Tower of Power – Hipper than Hip: Live in 1974 (2013)

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Recorded live at the peak of their considerable powers in May 1974, Hipper than Hip finds Tower of Power — powered along by frontman Lenny Williams — setting a Long Island radio-station soundstage ablaze.

Tower of Power, founded by and still led by Emilio “Mimi” Castillo and Stephen “Doc” Kupka, had just released its creative (if not charting-busting) high-water mark Back to Oakland, and had already banked smashes like “What is Hip” and “So Very Hard To Go.” Both, of course, find a home on this raw, utterly present recording — newly issued by Real Gone Music via Razor & Tie — as do deep-cut revelations like “Knock Yourself Out” from 1970’s East Bay Grease, “You’re Still a Young Man” from 1972’s Bump City, “This Time It’s Real” from their 1973 self-titled album (when Williams came on board), and “Squib Cakes” and the minor R&B single “Time Will Tell” from Back to Oakland.

Technically amazing — they’ve backed up countless artists over the years — effortlessly complicit and endlessly funky, Tower of Power remain a sound to behold in the live setting. And this is, unquestionably, their best lineup, with a group that also includes keyboard man Chester Thompson, still-thumping bassist Francis “Rocco” Prestia and saxophonist Lenny Pickett shaking everything they’ve got in an undiluted, overdub-free atmosphere of cooperative get down.

For the uninitiated, Hipper than Hip smartly blends the confluence of ass-wagging things that make Tower of Power both towering and full of power — from impish jazz (“Clean Slate”) to simmering slow jams (“So Very Hard to Go”) to floorboard-rearranging R&B like their thunderous, nearly 20-minute breakdown of “Knock Yourself Out.” But even the completist will be helpless to deny these 14 remarkably unfiltered soul-lifters, bolstered here by a slew of period photos as well as informative liner notes from producer Leo Sacks.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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