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Great American Soulbook

Tower of Power

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Album Review

Tower of Power have openly admitted resistance toward covering any hit R&B classics, preferring to play their original brand of funky soul and dance music with a horn-fired edge over their four decades on the scene. But they have finally acquiesced, reluctantly but with growing confidence during this session, in producing a tribute to the many solid singers who appeared in the charts during the '60s and '70s with these renditions of tunes familiar to Top 40 AM radio listeners. Special guest singers range from Sam Moore of Sam & Dave fame to young pop songstress Joss Stone, the veteran British lounge crooner Tom Jones, and rocker Huey Lewis, not to mention TOP frontman Larry Braggs. Philly and Motown music, love songs, retro-soul, and a little disco are included in this collection that is, for the most part, faithfully reproduced. A Sam & Dave hit penned by Isaac Hayes, "I Thank You" is soulfully rendered by Jones, while Moore digs in on Otis Redding's "Mr. Pitiful," both the most authentic highlights of the album. Lewis is quite convincing in his blue-eyed soul role during Wilson Pickett's shuffle swing "634-5789," offering the premise that he could pull off a whole album of this stuff. Braggs cops Stevie Wonder's style during "You Met Your Match," while he and an overamped Stone combine on the more heavily funky and contemporized version of Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston's "It Takes Two." Aretha Franklin's "Since You've Been Gone," sporting the refrain "Why'd you have to do it" with a backup chorus, is as true to the original as any other version. A James Brown medley unfortunately does not come close to the Godfather of Soul, and there are some sappy renditions of such numbers as Billy Paul's "Me & Mrs. Jones," Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band's "Loveland," and the Gaye/Tammi Terrell hit "Your Precious Love" with Braggs and Stone. "Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel," originally done by Tavares, is simply soupy and far too slick, and the Bill Withers song "Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?" is a revisited disco throwaway. Missing from these songs are the extended, powerful horn charts that made Tower of Power famous, with only a modicum of interaction and with little punch to add to the flavor of these charts. Perhaps a second volume might yield better results than the overtly commercialized collection that is presented here. Not bad — just not great. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Biography

Formed: 1967 in Oakland, CA

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The renowned horn-driven funk outfit Tower of Power have been issuing albums and touring the world steadily since the early '70s, in addition to backing up countless other musicians. The group's leader since the beginning has always been tenor saxophonist Emilio Castillo, who was born in Detroit but opted to pursue his musical dreams in Oakland, California. It was in Oakland that Castillo put together a group called the Motowns, which, as their name suggested, specialized in '60s-era soul. In 1967,...
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Great American Soulbook, Tower of Power
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