Tower of Power: Soul Side of Town
50 years after forming, the members Tower of Power have released their 25th album, and it’s not an insult to say that Soul Side of Town is wholly consistent with pretty much everything that the band’s ever done. ToP found the formula that works for them right at the outset and they’ve largely stuck with it—no need to pretend to be something they’re not. A good part of the reason for that lack of deviation can be attributed to the stability in the group’s front line. Co-founding saxophonists Emilio Castillo and Stephen “Doc” Kupka and rhythm section extraordinaires Francis “Rocco” Prestia (bass) and David Garibaldi (drums) are right where they’ve always been, and although numerous other musicians and vocalists have come and gone, the core four’s vision has stuck around for good. This album, which they began working on in 2012, includes two different lead vocalists, Ray Greene (who has since joined Santana) and newcomer Marcus Scott. Both are excellent and steeped in soul tradition, but Tower of Power has never relied on their singers to define the band, and that rule still applies. Among the highlights is the title track, a danceable feast of hot guitar licks, punchy sax, wailing lead vocal, slick backup singers and that ever-funky bottom. Bookending it are two tributes to the band’s career-long home base, the East Bay, all steamy and sweaty and Latin-fied. It’s all instantly identifiable—a few seconds in, anywhere, and you know who you’re listening to.