The renowned horn-driven funk outfit Tower of Power have been issuing albums and touring the world steadily since the early '70s, in addition to backing up countless other musicians. The group's leader since the beginning has always been tenor saxophonist Emilio Castillo, who was born in Detroit, but opted to pursue his musical dreams in Oakland, California. It was in Oakland that Castillo put together a group called the Motowns, which, as their name suggested, specialized in '60s-era soul. Castillo teamed up with a baritone sax player (and Motowns fan) Stephen "Doc" Kupka, and soon the Motowns had transformed into Tower of Power (one of the first tunes the duo penned together was "You're Still a Young Man," which would eventually go on to be one of Tower of Power's signature compositions).
Tower of Power played regularly in the Bay Area throughout the late '60s, as their lineup often swelled up to ten members, including such other mainstays as Greg Adams on trumpet and vocals and Rocco Prestia on bass. By 1970, the funk outfit had inked a recording contract with Bill Graham's San Francisco Records, resulting in the group's debut the same year, East Bay Grease, which failed to make an impression on the charts as Tower of Power were still trying to find their own sound.
But it all came together quickly for the group, as 1972's Bump City would touch off a string of classic hit releases, including 1973's self-titled release (which included another one of the group's most enduring tunes, "What Is Hip?"), 1974's Back to Oakland, plus 1975's Urban Renewal and In the Slot. While Tower of Power remained a must-see live act, the quality of their subsequent records became erratic, resulting in some admirable releases (Ain't Nothin' Stoppin' Us Now, Live and in Living Color) and several uninspired albums that are best skipped over (We Came to Play, Back on the Streets).
The band celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2008 and still retained five original founding members. Great American Soulbook, which featured guest spots from Joss Stone, Sam Moore, and Tom Jones, appeared in 2009, followed in 2010 by a CD/DVD set, simply called 40th Anniversary, that captured the band's anniversary concert. Cruising into the second decade of the 21st century, Tower of Power featured a lineup of singer Larry Braggs, keyboardist Roger Smith, tenor saxmen Tom Politzer and Emilio Castillo, Sal Cracchiolo on trumpet and trombone, Adolfo Acosta on trumpet, guitarist Jerry Cortez, drummer David Garibaldi, Stephen "Doc" Kupka on baritone sax, and bassist Rocco Prestia. ~ Greg Prato & Steve Leggett, Rovi