Monday, October 21, 2019

“Oakland Stroke” by Tower of Power

Legendary West Coast funk/soul outfit Tower of Power blasted a hole through the funkmosphere with this supersonic groove back in 1974. This is dynamic, heavy-duty funk as only Tower of Power could do it. Rocco Prestia’s nimble-fingered bass work surges through the groove like an electric current, and David Garibaldi fires up the funk with an insane beat. His complex, rapid-fire drum pattern has gone down as one of the baddest funk beats ever put on wax. Also, T.O.P.’s celebrated horn section puts an exclamation point on the funk with some explosive horn volleys. And let’s not forget Lenny Pickett, who shuts it down with a fantastic tenor sax solo. The track also features some smokin' organ work from Chester Thompson. This is pure funk at its most raw and exhilarating; and it shows why Tower of Power has a longstanding rep as one of the tightest funk bands of all time.

“Oakland Stroke” was written by Garibaldi, Emilio Castillo and Stephen Kupka. It’s a track from T.O.P.’s  fourth album Back to Oakland, released in the spring of 1974. The track bookends the album--part 1 at the intro, with Part 2 closing out the album. It's short and sweet, just 0:53 for the intro, and part 2 clocks in at 1:08. It’s amazing how much funk the band managed to pack into such a small amount of time. Not a drop of funk was wasted on this cut.

Back to Oakland, which was produced by Tower of Power, contains the moderate hit "Don't Change Horses (In The Middle of a Stream)," which peaked at #26 on the U.S. pop singles chart and #22 on the R&B singles charts. The album also features the classic funk-jazz instrumental "Squib Cakes." Modern Drummer Magazine voted Back to Oakland one of the most important recordings for drummers to listen to.

The lineup for Tower of Power when they dropped Back to Oakland was the following: Lenny Pickett  (1st tenor sax, alto sax, bass sax, soprano sax, flute, alto flute, piccolo); Stephen "Doc" Kupka (baritone sax, English horn, background vocals); Francis “Rocco” Prestia (bass); Greg Adams  (trumpet, fluegelhorn, orchestra bells, background vocals); Mic Gillette (trumpet, fluegelhorn, trombone, bass trombone, background vocals); Emilio Castillo (2nd tenor sax, background vocals); Bruce Conte (guitar, background vocals); David Garibaldi (drums); Lenny Williams (lead vocals); Chester Thompson (organ, bass pedals, piano, Fender Rhodes piano, clavinet, background vocals); and Brent Byars (conga drums).

Tower of Power was formed in Oakland, California in 1968 by Emilio  Castillo and  Stephen Kupka.

"Oakland Stroke," Parts 1 & 2