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 <www.bumpcity.com>. Long live Funk!
(c) 2000 Morebass Media