Tower of Power blew--literally--out of the Bay Area's early-'70s scene at a time when hip black and white tastes were further diverging. The horn-heavy ensemble managed to find an audience of album buyers on both the soul and rock sides of the divide, though. The first disc of this chronological two-CD retrospective of tracks made between 1970 and 1997 holds most of the highlights--notably the wise, intensely grooving title track, which has only gained cachet in the quarter-century since its release, and "So Very Hard to Go," one of the classiest pop-soul singles this side of the Spinners. More a bunch of well-schooled musicians than truly inspired songwriters, Tower of Power often sounded better than its material and rarely if ever touched the magic of those cuts again. What Is Hip?
's second half shows the act's fuel running low even before it relaunched as a '90s lite-funk answer to hometown pals Huey Lewis and the News. --Rickey Wright