Change Background:
The Ultimate Destination for Soul Music
Home Classic Soul Archives Artist A-Z Features SoulMusic Records Voice Your Choice Soul Talkin' Reviews Hall of Fame The Soul Store
Classic Interviews & Features Classic CD Spotlights Classic Tracks From The Vaults Classic Videos From The Vaults Classic Soul Video Playlists TV One UNSUNG Soul Music Tributes Motown Spotlight

CONTINUING our series covering the best of the Rock-Soul acts, we feature this time Tower of Power, one of the most creative of the current batch. If anything, Tower of Power are Soul-Rock because they are inclined towards our music far more than Rock.

Tower of Power is an eleven-piece band, totally self-contained. The basis of the group is Emilio Castillo, vocals and tenor sax; Stephen Kupka, vocals, oboe, baritone sax; David Baribaldi, drums; Rocco Prestia, bass; Mic Gillette, vocals, trumpet, trombone etc.; and Greg Adams, vocals, trumpet. The group is made up of Lenny Williams, lead vocals; Chester Thompson, organ and vocals; Brent Byars, drums and congas; Lenny Pickett, tenor sax, flute, clarinet and vocals; and Bruce Conte, guitar and vocals.

As a group, they have been in existence for some five years, during which time there has only been one period of personnel change and that was a year ago when Rick Stevens, Skip Mesquite and Willie James were replaced by Messrs. Williams, Thompson and Pickett.

The group is based in Oakland, San Francisco, California though they now travel so extensively that they have no set base. After playing local clubs in the Bay Area of Frisco, they were signed to Bill Graham's San Francisco label some four years ago and immediately scored with their very first record released — "Sparkling In The Sand", penned by group members Castillo, Kupka and a certain L. Lopez. However, their stay with the company wasn't a happy one — despite the hit single and album that followed.

"It was the first time we had ever become involved in the recording industry", Emilio recalls wistfully, "and we really didn't know what it was all about. We were really raw. We stayed out the year of our contract with the company but then had to spend a further year and a half in a legal hassle to get clear. Finally, we got away and signed with Warner Brothers — and it's been plain sailing for us ever since as far as recording has been concerned. That company is outasite, man!"

The group's initial hit for Warners was "You're Still A Young Man", from their entertaining album, "Bump City". The song, written by Emilio and Stephen Kupka, is a beautiful soul ballad.

"That song sounded so good before we even recorded it", Emilio continued, "and once we had cut the album and decided that we wanted to put out a vocal single, that was the obvious choice".

It was obvious enough to sell more than half a million copies in the States.

However, it has since been surpassed by a track even more soul inclined — the highly beautiful "So Very Hard To Go", which would have repeated its American success over here if the BBC had given it minimal support. "So Very Hard" comes from the group's second album for Warners, simply titled "Tower of Power" and it's from this album that their current American single comes, "This Time It's Real".

However, in this country it has been decided to try again with "You're Still A Young Man" in preference to "This Time It's Real".

"Hey, that's a good idea if the record didn't make it first time round", enthused Emilio. "You know, that was the first song I ever wrote — , and it's still just about my favourite. Ron Capone — who produced our first album — thought it was too mushy, you know, and he didn't even want it on the album".

In certain parts of the UK, the 'B' side — "Skating On Thin Ice" — is creating some interest, too.

But maybe they are all barking up the wrong proverbial tree because we are about to be treated to a new LP.

"Yeh, and there's a single being rushed out any minute, too. And it's real funky, real funky", Emilio stressed. "It's called "What Is Hip"."

The group — who took their imaginative name out of a random list — now produce themselves and their aim is to cross as many musical 'lines' as possible. Their earlier experience stood them in good stead because they played with such diversified artists as Aretha Franklin and Creedence Clearwater. The brass section of the group has been used on other act's recording sessions — notably with Santana.

Whilst they may not be as funky as War or Mandrill, the Tower have a great deal to offer musically and when the time is right, they have every chance of breaking through over here. A visit to these shores would certainly bring that day closer — "maybe next year" is all Emilio would say on that subject. Meanwhile, they are heavily involved in touring across the States and are about to appear on a TV special with Al Green and the Pointer Sisters.

Sound Track






Members Comments

Tower of Power February 1975 Interview
Read More ...
Tower of Power Live Video Playlist
Read More ...