Tower Of Power
Hipper Than Hip
People who have spent any morsel of time researching music know that there is no parallel to the Tower Of Power horn section. The world famous brothers of brass make ears perk up with just the mere mention of the name Tower Of Power. This new collection of tracks, recorded in Ultrasonic Recording Studio in Hempstead, Long Island and broadcast over WLIR-FM radio in 1974, will make you understand why these guys have such an awesome reputation.
This is a spectacular sounding recording of the band doing their thing in a live setting, just before the release of their Back To Oakland album. I was amazed to hear how perfect the balance and tone is here. I don’t know what kind of equipment they were using in that 1974 Long Island studio, but they sure did know what they were doing. You’d never know this wasn’t recorded yesterday on something state-of-the-art.
As T.O.P. founder Emilio Castillo puts it, “we were firing on all ten cylinders,” and I couldn’t agree more. I can go on and on about amazing horn work and soloing that was captured here, but that is to be expected, and something that almost anyone would just consider a given. Instead, I want to tell you what really makes T.O.P. a complete and unparalleled force. Let’s start with Chester “CT” Thompson on keyboards. Some of the keyboard runs on this thing are just sick. No synthesizer-type effects or the swirling blasts that mask so much of today’s modern sound; Thompson puts out a standard Hammond B-3 sound that fills every last crack and crevice in the room. And, the rhythm section of bassist Francis Rocco Prestia and David Garibaldi is so “in the pocket” it will scare the hell out of you. Garibaldi sounds like he’s hardwired to the horn section, laying down vicious grooves that perfectly start, stop, and accent the brass impeccably. But, arguably, the glue that binds all of the other 10 musicians around him, is singer Lenny Williams. I challenge anyone out there to find a more soulful voice than Williams, especially on this recording. Don’t get me wrong, I love the studio versions of “This Time It’s Real,” “You’re Still A Young Man,” and of course the classic “What Is Hip?,” but something magical took place on this evening in 1974. Williams really turns on the soul power, and his vocal power and inflection might be the best I’ve ever heard in the genre.
Some of the key tracks for me on this collection were “Squib Cakes,” which finds the whole group laying down a killer groove, and extended solos by almost every member of the band, including Bruce Conte on guitar. “Soul Vaccination” is one that really displays Garibaldi’s intuitive drum style, making the incredible horns really jump and jive. “This Time It’s Real” has a great upbeat pop feel in the same spirit of Chicago and other pop contemporaries. And finally, the loose feel of “Knock Yourself Out,” complete with crowd participation and more amazing vocal acrobatics by Lenny Williams.
In 2013, Tower Of Power celebrated 45 years as a band. Over this time, more than 60 musicians have either toured or recorded with the band. Many might consider the lineup on this 1974 recording the very best the band has ever seen, and I would find that very hard to argue. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Oh yeah, did I mention that they do “What Is Hip?” and it thoroughly kicks ass? Yeah well, that’s just another thing that’s a given.
For more info, including tour dates, you can visit the official Tower Of Power website: http://www.towerofpower.com/