Tower Of Power "40 Anniversary"
" 40 Anniversary CD DVD"
TOP Records

Rating 8
Still Hip with Tons of Soul with a Capital "S"

It took a while for Tower of Power to release this "40th anniversary" two disc set (dVd & cd.) recorded nearly three years ago at the Fillmore auditorium on October 18th, 2008, the almost three year wait was worth it. TOP pulled out the stops for this special evening utilizing their current band lineup plus they brought back alumni members: chester Thompson, Mic Gillette, Greg adams, richard elliot, plus non-alum sam Moore is fabulously featured performing stunning versions of the hayes-Porter "I Thank You," and the Otis redding-steve cropper "Mr. Pitiful." But these two Moore covers are only available on the dVd, and did not make it to the cd. The dVd three part bonus segments starts out with current original members emilio castillo, doc Kupka, rocco Prestia, and david Garibaldi revisiting their Bay area haunts telling stories about how they met Bill Graham, got signed by his label, and eventually went on to fame. One of the castillo comments about saxophonist Lenny Pickett struck me odd, "Lenny Pickett was King curtis, Maceo Parker, and Jr. Walker all in one package -times ten," come on, Pickett's great but lets be serious. By the way, Pickett only partially performs on bonus segments, not on the main portions, nor on the cd. Other bonus segments only include snippets of the band playing, and are mainly interviews of the guys hanging out telling somewhat interesting stories of the bands legacy, very informal and genuine. although brief, it was cool to see Bruce conte's recent and memorable guitar solo on "What Is hip?" unfortunately conte's also absent during the dVd's full concert performance.

The main performance dVd is done like a documentary, starts with a previously recorded introduction by Bill Graham that I thought was a very classy touch, then wham the band slams into the appropriately titled "We came To Play," then with precision craftsman- ship shifts to "soul With a capital 's,'" , with additional comps from "Oakland stroke," whew! Other highlights: by track five there's now a huge amount of guest artists on-stage, the massive horn section's on fire especially with the additions of Mic Gillette and Greg adams. Vocalist ellis hall joins the fray on a thumping "You Got to Funkifize," further fueled by chester Thompson's B3 and keyboards, who is also interviewed with Bruce conte. richard elliot leads the band on his instrumental "Boys From the Bay" and soars, Greg adams trumpet solo is also captivating and trades hot licks with elliot, to take this ultra funky track out, unfortunately this track does not make it's way to cd. Band member kudos for baritone player doc Kupka calling him the bottom sound of the band, and the perfect counterpoint, then ellis hall leads the band with a very up-tempo version of "This Time Is real." a real soul man is called for when sam Moore makes one of his two appearances starting with "I Thank You." sam's walking a little slow these days, but vocally he sounds strong and he's very inspired here. Moore's coaxed on for another and delivers a passionate "Mr. Pitiful." "Only so Much Oil In The Ground" has ellis hall back in front with at least six pieces of horns, where richard elliot is given space to blast off, calls for cT are answered when chester Thompson explodes with his B3 solo. current band members extol the qualities of vocalist Larry Braggs who takes us on a simmering version of "a Little Knowledge (Is a dangerous Thing." Braggs asks the crowd "What Is hip?" and rolls, Greg adams trumpet is dead-on as he buzzes and dances around the horn section, guitar solos by Mark harper, Jeff Tamelier, and carmen Grillo are also fiery. But from a entertainment vantage the edited interviews during this performance broke the mood, and weren't welcomed, fortunately on the cd, these interviews were edited out. I loved the group shot of all the guests with the current lineup near the end of the show, there was no way for me to count the amount of players on-stage, but it was impressive. also impressive was the way that no one bumped into each others playing, and flowed, true pros, all of them. sadly, it's almost over with "You're still a Young Man" Braggs sounds like he's been singing this song like he's been in the band for all of their forty years, it's all very, very soulful. The finale was kind of anti- climactic for me "Knock Yourself Out" is performed well, but not one of TOP's most remembered tunes, so this felt odd, but the band fires, chester Thompson in particular, but there's more interrup- tions with interviews, which truly kill the moment on the dVd. These interviews could have and should have ran during the closing credits. Of note, conspicu- ously missing was, and what could have been the closing number, "squib cakes," (a term Mic Gillette used to describe the backsides of lovely ladies) was a long time favorite of late-night FM radio, exciting, and a tune they still regularly perform, it's also a great workout for all the members of the band, don't why it wasn't performed and/or not added to this otherwise fine set.

In summary, this package is a delight that will further secure Tower of Power's already potent legacy. I make it a point to see them live at least once a year; they always pack a venue, and will have you leaving the gig with big smile. Now that's it's only about seven years from their (hard to believe) fiftieth anniversary, here's to looking forward to their next anniversary celebration, as well as lots of other good music till 2018, they've still got it. Need further evidence? Get a copy of this two disc set, you won't be disappointed. Last but not least, and once again classy is the very well laid out liners, complete with song by song musician credits, soloists, et all, and for the page dedicated to original member steven "skip" Mesquite, who performs here, but has since passed.

Bob Putignano is a contributing editor to BluesWax, The Westchester Guardian, and Yonkers Tribune. Check out his website at

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