The Very Best of Tower of Power, by Tower of Power
Suggested by Stuart Taylor
I like the hyperbole in this album name.
It’s not just the Best of Tower of Power. It’s the Very Best of Tower of Power. The inclusion of the word “very” elevates it above a normal Best Of compilation status. Its use posits the existence of other gradients of compilation albums. The Absolute Best of Tower of Power. The Middling Releases of Tower of Power. The Worst of Tower of Power. The Utter Dogsh*t of Tower of Power.
There’s also a degree of hyperbole in the band name. I mean… Tower of Power? Really? Why not call your band Rampant Wang and be done with it? I guess you could tone it down a bit with other construction / energy combinations. Terraced House of Hydro Electricity? Semi-Detached of Solar Energy? Bungalow of Triple-A Batteries?
Having never hear the phrase Tower of Power outside of the Frank Zappa song Bobby Brown Goes Down, I did a little light googling before wading in. Tower of Power, it seems, have been slam-dunking the funk for a full fifty-two years. That’s pretty damn incredible. Their member timeline is a cascading list of revolving-door musicians, all very Trigger’s Broom, but there are two stalwart members from inception to present: two saxophonists.
Across sixteen curated tracks, Tower of Power bring old school funk and soul to the project that’s been largely lacking thus far. I say “old school,” but as it was a product of the actual time it’s very much just “school”. There are some phenomenally funky songs, as befits a very best of compilation, kicking off with the wonderful You Got to Funkifize, and including the sultry Down at the Nightclub, the bouncing What is Hip?, and the all too appropriate Soul Vaccination. My standout song is perhaps the most stridently funky on offer, the layered and twanging Only So Much Oil In The Ground.
Old school funk is good fun, sure, but personally I prefer my funk as a side dish to a different meal. My favourite bands are all certainly funk-adjacent, Fishbone especially, but the classic funk sound is exactly that: classic. It’s dated, a classic bubble sound that places it in a time and place for which I hold no real memory or nostalgia. And even the songs I like have flaws. Take Soul Vaccination, for example. It’s riddled with Seventies bongo excess, which only serves to date the song and, admittedly, make me laugh.
The other issue I have with this Very Best Of compilation is that while I do enjoy a little funk, my attitude to Soul is much less appreciative. I find it bland, earnest, and altogether boring. And there’s a lot of straight Soul on this album. According to the download figures I’m in the pure minority here, as while I tune out the slower jams such as You’re Still a Young Man and So Very Hard to Go, they outshine the rest of the album streams by a factor of ten.
I score this compilation as a cool 5/10. There’s a lot to like about Tower of Power, but having spent about an hour with it I’m happy to move on. If you’re a fan of the genre, it’ll surely gild your lily, but I suspect that real fans of the genre are more than aware of this act’s rich and storied history.