still on top

tower of power. top row: larry braggs, david garibaldi, roger smith, francis rocco prestia, mark harper (replaced by jerry cortez). bottom row: adolfo acosta, mike bogart (replaced by sal cracchiolo), stephen doc kupka, tom politzer, emilio castillo. photo by rob shanahan.

Just a quick heads-up here about one of the summer’s last great concert events, and, quite possibly one of its most overlooked ones.

Tonight marks the return of Tower of Power, the brass-fortified Bay Area brigade that has kept soul, funk and R&B tradition alive for over 43 years. The brass section, still with founding saxophonists Emilio Castillo and Stephen Doc Kupka in charge, remains the signature stamp upon TOP’s long running soul sound. Over the years, those horns have also bolstered classic recordings by Santana (the 1971 hit Everybody’s Everything) and Little Feat (1978’s Waiting for Columbus concert album) as well as the mid ‘80s hits of Huey Lewis and the Lewis, among others. But TOP’s rhythm section – again manned by two more longstanding members, bassist Francis Rocco Prestia and drummer David Garibaldi – gives the music a scorching stop-on-a-dime clarity.

TOP continues to record today with Larry Braggs as its lead vocalist. But the band’s first three albums remain its defining work: 1970’s East Bay Grease (which contains the funk barnstormer Knock Yourself Out and extraordinary jazz-soul ballad Sparkling in the Sand), 1972’s Bump City (which features the band’s signature soul hit You’re Still a Young Man) and 1973’s Tower of Power (bolstered by the R&B nugget So Very Hard to Go and the band’s best brass attack hit What is Hip?).

TOP performs at 8:30 tonight at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St.. Ben Lacy and Bob Bryant will open. Tickets are $30. For more info, call (859) 368-8871 or go to

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