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Pop - Released May 1, 1973 | Warner Records

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The Tower of Power finally found their ideal lead singer on this album. Lenny Williams came aboard and gave them both the up-tempo belter and convincing balladeer they had previously lacked. They landed their biggest single hit, "So Very Hard to Go," and also had two other top tunes in "What Is Hip" and "This Time It's Real." The arrangements and production were also excellent, and the horn section was at its explosive best. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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Soul - Released June 1, 2018 | Artistry Music

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Funk - Released August 3, 1999 | 550 Music - Legacy

The recordings on Soul Vaccination: Live were made during Tower of Power's 1998 tour. It wasn't a reunion tour, since ToP never really went away, but they nevertheless hauled such staples as "What Is Hip," along with selection from latter-day albums. If Soul Vaccination is to be trusted, it was an enjoyable but not particularly noteworthy jaunt through the states. Nevertheless, ToP's playing was supple and lively enough to make it an enjoyable listen for hardcore fans, even if it's not memorable enough to make its way onto the stereo that often. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 22, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Soul - Released March 20, 2020 | Artistry Music

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Soul - Released April 14, 2017 | Artistry Music

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Pop - Released April 20, 1976 | Warner Records

The band's final album for Warner Bros. before it decamped to Columbia, the absolutely stunning 1975 Live and in Living Color ensured that Tower of Power left in a blaze of glory. Recorded at Sacramento Memorial Auditorium and Cerritos College, the group brought what remains one of the era's finest live albums to glorious fruition. Leaving behind the dismal soul of its previous In the Slot, the band fell back on its two great strengths -- classy live performance and unerring funk. With every ounce of the group's full energy packed into the grooves and a little more added for emphasis, Live squeezes out five tracks of epic proportions. Reaching back to its debut LP, East Bay Grease, Tower of Power jammed on a majestic 23-minute rendition of "Knock Yourself Out" and the sleepy classic "Sparkling in the Sand," before continuing its sonic domination across two songs pulled from Bump City. "Down to the Nightclub (Bump City)" is effusive, while "You're Still a Young Man" is an absolutely outstanding performance of one of TOP's finest songs -- and judging by the audience enthusiasm, it packed as much power in 1976 as it did in 1972 (and indeed, still does today). Courageously, only one track, "What Is Hip?," emerges from the group's most successful era, but with its rock riffing slices and roiling organ solo, you really don't need anything else -- it stands well as a lone representative of what many hail as TOP's finest hour. There's nothing to fault here except, possibly, the decision to release a mere single disc at a time when live double albums were becoming de rigueur, a move guaranteed to leave listeners crying for more. But perhaps that was the intent all along -- too little is always sweeter than too much. © Amy Hanson /TiVo
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Pop - Released July 17, 2001 | Rhino - Warner Records

Usually, it's not a good sign if a band is generally known for augmenting artists instead of their own records, but Tower of Power was really a very good horn section, and they did make records that held their own. Of course, "What Is Hip?" was the biggest single they ever had, but they also had several other smaller hits that captured their sleek, stylized soul-funk quite well, such as "Soul Vaccination." Pretty much all of those songs are captured on Rhino's 2001 anthology The Very Best of Tower of Power: The Warner Years, which spans 16 tracks and contains almost all the highlights of their '70s records. Yes, the 1999 double-disc set What Is Hip? is more comprehensive, but that's really for serious listeners. For listeners that want a lean dose of the TOP's prime, this is the best collection on the market. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Jazz - Released August 8, 1995 | Epic

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Pop - Released June 30, 1975 | Warner Records

Tower of Power followed their self-titled gold album with an even better album that didn't enjoy similar sales success. Back to Oakland had tougher, funkier and better-produced cuts, stronger vocals from Lenny Williams (who was more comfortable as their lead singer), and included an excellent ballad in "Time Will Tell," and a rousing tempo in "Don't Change Horses (In the Middle of a Stream)." The Tower of Power horn section reaffirmed its reputation in both soul and pop circles, and the album included a powerhouse instrumental. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 1, 1972 | Warner Records

The second Tower of Power LP, Bump City was the first to make any impact. The group went to Memphis, cut their first great single in "You're Still A Young Man," and learned firsthand about funk and soul. The production and arrangements were much improved over the debut album, as was the engineering and overall technical quality. Their lines were crisper, the unison and ensemble passages much sharper, and they were beginning to round into shape. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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Soul - Released April 14, 2017 | Artistry Music

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Funk - Released March 26, 2002 | Epic - Legacy

The crucial subtitle missing is that this is the best of Tower of Power on Columbia, not a career-spanning anthology that takes in their material with other labels. Since their most popular stuff was done for Warner Brothers, that creates quite a problem when you're representing this material in particular as their best. With the understanding that this disc is limited to their Columbia catalog, it's a decent selection, through chronologically haphazard, drawing from the '90s, the late '70s, and nothing else. For the most part it's competent funk, a little too heavy on the feets-don't-fail-me now braggadocio, as on "Attitude Dance." Yes, there are versions of their well-known "So Very Hard to Go" and "What Is Hip?," but take caution: these are 1998 live recordings, not the famous originals. There's a previously unreleased alternate mix of "I Love That Girl So Much" from the sessions for their 1979 album, Back on the Streets, and it would be a pretty heavy price to pay for the whole disc just to get that one track, even for insistent completists. Very Best of the Warner Years and the more extensive What Is Hip? remain far better best-of compilations on this band. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 10, 1993 | Warner Records

Tower of Power was very much in its prime in 1974, when the Bay Area outfit tore up the soul charts with the outstanding Urban Renewal. Lenny Williams, a passionate, wailing, gospel-influenced dynamo of a singer, had joined Tower the previous year, and he worked out remarkably well; whether digging into tough funk or romantic ballads, Williams is in top form. Funk doesn't get much more invigorating than horn-driven gems like "Maybe It'll Rub Off," "Give Me the Proof" and "Only So Much Oil in the Ground" (a commentary on the mid-'70s energy crisis), and soul ballads don't get much richer than "Willing to Learn" and "I Won't Leave Unless You Want Me To." Tower (an influence on everyone from L.T.D. to the Average White Band) recorded a number of essential albums in the '70s, and Urban Renewal is at the top of the list. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Jazz - Released April 5, 2007 | Sheffield Lab

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Pop - Released September 12, 1975 | Warner Records

In the Slot came off a four-year string of classic singles and albums. As Bump City era lead singer Rick Stevens exited, the phenomenal Lenny Williams replaced him. With Williams, Tower of Power became a hit-making machine as albums like Back to Oakland and Urban Renewal became R&B standards. In the Slot marks the first album of vocalist Hubert Tubbs. he possessed a throaty more muscular voice a few shades lower than his predecessor. While it was serviceable, Tubbs' voice didn't have the same grace and agility as Williams'. On the rollicking "Just Enough and Too Much" the difference is slight and the track is one of the band's most potent tracks. The ballads were where the contrast is most striking. "As Surely As I Stand Here" and the "The Soul of a Child" display not only a drop off in lyrical quality, but also the clearest indication that the band did indeed miss Williams' skill at making even bromides ring. Oddly enough, the great and too brief B-side "Stroke '75" wasn't included here. After many failed attempts, band and singer do end up on the same page. On "Drop It in the Slot" and "On the Serious Side" the groups' trademark rhythm section and the horns come on stronger and match Tubbs' more volatile style. This effort in effect put an end to the string of "classic" albums from the group. In The Slot, despite its enviable firepower, finds the band missing Lenny Williams' skill at putting all of the pieces together. © Jason Elias /TiVo
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Funk - Released May 21, 1991 | Epic Dance - Legacy

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Jazz - Released April 20, 1993 | Epic

This 1993 effort marked a strong comeback for the group, who started with 1991's Monster on a Leash. T.O.P. continues the formula with great results. The reason for the revitalization can be directly attributed to the energetic, Stevie Wonder-influenced lead singer, Tom Bowes. The hard-driving, James Brown-derived funk of "Soul With a Capital S" and "I Like Your Style" update the band's classic horn-driven sound and is augmented by not only Bowes but Francis "Rocco" Prestia's amazing and soulful bass work. The ballads -- like "Quiet Scream," "Please Come Back to Stay," and arguably the best, "Come to a Decision" -- underscore the fact that this version of Tower of Power was the first in years that was equally adept with slower songs and up-tempo offerings. T.O.P. also has other members doing lead vocal chores. Group co-founder Emilio Castillo leads on the hammy and fun "Come on With It" and guitarist Carmen Grillo assumes lead on the melodic and smooth "You." Former member, saxophonist Lenny "L.P." Pickett, shows up for five tracks. Produced by Castillo, T.O.P. not only made an album to stand with Monster on a Leash, but also other classics like Urban Renewal and Ain't Nothing Stopping Us Now. © Jason Elias /TiVo
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Soul - Released April 14, 2017 | Artistry Music

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Jazz - Released May 11, 1993 | Columbia

Edward McGhee turned in mostly above-average performances on their first post-Lenny Williams release, but it was the beginning of the end. With funk losing its foothold among R&B audiences, they couldn't keep it together. McGhee was an energetic, exuberant vocalist who held his own on up-tempo tunes like "You Ought to Be Havin' Fun" and the title song, but lacked Williams' range or tonal quality on ballads. The group always had a weakness for ponderous message cuts, and "Can't Stand to See the Slaughter" and "While We Went to the Moon" were well-intentioned but clumsy tracks. This was almost the Tower of Power's swan song. © Ron Wynn /TiVo