I should have written this a long time ago. This album (CD) changed the way I looked at music, at groups, at the meaning of life . . . well, maybe not that drastically. But this album started a huge love affair between me and the Tower of Power. I'd never heard anything even approaching their level of musicianship, professionalism or tightness as a horn-based group. I'd heard a ton of groups up to this point in time: Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago and that group that made VEHICLE being the most prominent. Even Buddy Miles on his BUDDY MILES LIVE album (OOP) had a tremendous horn section But none of them highlighted the horn sections consistently. None of them could come close to this group of musical prodigies.
Every cut was a joy to listen to. Even the split-up version of OAKLAND STROKE was just a fun jam. My impressions of the group: Aside from Jimmy Smith, I hadn't heard a Hammond B3 sound so funky till I heard Chester Thompson. Aside from Jr. Walker, I hadn't experienced anyone who had such masterful control of their altissimo range till I heard Lenny Pickett. The supporting horns (Kupka, Castillo, Adams and Gillette) had their own vibe and despite a lack of solo time, managed to make a significant impact on every song. And for bass work, nobody was touching Rocco Prestia. In his true prime, Rocco's style was totally individual. David Garibaldi was what I considered a phenomenal drummer. All his rhythms were crisp and unique . . . playing off the sycopation of the bass, organ and guitar. He had a serious ear for rhythms. Bruce Conte was one of the most underrated of the crew, but his guitar work was ahead of its time. There were traces of jazz and some island influences that I hear very plainly.
Lenny Williams' vocals really set a definitive tone for this group. They were distinctive, fluid and heartfelt. His voice made the puzzle complete; put the icing on the cake; lit the cigarette after some mind-blowing sex.
My favorite selections: Without a doubt, JUST WHEN WE START MAKIN' IT ranks as one of my all-time favorite tunes. It exemplifies what the group is all about. It's jazzy, it's laid back, but it drives relentlessly, fills you with emotional fire and thrills your music sense to its fullest. Lenny's vocals are soaring and urging, Pickett's sax solos are powerful and sensual, the staccato background horns are poignant and dynamic, the organ break not only resets tempo, but turns into a thing of genius. CT creating a series of rippling, bubbling organ lines against the crescendo of the entire horn contingent and the incomparable Garibaldi drums - cymbals crashing, bass tom rolling, the incredible beat he lays down was too innovative. I was overwhelmed the first time I heard this. I must have worn out the vinyl from overplaying it. Actually, I have owned this album/CD around 12 times since 1973, from having to repurchase it after having it stolen or borrowed out indefinitely.
Other favorites: TIME WILL TELL, CAN'T YOU SEE, CITY LIGHTS. And no instrumental rocked my soul for a long time like SQUIB CAKES. Chester wrote a lot of songs in some other albums, but they all sounded like mutated versions of SQUIB CAKES . . . like distant cousins or wannabe next door neighbors.
In all, I really love this album. It's been part of my life for over 30 years. And it just sounds better everytime I put it on.