5 Essential Tower of Power Tracks

Masters of soul, funk, and R&B, Oakland based Tower of Power pioneered a revolutionary new sound in the 70s, endearingly referred to as East Bay Grease. Their songbook is the sound of a generation for many, with signature songs that continue to stand the test of time. No joined by sensational lead singer Marcus Scott, they sound hotter than they have in years, and have recently released a new album full of fresh new material. It’s a must have for true Tower of Power fans. For those new to their music, here are a few of their all-time best tracks to get you started!

 

What is Hip?
A key song from the bands seminal eponymous 1973 release, “What is Hip?” brought the funk like never before. The debut of lead singer Lenny Williams coupled with the tight horn and rhythm sections gave the band their first gold record, and kicked off a string of classic albums. The video clip below is from the bands recent NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert. It features their current lead vocalist Marcus Scott.

So Very Hard to Go
The band’s top performing single “So Very Hard to Go” reached No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the Summer of 1973. Written by two of the band’s founding members Emilio Castillo and Stephen Kupka, So Very Hard to Go is a classic soul ballad like only Tower of Power can provide. Emilio Castillo spoke of the song, "We wrote it in one sitting and as soon as we were done writing it I knew it was going to be a hit. I actually called my manager and I said, 'We wrote a hit.' He said, 'Yeah, sure.' I go, 'No, I'm serious. We wrote a hit.' I played it for him over the phone and he heard a verse and the chorus and he goes, 'Damn, I think you're right.'

Don’t Change Horses (in the Middle of a Stream)
“Don’t Change Horses (in the Middle of a Stream)” was a powerhouse cut from the Back to Oakland album, and their second highest charting single to date. The second record with singer Lenny Williams, Back to Oakland found the band reaffirming their status and settling in to their now distinctive style of Ease Bay Grease. Although it wasn’t quite as commercially successful as its predecessor, it is considered by many to be a more solid and cohesive album.

You’re Still a Young Man
Recorded in Memphis, “You’re Still a Young Man” was the band’s first hit song, and the first track written by the songwriting team of Emilio Castillo and Stephen “Doc” Kupka. Based on a true story, Castillo speaks of the song’s origin, “I had a girlfriend that was six years older than me. I was 18, she was 24 and that's actually what happened. She had kind of cut me loose because of the age difference thing and the whole plea in the story is the young guy's saying, 'I'm not too young, I'm not wasting my time and I do love you like a man can truly love a woman.'

You Ought to be Havin’ Fun
Released after vocalist Lenny Williams’ departure from the band, “You Ought to be Having fun” features Edward McGee giving an energetic vocal performance. A breezy tune with a solid groove, this would be the start of Tower of Power’s foray into disco during the latter half of the 70s. Note some impressive dance moves by a young Lenny Pickett in the video below…

 

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