(5 / 5)
Legendary US soul groove merchants Tower Of Power don’t really need introduction…
Their long and storied history – formed in 1968 – is well documented and their latest release, the album “Step Up”, is a powerful and much-needed slab of tight, feel-good horn powered goodness.
Dropping just in time as an antidote to these pandemic-induced locked down days. These 14 tracks were recorded as part of 2018’s 50th anniversary “Soul Side Of Town” sessions (they cut 28 original songs for two albums).
From the opener, “East Bay! All The Way”, the legendary Oakland, California band’s 26th album really pops with a confidently joyful and focused sense of collaborative purpose.
The sparkling performances are presented through wonderfully luscious and classy yet contemporary production. This famed five-piece horn section firing on all cylinders.
Maybe one should not expect anything less than these on-point performances from a band that keeps up an incredible 200+ gigs a year global touring schedule. When you think of the size of this outfit, 10 members and their crew, that’s no mean feat these days with those associated costs and logistics.
Their faultless but exciting “as live” sound here, oozes the decades of experience that have kept them in the game for more than half a century.
But not as a nostalgia act churning out the old hits such as “What Is Hip”, “You’re Still A Young Man” and “So Very Hard To Go” and “Soul Vaccination”, and not much else.
Not at all. They maintain a creative vitality and their modern-day song writing is in fine, fine form and makes them uber-credible and in-demand.
On this outing, boasting four original members, tenor sax man and “the boss” Emilio Castillo, baritone sax and co-founder with EC, Stephen “the funky doctor” Kupka, drumming legend David Garibaldi and his farewell with the band before leaving their ranks, bass star Francis “Rocco” Prestia.
Oscillating between the swagger of up-tempo party-time tracks like the title cut, “Step Up”, “The Story Of You And I”, and “You Da One”, to the smoother, slower numbers such as “Let’s Celebrate Our Love” and the motivational “If You Wanna Be A Winner”, both of which seem to come from a different, more innocent time (but are no less welcome because of it). Even room for a spot of political commentary with “Any Excuse Will Do”.
The musicality of the band, which has the precision of a funky top of the range Rolex watch, is the mechanism that maintains the high “irresistibility” levels across the entire album.
But, big props to the three vocalists on these fresh as a daisy tracks, starting with the band’s main lead singer Marcus Scott, band founder, leader and tenor sax man Emilio Castillo and TOP#s former lead singer Ray Greene (now in Santana).
This trio turn in outstanding performances, but with contrasting styles to give the set another dimension. A band who really are STILL at the very top of their game all these years on, and true soul survivors. They step up, indeed.
By Giles Robson
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’