There’s a reason why Tower of Power remain as one of the most legendary outfits under the soul genre. With over 50 years under their belt, these pioneers have been creating unstoppable hits like, “What Is Hip?”, “Diggin’ on James Brown,” and “Soul with a Capital ‘S’.” Tower of Power’s history is extensive; they have produced over 30 studio releases and live albums as well as collaborated with some of music’s biggest bands and names. In anticipation of their upcoming 2-night run at Brooklyn Bowl on Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9, we wanted to showcase some of their coolest collaborations. Having been featured on songs with artists like Santana, Grateful Dead, Phish, and even P. Diddy, it’s no wonder they stand out as one of the most pivotal soul powerhouses. Check out this list of our favorites and get ready to groove with the legends at Brooklyn Bowl Williamsburg!
1. “Everything, Everything,” “Give Me Love” and many more by Santana
Santana and Tower of Power were essential to 70s music, so it’s no surprise to see that they collaborated. On Santana’s 1971 album, Santana III, Tower of Power kick the song off with strong horns, adding some of their soulful color to an already vibrant Santana track. Prior to the release of Festival in 1977, Tower of Power performed Santana’s “Give Me Love” for a PBS special with Greg Walker on vocals in 1976. See the video below!
2. “Spanish Moon” on Feats Don’t Fail Me Now by Little Feat
Tower of Power’s rich sounding horns join the funky foundation that Little Feat established on this track, making for a mighty combination. The groups continued to play together for many years, including features on Little Feat albums Time Loves A Hero, the well received Waiting for Columbus, Hoy-Hoy (Greatest Hits), and Hotcakes & Outtakes. Relive their epic collaboration with this performance of “Spanish Moon” in 1977 at Rainbow Theatre London:
3. “The Bitch is Back” on Caribou by Elton John
Elton John’s remarkable 8 studio album Caribou was recorded in a quick 9 days just before he embarked on a tour in Japan and features Tower of Power on 3 out of 14 songs! The hit single, “The Bitch is Back,” featured the uplifting Tower of Power horn section, soaring the song to the number 4 spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. It even included John Lennon on the tambourine! Despite having pushback from airing on radio stations due to the profanity in the song title, it had no trouble reaching a large and accepting audience.
4. “Big Bayou” on A Night On the Town by Rod Stewart
Teaming up for two tracks on Rod Stewart’s first album to ever go platinum, this ended up being a a great opportunity for Tower of Power members. The album landed number 2 on Billboard’s Top 200 album charts with Tower of Power’s heavy horns, adding iconic big band flavor to the mix of songs “Pretty Flamingo” and “Big Bayou.”
5. “No More Okey Doke” and more on New Directions by The Meters
Sweeping in for five tracks on the final studio album by The Meters, this collaboration sounds as natural as you would expect. It solidified the legacy of The Meters and the end of an era for them with a bang. Each of these tracks feature the Tower of Power horn players creating a solid build and backing track to these funky New Orleans tunes.
6. “Jane” on Freedom at Point Zero by Jefferson Starship (1979)
Formed by Paul Kantner in 1970 during a break from touring with Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship gradually developed and gained widespread attention. Years into the venture, Freedom at Point Zero was released and went gold, with “Jane” receiving wide recognition. It landed at number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100, spent 3 weeks at #6 on Cash Box Top 100, and is the band’s most streamed song on Spotify with over 13 million plays. The hard-hitting tune was tied together with bombastic horns by Tower of Power, which certainly propelled the song forward.
7. “Even it Up” and “Tell It Like It Is” on Greatest Hits/Live by Heart
After a long tour promoting their previous album Bebe le Strange, Heart returned to the studio to record their highest-charting single at that point, “Tell It Like It Is.” The track is a slow romantic cover that perfectly infused Tower of Power’s horns. Shortly after, the Greatest Hits/Live album was released, including “Even It Up” from the Bebe le Strange album, which was the first song to feature a collaboration with Tower of Power.
8. “Hard to Handle (with Etta James)” live at Oakland Auditorium by Grateful Dead
Showing up to play alongside the Grateful Dead and Etta James, Tower of Power ignites the tune into action with swaggering horns. This rendition of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle” is much different than most of Grateful Dead’s live versions and certainly adds a different level of energy. It is rare to hear multiple legends on one stage together pay homage to a pioneer like Otis Redding. Etta James was the perfect compliment to Tower of Power’s horns and Grateful Dead’s iconic sound.
9. “Born Under a Bad Sign” and “Moanin’ Lisa Blues” on Sing the Blues by The Simpsons
The Simpsons cast gathered together with a number of well known musicians to record various covers and originals from the television show. “Born Under a Bad Sign,” originally by Albert King, featured the voice of the character Homer Simpson, B.B. King on guitar, and the horn section of Tower of Power. The track was full of soul with plethora of horn solos, like most Tower of Power tunes. “Moanin’ Lisa Blues,” was also recorded in the studio with Tower of Power, and an improvisation of the song can be heard in Episode 6 of Season 1 with Bleeding Gums Murphy and the character Lisa Simpson.
10. “Tangled and Dark” on Luck of the Draw by Bonnie Raitt
Bonnie Raitt’s Luck of the Draw became one of her best selling records to date, and she clearly proved her songwriting magic was still relevant as she reeled in three Grammys. Tower of Power members contributed slow swelling horns on the track “Tangled and Dark.”
11. “Julius” and “Wolfman’s Brother” on Hoist by Phish
Tower of Power contributed to two songs on Phish’s best selling studio album to date, Hoist. The blasting and spontaneous horns that you hear in “Julius,” are none other than the horn players of Tower of Power! Those same players can be heard adding soul flavor to the classic “Wolfman’s Brother.” You can witness old footage from tracking sessions of Hoist in this video, which also shows Tower of Power playing on “Julius.”
12. “We Gon’ Make It” on Press Play by P. Diddy
Diving into hip-hop in the early 00s, Tower of Power stepped in the studio with P. Diddy for three tracks. “We Gon’ Make It,” jumps right in with the crisp horns that boost the track’s energy tenfold. The horns also enhance the richness of the track “I Am (Interlude),” and the same can be said for “Everything I Love,” which features Cee-Lo Green and Nas.
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