Liner Notes – Tower of Power

Self-proclaimed as a Soul Band, Tower of Power (TOP) has been playing funky soul music since 1968. They still have five original members in the group of ten talented musicians and singers. It really impresses me that they do their own background singing; almost all the band members sing background. No cutesy background singers standing off to the side for Tower of Power; they are clearly committed to being a completely and totally self-contained band, not unlike the original EWF, War, Sly & The Family Stone, AWB and Chicago. That’s kind of how bands did their thang back in that era. They also do a good job of busting up that myth that music has color. This predominantly White band plays Soul and Funk with the best of ‘em. They are equally loved by Black and White fans, just as it should be. The band was founded by Emilio Castillo, sax player who was born in Detroit. His family moved to Fremont, California in the San Francisco Bay area when he was eleven and when he formed one of his predecessor bands, he called them the Motowns. Luckily, that didn’t stick. When baritone saxophonist, Stephen “Doc” Kupka, teamed up with Emilio in ’68, they formed the Tower of Power. The band has always claimed Oakland as its hometown. What great horns you have, Soul Band. They may indeed have the funkiest horn section ever. I hate comparing… especially when they’re in such great company as the incredible bands I mentioned earlier. Suffice it to say, they are among the greatest bands with the funkiest horn sections of all time.

1972’s, Bump City album brought forth, “You’re Still A Young Man,” written by Emilio and Doc and with lead vocals being sung by Rick Stevens. According to his own bio, in 1976, Rick went to prison on drug-related manslaughter and first degree murder charges and as recent as 2009 was still incarcerated and denied parole. There’s your answer to that “what ever happened to…” question. Let’s check out a video of this hit song from a recent live performance. This performance features TOP’s current lead singer, Larry Braggs… this is a bad boy! But how do you feature the horn section on a ballad? They do! That’s just how bad they are. This video shows how bad they still are today. Go ‘head on, TOP.

(posted by krzycho73)

And from 1972 to 1974 when vocalist, Lenny Williams, was in the group… Whewwww! They tore it up! Their biggest hits that they still perform to this day were recorded during Lenny’s tenure. He appeared on the three albums, Tower of Power, Back To Oakland and Urban Renewal. Lenny was front and center on lead vocals for the song that they are most identified with. It’s their signature song from 1973 and still gets the crowd to their feet; “What Is Hip.” We found this video of a live performance with Lenny Williams fronting Tower of Power. Enjoy!

(posted by bobfunk11)

Tower of Power and Lenny Williams were a match made in Heaven. They performed live on Soul Train… yes, Soul Train. I know they rarely let anyone perform live on that show but I guess they figured, how could they deny their audience the opportunity to see this power group do what they do? Once again, Lenny and those wonderful Horns made their magic. If you can see them past all the big bell bottoms, I know you’ll dig, “So Very Hard To Go,” you dig? Solid on that!

(posted by ShelfSide69)

Now you know I couldn’t dare talk about Lenny Williams without sharing a performance of him doing his most emotional and beloved song. After he left Tower of Power, he set the R&B world on fire with this song. It’s long but it goes by quickly because of its impact on the goose bumps. Sometimes lovingly called, “the begging-est song in the history of music”… even Keith Sweat can’t beg like this! Here’s almost everybody’s favorite Lenny Williams song,“’Cause I Love You.”

(posted by lefamu)

Hey, please take a moment to send us a comment about your favorite Tower of Power song or encounter. We’d love to hear from you. I saw TOP at the 2010 Detroit International Jazz Festival and Emilio Castillo puts his saxophone down to sing lead vocals on this last song and he has an absolute blast doing it… and so does the audience. I think it explains why he started this phenomenal band and why they are still going strong, holding fast to their mission to bring the world the Funk and the Soul; both are epitomized by Soul Brother # 1, James Brown. Hmmm, I wonder what number I am on the Soul Brother chart? Anyway, please enjoy, “Diggin’ On James Brown,” by the great, Tower of Power. Peace.

Yours musically,
Reuben Yabuku

(posted by whatiship73)