toto. Their  raucous groove-laden sound has been developed and refined (with various lineup changes). While there were other horn-based 60’s bands (Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears), Tower Of Power is unbridled soul music, intended to get an audience dancing from the opening notes.

Mack Avenue Music group has released a translucent orange-covered vinyl of the band’s 2011 album, 40th Anniversary. Recorded at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, this is a homecoming for this band. Side A opens with the party anthem, “We Came To Play”. The muscular horn section propels the song with simple exhortative vocals. It is quintessential. The hooks and grooves continue on “Soul With A Capital S” with a prominent baritone saxophone, Memphis-style guitar and gospel-infused singing. There is a nice key change in the bridge. Opening with a military-inspired  drum, “Can’t Stand To See The Slaughter” establishes a political statement in a rock and soul arrangement. There is a jagged electric guitar, organ and punctuated horns. It includes a shout out to Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd street Rhythm Band 1970 hit, “Express Yourself”. The arrangements are tight and horn-centric on performances like the two-minute “Down To The Nightclub” and the three-minute “It’s Not The Crime”. The band is clearly reveling in the local audience.

The energy is relentless. “You Got to Funkifize” is full-bodied soul with great background vocals and funky instrumentation. With sweeping jazz accents, “As Surely As I Stand Here” is late night balladry, with smooth vocals. Returning to trademark funk, “I Got to Groove” is soulful with lead vocals countered by backup singing and textured horns that rock out. The group’s innate swagger is captured on the ebullient “This Time It’s Real”. Keeping their foot on the pedal, “Souled Out” is a hook-driven crowd pleaser with an expansive instrumental arrangement. In another ballad translation “Time will Tell” is a swaying last dance number. Making another statement, “Only So Much Oil In The Ground” is furious with scintillating tenor saxophone and organ riffs framing the inspired vocals. With bluesy countenance, “Credit” is a humorous take on urban life. As the lead singer urges the audience, “A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Thing” is another r & b gem suited for live performance. The horns and electric guitar complement the vocal chanting in the chorus. “What Is Hip” is refreshing and remains one of Tower Of Power’s most enduring hits. The historic concert finishes with a silky horn-laden soul number (“You’re Still A Young Man”) and an irresistible celebration (“Knock Yourself Out”).

This limited-edition colored vinyl from Mack Avenue Music Group will be appreciated by vinyl enthusiasts and r & b fans. The sound mix is vibrant  and showcases the fuller sound of the horn section. The pressing comes with a digital download. For ardent TOP followers, there is an expanded CD/DVD package that includes commentary and bonus toor footage.

—Robbie Gerson

Tower of Power – 40th Anniversary Vinyl Release

Side A: We Came To Play; Soul With A Capital “S”; Can’t Stand To See The Slaughter; Down To The Night Club

Side B: You Got To Funkifize; As Surely And I Stand Here; I Got To Groove; This Time It’s Real

Side C: Souled Out; Time Will Tell; Only So Much Oil In The Ground; Credit

Side D: A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Thing; What Is Hip?; You’re Still A Young Man; Knock Yourself Out         

More Information through Mack Avenue:

Logo Mack Avenue Records

Album Cover for Tower of Power 40th Anniversary

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