Tower of Power: Step Up
ART After 52 years of relentless touring and recording, Tower of Power needs no introduction. The Oakland groove machine is still in top form, kicking things off with “East Bay! All the Way!”—a percussion-heavy welcome that allows the horn section to loosen up a bit while still boasting a brief tenor sax solo from Tom Politzer. That euphoric vibe is evident on every tune, giving Step Up the feel of a well-constructed live performance. Trombone player Ray Greene opens the title song with a yelp of joy, before delivering a stirring lead vocal that advises listeners to stay strong—“No matter what!” The jubilant backing vocals of Leah Meux and Tiwana Porter support the chattering rhythm guitar work of Jerry Cortez, pushing the tune into overdrive. Greene also sings lead on “Addicted to You,” a swinging R&B outing, with echoes of the sweeping orchestral sounds of a Philly Soul hit from the early ‘70s. Throughout, Greene, Porter and Meux swap increasingly cheerful vocal ornamentations, as Roger Smith’s whistling keyboard solo and the ensemble’s horn stabs build up to a satisfying climax. Other standouts include: “Sleeping With You Baby,” a mid-tempo ballad with Adolfo Acosta adding steamy trumpet fills to the lead vocals of Marcus Scott, “Let’s Celebrate Our Love,” with Smith’s piano and the band’s backing vocals complimenting Scott’s soulful growl, and “Any Excuse Will Do,” an ironic commentary of the current political situation, with a shouting, funky gospel feel that recalls Sly and the Family Stone.