Great American Soulbook

Emilio Castilo - Second tenor sax
Stephen "Doc" Kupka
- Baritone saxophone
Francis Rocco Prestia
- Bass
David Garibaldi
- Drums
Larry Braggs
- Lead & background vocals
Roger Smith
- Keyboards
Tom E. Politzer
- First tenor sax, alto sax
Adolfo Acosta
- Second trumpet, flugelhorn
Michael Bogart
- Lead trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone
Mark Harper
- Guitar

In The Great American Soulbook, Tower of Power’s 20th album, and first studio disc in five years, the group did something new - they played some old songs by lifelong favorites.

“In the old days,” says the group’s co-founder, saxophonist Stephen “Doc” Kupka, “the thought of doing other peoples’ songs would have been unthinkable, but this felt like a really good way to go - our take on classic great soul songs that we listened to on the way up.”

In the old days, making the record was a bit easier because the 10 - piece group was based in the Oakland area of California.  But now, in between spending over 200 dates on the road every year, the guys also live in different parts of the United States during their off time.  So the group scheduled studio time every few months to make the recording of The Great American Soulbook happen.

“We were resistant at first to the idea,” says Tower of Power’s other co-founder Emilio Castillo.  “But a third of the way into the recording, we realized how good it was working.”  In addition to Emilio producing most of the album’s tracks, legendary Frank Zappa keyboardist George Duke helmed three songs.  “George gave us so much freedom,” says lead singer Larry Braggs, He’d say, ‘I don’t need to tell you how to sing—just sing!'”

Some of the album’s highlights include Larry’s solo numbers, like “Me and Mrs. Jones,” and “Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel.” Initially he wondered how he’d enhance these covers, but realized, “You entertain, enlighten, and give a piece of yourself when you’re making this music.”       

The outside collaborations with guest vocalists Sam Moore, Joss Stone, Sir Tom Jones, and Huey Lewis brought fresh dimensions to the songs.  Emilio was astounded to be “in the same room as the legendary Sam Moore,” especially collaborating on an Otis Redding classic.  In working with the young British singer Joss Stone on “It Takes Two” and “Your Precious Love,” Larry realized, “this was an artist who creates her own licks when she sings, and you have to step back and just let her sing and be creative.”  

“Huey Lewis helped saved our career over 20 years ago,” says Emilio, remembering the days that Huey Lewis and the News was a chart-topper, and the Tower of Power horn section a part of Huey’s live shows. 

Larry says, “We raised the key for ‘634-5789,’ and Huey sang his parts in Montana, and sent them back, and we told him, ‘it sounds great,’ and he said, ‘I’m glad you liked it, but I’m also glad you didn’t have to see me while I sang it!’”

Larry felt most honored working with Sir Tom Jones, who Tower of Power toured with in 2006. “Singing in the studio with Tom is one of the greatest accomplishments for me.  I’ve been a fan of his since I was a kid, I used to watch his TV show every week.”
Drummer David Garibaldi felt both the making and listening of The Great American Soulbook to be inspirational, “We were such big fans of James Brown - his music had such a powerful affect on us.  And then listening to ‘Loveland,’ Watts 103rd St Rhythm Band was such a profound influence on me.  That music was happening when we were starting out, and we’re still inspired by this music.”

Always inspired by soul and R&B music, Tower of Power formed in the Oakland area of California in 1968.  The ten-member Tower of Power's first album was the 1970 release, East Bay Grease for Bill Graham’s San Francisco Records. 

The group’s hits included "What Is Hip?” (1973), “You’re Still A Young Man” (1972),  “Soul Vaccination” (1973), “Don’t Change Horses (In the Middle Of the Stream)” (1974) and “So Very Hard to Go” (1973). 

The group continues to play 200 dates all over the world, every year.  When not on the road, Tower of Power’s horn section guests on albums for quite a range of other artists, including recordings for Elton John, Phish, Rod Stewart, Neil Diamond, Aerosmith, Little Feat, Smokey Robinson, Bonnie Raitt, and David Sanborn.

The group is releasing The Great American Soulbook on its own Tower Of Power Records imprint with distribution through Ryko.  And in keeping with audience needs in these internet-centric times, Tower of Power is focused on selling the album at live shows, on its web site, and on, iTunes, and other digital forms of media.  Bassist Rocco Prestia says that while young music fans are learning about classic soul from them, the group is catching up with the youngsters, “It’s common knowledge that this is the way the music business is going - downloads.  It’s all computerized and exciting.”

He and the rest of the group feel that it’s the music that ultimately brings people together, “If I had my druthers, I’d be listening to just old R&B radio stations.  I think that’s the best music because it came from a place where the lyrics were important. The way the music was put together was soulful for me.  My kids will often tell me of a song they hear on a TV commercial or a cover by a young artist - ‘this is a great song.’  Then, I’ll introduce them to the original.”

Produced by Emilio Castillo. Tracks 4, 8 & 12 produced by George Duke.


 1. “You Met Your Match”
By Stevie Wonder

2. “I Thank You”

By Sam & Dave (our version features Tom Jones in a duet with our singer, Larry Braggs)

3. “Loveland”
By The Watts 103rd St Rhythm Band

4. “It Takes Two”
By Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston (our version features Joss Stone in a duet with our singer, Larry Braggs)

5. “Me & Mrs. Jones”
By Billy Paul

6. "Star Time"
James Brown Medley with 4 songs: “It’s A New Day,” “Mother Popcorn,” “There It Is”, and “I Got The Feeling”

7. “Mr. Pitiful”

By Otis Redding (our version features Sam Moore)

8. “Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel”

By Tavares

9. “Since You’ve Been Gone (Baby, Baby, Sweet Baby)”
By Aretha Franklin

10. "(Heaven Must Have Sent) Your Precious Love”
By Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell  (our version features Joss Stone in a duet with our singer, Larry Braggs)

11. “634-5789”
By Wilson Pickett (our version features Huey Lewis in a duet with our singer, Larry Braggs)

12. “Who Is He (and What Is He To You)?”

By Bill Withers