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Step Up

2020 was an historic year for more reasons than the pandemic.  It also marked a milestone for Oakland’s legendary soul-funk band, Tower Of Power, who celebrated 50 years of recorded music for the soul!   Since the release of  East Bay Grease in 1970, they've seen it all by playing with everyone from Aerosmith to Santana.  Led by original members, Emilio Castillo (tenor sax, vocals), Stephen ‘Doc” Kupka (baritone sax), drummer Dave Garibaldi and bassist Rocco Prestia who recently passed away after this album was released a year ago - they have put out a gem of a recording. Castillo said, “We knew when we went into the studio, we were going to make the best record we could make - the best album of our career.  And we did.  We took it to another level".  But it's not much different from what they’ve done since the beginning- which is creating straight ahead amazing, funky soul and uplifting R&B feel-good tunes!  Take for example, the 53 second intro, 'East Bay! All The Way!' with its invigorating grooves courtesy of Garibaldi’s “Oakland Style” of drumming, guitarist Jerry Cortez’s infectious rhythms and Rocco’s influential finger style of bass playing, all combined with the powerhouse of the horn section - just incredible!  Here's an introduction leaving you wanting more right away!  ’Step Up’ kicks into gear next with vocalist Ray Greene and keyboardist/Hammond B-3 organ player Roger Smith (1998- present) laying down the beat with the guys and complimented by background vocals from the ladies - Leah Meux, Tiwana Porter and Melanie Jackson  This  concoction of James Brown beat and soulful licks  showcases that “T.O.P. sound”. Since they are known for their amazing live performances,  co-producer Joe Vannelli (yes, Gino’s brother) had to somehow capture that “live” sound and energy they are known for.  So the mic placement, effects and processing were crucial to the recording of the ensemble.  Bandleader Castillo laid down his down and dirty soulful vocal on ‘Look Into My Eyes’ - a ditty of a tune - 3:44 of groovalicious beats that goes right into Smith (keys) singing on ‘You Da One’ - a tune that Prince would be proud to play on.  Originally called ‘The Motowns’ - they bring all those influences of Smokey, Marvin, James, and Otis and make them their own.  I think that’s what makes T.O.P so good.​   We could listen to them for another 50. Keep dancing!

Gary James
The Night Show

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