Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Urban soul is the backbone to Tower of Power

by REBECCA CELLI rebecca.celli@gazette.com - Published: March 20, 2014

8 p.m. Friday, Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave., $37.50-$45; 799-4139, pikespeakcenter.com

He calls it "urban soul."

It's music that "syncopates the beat in unique ways," says Emilio Castillo, a tenor saxophonist, vocalist and band leader of Tower of Power. The band blends soul, funk, jazz and rock and speaks directly to "blue collar urban America."

The band plays at the Pikes Peak Center on Friday.

Their lyrics speak to diverse themes. While some songs are political, addressing the energy crisis (1975's "Only So Much Oil In The Ground") and the absurdity of blue laws (1975's "It's Not The Crime"), others speak to more universal themes, such as love (1972's "You're Still a Young Man.")

With 10 musicians, including a vocalist, the band produces a big, almost orchestral sound reminiscent of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound.

"We have funk tunes and also really slow finger-popping ballads," says Castillo, speaking slowly and with a melodic cadence.

Created in Oakland, Calif., in the 1960s, the musicians - four of whom are still part of the group - channeled the popular sounds of Motown, even though the style wasn't popular, Castillo says, beyond Detroit.

What emerged was 18 studio albums featuring 60 musicians. Recently, Tower of Power took on a new vocalist, Ray Green. The band will be embarking on a tour with Journey and The Steve Miller Band this summer, and is working on their first album in five years.

"It's the kind of music that moves you physically and energizes you emotionally," says Castillo

Although it's been 46 years, Castillo, 63, sees his group evolving with time; he calls his group's work "polishing diamond."

"We're not content to stay the same," he says. "We're always looking to change."

REBECCA CELLI, THE GAZETTE, 636-0131, rebecca.celli@gazette.com

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