Dec 9, 2017

RhoDeo 1749 Grooves


Todays Artists  for the final time, are the renowned horn-driven funk outfit who have been issuing albums and touring the world steadily since the early '70s, in addition to backing up countless other musicians. The group's leader since the beginning has always been tenor saxophonist Emilio Castillo, who was born in Detroit but opted to pursue his musical dreams in Oakland, California. They played regularly in the Bay Area throughout the late '60s, as their lineup often swelled up to ten members, including such other mainstays as Greg Adams on trumpet and vocals, Lenny Pickett on sax, and Rocco Prestia on bass. ........ N'joy

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In the summer of 1968, tenor saxophonist/vocalist Emilio Castillo met Stephen "Doc" Kupka, who played baritone sax. Castillo had played in several bands, but Castillo's father told his son to "hire that guy" after a home audition. Within months the group, then known as The Motowns, began playing various gigs around Oakland and Berkeley, their soul sound relating to both minority and rebellious listeners. Castillo wanted to play Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, but he realized he would never get in with a name like The Motowns. The band agreed on Tower of Power and the name stuck.

By 1970, the now renamed Tower of Power—now including trumpet/arranger Greg Adams, first trumpet Mic Gillette, first saxophone Skip Mesquite, Francis "Rocco" Prestia on bass, Willie Fulton on guitar, and drummer David Garibaldi—signed a recording contract with Bill Graham's San Francisco Records and released their first album, East Bay Grease. Rufus Miller performed most of the lead vocals on this debut album. The group was first introduced to the San Francisco Bay area by radio station KSAN, which played a variety of artists such as Cold Blood, Eric Mercury and Marvin Gaye. The single "Sparkling in the Sand" received airplay on the Bay Area soul station KDIA.

Augmented by percussionist/conga/bongo player Brent Byars, Tower of Power was released from their San Francisco label contract and moved to Warner Bros. Records. With Rick Stevens now replacing Rufus Miller as lead singer, 1972's Bump City gave the band their first national exposure. This album included the hit single "You're Still a Young Man", which peaked at #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was Stevens' pinnacle vocal performance before leaving the band.

Tower of Power, released in the spring of 1973, was the third album for the band. It featured Lenny Williams on lead vocals and Lenny Pickett on lead tenor saxophone. Bruce Conte replaced guitarist Willie Fulton and keyboardist Chester Thompson also joined the band during the recording of the album. This was the group's most successful album. It peaked at #15 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart and was RIAA certified as a gold record (for sales in excess of 500,000 copies). The album also spawned their most-successful single "So Very Hard to Go". Although the single peaked at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100, it landed in the Top 10 on the surveys of many West Coast Top 40 radio stations, hitting #1 on many of them.

1974's Back to Oakland spawned another hit, "Don't Change Horses (in the Middle of a Stream)", that reached #26 on the Billboard Hot 100, and "Time Will Tell", which charted at #69. The funk-jazz classic instrumental "Squib Cakes" also came from this album. On Urban Renewal (1974), the band moved more toward funk than soul; however, they continued recording ballads as well. Williams left the band in late 1974, and was replaced as vocalist by Hubert Tubbs. While Tower of Power remained a must-see live act, as disco became the new trend in R&B the group's original funk-laden style fell out of favor, and disco-oriented albums like 1978's We Came to Play and 1979's Back on the Streets didn't please critics or fans, and the band would go nine years without releasing an album.

Despite it all, Tower of Power -- in particular their horn section -- remained a much in-demand backing group for some of pop/rock's biggest names, including Elton John, Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Huey Lewis, Little Feat, David Sanborn, Michelle Shocked, Paula Abdul, Aaron Neville, Aerosmith, Public Image Ltd., and many others. In 1988, Tower of Power returned to the studio for the album Power, and in 1991 they signed with Epic Records, where they released five albums by the end of the decade.

Into the new millennium, Tower of Power kept up their reputation as a strong live band, maintaining a steady touring schedule, and in 2009 they launched their own TOP Records label with The Great American Soulbook, in which they covered a dozen soul and R&B classics in the trademark Tower of Power style. In 2007, Tower of Power celebrated their fourth decade together with a special concert at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium, and a year later the show was issued in a special CD/DVD package, simply titled 40th Anniversary. In 2013, Tower of Power took a look back with the release of Hipper Than Hip: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow, which documented a live radio broadcast from 1974. The bandmembers also announced they would be touring in 2013 and 2014 with two other iconic acts from Northern California, Journey and the Steve Miller Band.

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The recordings on Soul Vaccination: Live were made during Tower of Power's 1998 tour. It wasn't a reunion tour, since ToP never really went away, but they nevertheless hauled such staples as "What Is Hip," along with selection from latter-day albums. If Soul Vaccination is to be trusted, it was an enjoyable but not particularly noteworthy jaunt through the states. Nevertheless, ToP's playing was supple and lively enough to make it an enjoyable listen for hardcore fans, even if it's not memorable enough to make its way onto the stereo that often.

Tower Of Power - Soul Vaccination Live    (flac  561mb)

01 Soul With A Capital 'S' 5:04
02 I Like Your Style 3:43
03 Soul Vaccination 4:56
04 Down To The Night Club (Bump City) 3:15
05 Willin' To Learn 6:07
06 Souled Out 4:58
07 Diggin' On James Brown 4:52
08 To Say The Least You're The Most 4:35
09 You Strike My Main Nerve 3:56
10 Can't You See (You Doin' Me Wrong) 3:26
11 You Got To Funkifize 4:46
12 So Very Hard To Go 3:50
13 What Is Hip 6:01
14 You're Still A Young Man 6:00
15 So I Got To Groove 6:08
16 Way Down Low To The Ground 4:34

Tower Of Power - Soul Vaccination Live  (ogg  198mb)

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"The Lost Years" might be a fitting subtitle to this 14-track compilation of unissued sides by the legendary Bay Area band. Although nearly a decade passed between the release of Back on the Streets (1979) and Direct (1988), Tower of Power continued to be a fixture on the road. However, due to the fickle nature of the industry at the time, the band could not get a record deal. Dinosaur Tracks gathers the best from the various fits and starts that were documented -- mostly in the early '80s -- and that on the whole have remained unreleased. Although continuing true to its funk-based roots, artistically and musically the vapid nature of post-disco soul music left the band a long way from the fresh and dynamic sound first heard on its debut, East Bay Grease. Tower of Power was no different from the multitudes of other musical units that were stylistically swayed in order to maintain a seemingly relevant sound. In fact, at times the high-gloss productions simply appear to be showcases for synthesizers and horns. "Why Do You Do My Heart Like That," "I Think You'll Like It," and "Can't You Feel It" recall Prince protégés the Time during their reign with Morris Day -- sans the clever lyrics and presumably matching stage outfits. Indeed, there are moments of magic that draw upon the band's formidable skills as a horn-driven rather than horn-riddled unit. "Move You Lose" is a mid-tempo number that features hot solos from Marc Russo (tenor/alto sax), as well as a nice vocal arrangement that leans heavily toward the Philly style associated with the productions of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. "I Want to Love You More (Than Words Will Ever Say)" is another standout track, as Tower of Power's old-school funk is once again refined into smooth R&B grooves. Emilio Castillo (second tenor sax/background vocals) compiled and produced this collection. His candid liner notes are included in the accompanying 20-page booklet and are an invaluable guide into the state of the Tower during this period.

 Tower Of Power - Dinosaur Tracks    (flac 427mb)

01 Credit 4:06
02 You're Something Special 4:57
03 Why Do You Do My Heart Like That 3:37
04 Simple As That 4:37
05 Your Love Is Like A Little Rain 5:02
06 Move Your Lose 4:23
07 I Think You'll Like It 4:58
08 Never Let Go Of Love 3:51
09 Got To Have Your Lovin' 3:33
10 Never To Love You More (Than Words Will Ever Say) 5:14
11 Cant' You Feel It? 4:50
12 You Took The 'L' Out Of Love 4:32
13 You Taught Me To Love 4:16
14 That's Why I Sing 4:58

Tower Of Power - Dinosaur Tracks  (ogg  150mb )

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 Emilio and Co. opted for a long-overdue trip back to the well that started it all and "Oakland Zone."  doesn't disappoint. It's really tasty music with lots of solid grooves, dependable horn licks,and Emilio's familiar Doc's lower-register horn punctuations. Plenty of upbeat stuff and TOP's patented East Bay funk, it was great to hear David Garibaldi and Francis Prestia back in the fold. Roger Smith cooks on organ, and with some arrangements by Chester Thompson and Lenny Picket thrown in, there's a lot of throwbacks to the funk machine TOP used to be in the 1970's. Larry Braggs shines as the lead man on vocals,  he's got a couple of Lenny Williams-influenced things going on too. Plenty of TOP records in the past have been marred by a groove-halting, syrupy, string-laden ballads, not here. This crisp, well-produced/mixed throwback album has some of the tastiest grooves heard from this outfit in decades. However, as one other reviewer noted, the actual songwriting lagged well behind the technical precision of the horns and artistry of the rhythm section. The album was a treat to listen to because it delivers the hip grooves and sassy horn licks one expects from ToP.

Tower Of Power - The Oakland Zone   (flac 420mb)

01 Eastside... 0:52
02 Give Me Your Love 4:41
03 Get What You Want 5:03
04 Could've Done It Better 5:17
05 This Type Of Funk 5:20
06 Pocketful Of Soul 3:26
07 Remember Love 4:51
08 Oakland Zone 4:49
09 Life Is What You Make It 4:50
10 Happy 'Bout That 4:53
11 Stranger In My Own House 5:20
12 Back In The Day 4:34
13 Page One 5:43
14 ...Eastside 1:32

. Tower Of Power - The Oakland Zone  (ogg  142mb)

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Tower of Power have openly admitted resistance toward covering any hit R&B classics, preferring to play their original brand of funky soul and dance music with a horn-fired edge over their four decades on the scene. But they have finally acquiesced, reluctantly but with growing confidence during this session, in producing a tribute to the many solid singers who appeared in the charts during the '60s and '70s with these renditions of tunes familiar to Top 40 AM radio listeners. Special guest singers range from Sam Moore of Sam & Dave fame to young pop songstress Joss Stone, the veteran British lounge crooner Tom Jones, and rocker Huey Lewis, not to mention TOP frontman Larry Braggs. Philly and Motown music, love songs, retro-soul, and a little disco are included in this collection that is, for the most part, faithfully reproduced. A Sam & Dave hit penned by Isaac Hayes, "I Thank You" is soulfully rendered by Jones, while Moore digs in on Otis Redding's "Mr. Pitiful," both the most authentic highlights of the album. Lewis is quite convincing in his blue-eyed soul role during Wilson Pickett's shuffle swing "634-5789," offering the premise that he could pull off a whole album of this stuff. Braggs cops Stevie Wonder's style during "You Met Your Match," while he and an overamped Stone combine on the more heavily funky and contemporized version of Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston's "It Takes Two." Aretha Franklin's "Since You've Been Gone," sporting the refrain "Why'd you have to do it" with a backup chorus, is as true to the original as any other version. A James Brown medley unfortunately does not come close to the Godfather of Soul, and there are some sappy renditions of such numbers as Billy Paul's "Me & Mrs. Jones," Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band's "Loveland," and the Gaye/Tammi Terrell hit "Your Precious Love" with Braggs and Stone. "Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel," originally done by Tavares, is simply soupy and far too slick, and the Bill Withers song "Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?" is a revisited disco throwaway.

Tower Of Power - Great American Soulbook   (flac 343mb)

01 You Met Your Match 4:38
02 I Thank You 3:31
03 Loveland 3:25
04 It Takes Two 4:36
05 Me & Mrs. Jones 5:37
06 Star Time (Tribute To James Brown): It's A New Day/Mother Popcorn/There It Is/I Got The Feelin' 6:43
07 Mr. Pitiful 2:49
08 Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel 4:46
09 Since You've Been Gone (Baby, Baby, Sweet Baby) 4:12
10 (Heaven Music Have Sent) Your Precious Love 3:41
11 634-5789 4:01
12 Who Is He (And What Is He To You)? 5:22

.Tower Of Power - Great American Soulbook  (ogg  154mb)

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