TOWER OF POWER: The Great American Soulbook (Label: C.A.R.E. Music)

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TOWER OF POWER: The Great American Soulbook

It’s been five years since Tower Of Power’s last proper studio album and for what is in some ways a comeback, the band have chosen to go with a collection of covers of classic soul songs. The tunes the band have chosen are the things that inspired them back in the day and by and large they’ve treated it all with respect. Many of the selections are taken from the classic Atlantic/Stax/Volt era, ‘cos the boys know full well that things like ‘I Thank You’, ‘Mr. Pitiful’, ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ and ‘634-5789’ are perfectly suited to their big, brash, brass sound. Larry Braggs handles the familiar vocals with a soulful aplomb but for added spice he’s joined by Tom Jones on ‘I Thank You’, Sam Moore on ‘Mr. Pitiful’ and Huey Lewis on ‘634-5789’. The band, Braggs and the guests sound like they really enjoyed working together on the cuts. James Brown was always another big influence and four of his songs (‘It’s A New Day’, ‘Mother Popcorn’, ‘There It Is’ and ‘I Got The Feelin”) are segued into a medley that recaptures the tight funk that Tower Of Power perfected back in the early 70s while the take on The Watts 103rd. Street Rhythm Band’s ‘Loveland’ is lighter but no less delightful. Emilio Castillo takes most of the production though he hands the chair to George Duke for three tracks and, given a free hand, the veteran goes for something a little different for his contributions. The Duke/TOP take on Bill Withers’ ‘Who Is He (And What Is He To You)’ is maybe the most true to the original but he turns both Marvin Gaye’s and Kim Weston’s ‘It Takes Two’ and Tavares’ ‘Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel’ on their heads. Both are slowed down, and, stripped of its disco polish, ‘Heaven’ is born again while ‘Two’ will intrigue with its tricky groove. Joss Stone guests on that one as she does on a version of ‘Your Precious Love’ – which is taken in much the same way as the Marvin/Tammi original. The other featured songs are Stevie Wonder’s ‘You Met Your Match’ and Billy Paul’s ‘Me And Mrs. Jones’ – always a great song, the brass section brings a real tingle to it. In a year that’s seen any number of covers albums ‘The Great American Soulbook’ stands out…. Great!
(BB) 4/5