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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/Funk/R&B - Released February 26, 2021 | Artistry Music

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Available exclusively on Qobuz Time waits for no one…right? While times and tastes change, every so often a group fine tunes a durable mix of musical firepower and showbiz glitz and manages to defy the years. This first call, horn section-turned-band, has solved the aging issue with a practical formula: get in a groove, write punchy horn charts, consistently whip up a high-energy funk revue where the jams blend together and viola, you have a band that is now celebrating the almost unheard-of milestone of a half century together! Tower of Power has a tradition of marking every passing decade with a live album and for their 50th anniversary in 2018 they brought the house—17 musicians and a full string section—to the Fox Theater in their original stomping ground of Oakland, CA, and filmed and recorded over 20 tracks in front of a partisan crowd that sounds appropriately stoked. Though more than 60 musicians have passed through this band over the years, the first key to the band's longevity is the continued presence in their signature two trumpet-three saxophone attack of the group's two founding saxophone players, tenorman Emilio Castillo and baritone sax player Stephen "Doc" Kupka. Another essential element to the relentless tempos is the return of original drummer David Garibaldi, who deserves an ironman award for setting a lethal pace throughout. A special treat is that the other half of the band's classic original rhythm section, bassist Francis "Rocco" Prestia, appears on four tracks—his final live recordings with the band before his death in September 2020. Of the guests, it's good to hear SNL band director Lenny Pickett back in the fold and B-3 organist Chester Thompson adds several animated solos. While many of these hard funk horn jams are mixed together without a break, this long set contains many outstanding instrumental highlights. ToP, who have appeared as a backup band on records by artists as diverse as Little Feat, The Meters, John Lee Hooker and Elton John, slide comfortably into supercharged versions of their early hits like 1973's "What is Hip" and near the end, 1972's "You're Still a Young Man." A new tune "Stop" from 2018, vividly keeps the band's sound vital. Working hard to be an asset in a horn band, guitarist Jerry Cortez, makes his presence felt in a solo in "Can't You See (You Doin' Me Wrong)" And the band's best sweet soul number, "You're So Wonderful, So Marvelous," reappears here in a new, near-definitive version. At times, strong-voiced lead singer Marcus Scott's vocal enthusiasm verges on being obnoxious—not every tune needs multiple screams or a "Make some noise!" shout between verses. And while it may be time to retire the band's well-worn JB medley, "Diggin' on James Brown," the smooth professionalism here is terrific and it's impressive that the band manages to keep up a full-bore, whirlwind energy level throughout these 22 tracks. While viewing the accompanying video would undoubtedly add to the enjoyment, this is one fiery soul set: proof the horn-driven funk has a thousand variations and so perhaps…an eternal life. © Robert Baird/Qobuz
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Soul - Released March 20, 2020 | Artistry Music

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Soul - Released June 1, 2018 | Artistry Music

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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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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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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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Soul - Released April 14, 2017 | Artistry Music

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Funk - Released May 21, 1991 | Epic Dance - Legacy

In contrast to the many soul veterans who who have turned to urban contemporary sounds in the hope of staying on the staying on the charts, Tower of Power has stuck with the type of horn-driven, live-sounding funk and soul that put the Bay Area band on the map. Tower was long past its prime by the time Monster on a Leash was released in 1991, and had experienced its share of personnel changes. Lead singer Tom Bowes, although a passionate and competent belter, is hardly on a par with Lenny Williams. Even so, this is a respectable and decent effort from a band that remained artistically viable by staying true to itself. Unapologetically '70s-sounding, the album falls short of the unmitigated excellence of Back to Oakland and Urban Renewal, but isn't significantly different in its approach, content or attitude. While novices would do better to start with either those gems, this is an album that diehard Tower enthusiasts shouldn't pass up. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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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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Jazz - Released August 8, 1995 | Epic

Tower of Power's Souled Out featured four new members, including a new lead vocalist. However, the change in membership didn't revitalize the band as they churned out the same blend of funk and mid-tempo groovers that they had for years, with only a couple of numbers making any sort of impression. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /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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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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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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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 12, 1975 | Warner Records

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Soul - Released April 14, 2017 | Artistry Music

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Pop - Released November 3, 1992 | Rhino

The first Tower of Power album, when the band was only honing its concept and seeking a lead singer. On some songs, notably "Sparkling in the Sand," you can hear the group beginning to come together. They already had a fine horn section, and were only some good arrangements away from becoming one of the best pop and soul bands in the nation. The vocals were uneven, although Rick Stevens would later emerge as the prime vocalist. Despite its flaws, it's worth having because the diamond was being cut on these selections. It's recently been reissued on CD. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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Soul - Released April 14, 2017 | Artistry Music