Tower Of Power Take Their Large Musical Sound On The Road


TOWER OF POWER play The Coach House Dec. 17; photo Tina Abbaszadeh

The iconic Tower of Power returns to its birthplace of California as part of its tour stopping at The Coach House Dec. 17.

Emilio Castillo, both one of the group’s founders and one of its lead musicians, looks forward to coming back to California.

“California’s where I started the band. We started in Oakland, California in 1968 so we’re very popular there. We’ve played all over the state many times and we always look forward to it.”

Tower of Power remains one of the longest running musical groups having played for a staggering 49 years. Though its members have changed numerous times, their blissfully sweet trademark horn and vocal-based music remains intact.

The music the group plays is typically considered soul music. However, Castillo says that what he and his group perform goes beyond that genre.

“It’s soul music but it has a very original flavor to it. It’s not soul music in the sense of what you hear on the radio so much. It’s very original sounding. It has to do with our writing style. As I say, highly exciting up-tempo music and highly emotional.”

Castillo though writes out most of the song compositions for the group but always makes it a habit to show his work to them.

“When I write songs, I know exactly how I want them to turn out and then I show them to the band. Of course, I glean from them any of the great musical ideas that they put forth.”

This is where the true team work takes place as Castillo and his group routinely work out how each song will be played at each of their live showings.

“From the drummer, I get a rhythmic idea. He might say ‘let’s hit this accent on the 16th before one then hang it all the way ‘til two and then come in,’ and then I’ll go back to him and say “that’s a great idea. But let’s hang it ‘til the upbeat of one.’ We’ll go back and forth like that with these ideas. It’s like chipping away at a sculpture until it comes out the way you want it.”

With a whopping 10 members, ideas within Tower of Power are not only in large supply but are essential in providing “a large musical sound” according to Castillo.

“We have five horns and a lead vocalist that stand at the front of the stage and we’re backed by a four-piece rhythm section. Everything is very carefully arranged.”

The results show. To date the band has recorded over 20 albums, still receives critical praise from critics and a loyal fanbase. That fanbase not only includes older fans who grew up with their music but young fans too, in both North America and abroad.

“There’s a venue in Aarhus, Denmark called The Train. It’s a night club and when the people come they’re all kids like 25 and under. They know all the lyrics and a lot of times they pogo while we play. We feel like The Beatles when we leave the stage.”

One fan sticks out the most to Castillo: Aretha Franklin. Castillo recalls discovering her fondness for Tower of Power back in March 1971. The band was then opening for Aretha Franklin at the legendary Fillmore West during the recording of her album Aretha Live at Fillmore West.

“When I was standing in the doorway of the dressing room, she came and she wanted to get through. The dressing room was packed so I turned sideways and she kind of wedged in to get through. We found ourselves nose to nose. She looked at me and said, ‘Tower of Power: my favorite band,’ and I just melted.”

Such admiration is what keeps Tower of Power going. With the group’s 50th anniversary looming, he and his fellow bandmates are already looking to repay that support.

“We’re now in the planning stages of doing a live showing in Oakland, California June 1st and 2nd at the Fox Theater celebrating 50 years of Tower of Power. And it’s going to be a very special concert. We’re going augment the band with strings next to vocals and have guest horn players and singers.”

Castillo says that the celebrations won’t stop there either.

“We’re also releasing two brand new albums,” Castillo adds. “They’re already finished. We cut 28 tracks and they will all be released in May of next year.”

For the present, Castillo promises that people can look forward to the promise of a fun time.

“They’re going to look forward to a highly exciting typical Tower of Power show.”