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Soul - Released February 26, 2021 | Artistry Music

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