Tower of Power - Live at the Astoria 2 - London 13 Feb 2000


Years ago, there was an article in Downbeat Magazine on Tower of Power. The

story went that the brass section was so tight that if you put them up in

separate hotels in separate cities, and checked in on them sleeping, they'd

still be BREATHING TOGETHER.  After 32 years, loads of personnel changes, a

handful of record companies and a 3-4 albums per decade, the 10 piece Tower

of Power remain masters of Oakland-style funky, soulful rhythm & blues.

When you go to a Tower of Power show, the singer isn't the 'star of the

show'.  The band is the star, and the gig is a party.


The band took the stage at London's Astoria 2 at 9:15pm, and from the

opening notes of "Souled Out" (1995) to the third encore 105 minutes later -

"This Time It's Real" (1973), Tower of Power showed that the old boys remain

the tightest R&B/Funk/Soul outfit of the last 4 decades. A Tower of Power

show is a rollercoaster ride of classic R&B melodies and harmonies,

syncopated rhythm, thundering bass, punching brass, bluesy guitar and jazzy



Original members Emilio Castillo (tenor/vocals) and Doc Kupka (baritone) may

have a bit less hair and a bit more paunch than they did when they wrote

"What Is Hip" and "Soul Vaccination", but they still do the business.  The

brass section is rounded off by 3 young monster players - especially tenor

sax/flute player Norbert Stachel, who, in the tradition of TOP first

saxophonists before him is a player's player, delivering equal amounts of

style, technique, personality and soul.


The return of the prodigal son, original drummer David Garibaldi was the

main attraction for every drummer in London last night.  Garibaldi

practically invented this style of drumming. Drummers from jazz bands and

West End musicals with Sunday night off were taking turns in the mezzanine

above the stage to watch the master at work.  The consensus from the

drummers gallery was that a drummer driving a 10 piece funky freight train

through London with such syncopated precision ought to be sweating more than

the cool, solid Mr Garibaldi was doing. Any mortal drummer would have been

soaked to the bone.  He made it look easy, almost effortless.  Original TOP

bassist Francis Rocco Prestia rounded out the founding foursome, making this

the first London gig for the original rhythm section for over 25 years.


Current lead vocalist Brent Carter stood his ground and took the audience

through old favorites like "Soul Vaccination" and "You Strike My Main Nerve"

as if they were his own, right up to more recent songs like "Souled Out" and

"Soul With A Capital 'S'".  Castillo stepped out front a couple of times

during the show to do the TOP classic "You've Got To Funkifize" and the

recent tribute to the band's inspiration "Diggin' On James Brown".  Castillo

is noticeably more comfortable stepping out front than in years past.  He's

grown into his R&B vocal cords and he looks like he's having a blast.  "What

Is Hip" hasn't lost any of it's drive and hipness. New guitarist Jeff

Tamelier was faithful to the classic TOP guitar licks while bringing his own

energy to a couple of very hot solos.


All in all, excellent show, great tunes, tasty solos and amazing

arrangements. The downside? The show was less than 2 hours - I could have

written out a two hour set list of songs they didn't do that I want to hear

live, like "So Very Hard To Go" and "You're Still A Young Man". The problem

is they only do one night in London every 2 years.  Come back sooner!


Tower of Power was formed by Emilio Castillo and friends in Oakland

California in 1968 and was very much part of the Fillmore West scene that

launched Santana, The Grateful Dead, Sly & The Family Stone and other

'Summer of Love' Bay Area bands.  Some of the players that have paid their

dues with TOP have showed up in studios and on tour with the likes of

Santana, Yellowjackets, Jeff Lorber Fusion, Kittyhawk, and for a few years

Huey Lewis & The News 'borrowed' the TOP brass section who have also

appeared on scores of recordings for other artists.  Even if you don't know

them by name, you've heard them play.


Recommended albums?  If I had to choose the first four I would rescue first,

they would be:

Soul Vaccination - Tower Of Power - Live -1999 (Epic FFM494912 2)

Tower Of Power - Tower Of Power - 1973 (Warner Bros 2681-2)

Bump City - Tower of Power - 1972 (Warner Archives 7599 26348 2)

Monster On A Leash - Tower Of Power - 1991 (Epic EPC 468588 2)


Visit the Tower Of Power website at <>.  Long live Funk!


Barry Golin

(c) 2000 Morebass Media