Gifts for the Music Fan for Whom Everything isn't Enough
Being that the group was founded by a couple of white guys (I guess one was a White Hispanic), this makes Tower of Power easily the funkiest group of pallor in history. Actually, the group was an integrated ensemble, particularly renowned for its five-man horn section (two tenors, one baritone sax, and two trumpets).
These recently discovered tapes catch the band at a peak, and feature the classic lineup, including Lenny Williams on vocals. He is without a doubt one of the great underrated soul singers, not to mention an exciting and charismatic frontman. He eventually left the band in 1975, I believe because he was a clean liver while other members of the band were descending into serious substance abuse. In fact, in the liner notes co-founder Emilio Castillo admits that he was probably high during this performance, but there's no way you could tell, so tight is the band.
There are no samples on amazon, but you can hear some at All Music Guide. Listen for the precise and beautiful blend of horns, but especially Doc Kupka's baritone holding up the bottom, which I believe -- if my white privilege doesn't betray me -- is what pushes the band into its otherworldly cosmic funkmanship (although one cannot ignore the drums, bass, and chicken-scratching guitar, which sound as good as one of James Brown's bands).
I'm sure the Harry Nilsson box will be on many year-end top ten lists. It is a 17 CD collection, including three discs of unreleased prime Harry recorded between 1967 and 1974. (Once again, samples available at AMG.)
If you don't know Harry, the logical place to begin would be this excellent documentary that was released a few years ago, Who is Harry Nilsson? Earlier this year a biography came out, and it too is outstanding. Being that it is published by Oxford University Press, you can see that Nilsson is considered a serious subject.
Nilsson might well have agreed with Captain Beefheart: "yeah, I'm a genius, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it." He was seriously -- and yet cheerfully -- self-destructive, most infamously for destroying his vocal cords while making an album with John Lennon in 1974. His voice was never the same afterwards, but if you accept them for what they are, the later albums contain their charms, and even some classics.
Here's one I haven't even heard yet, but I'm putting it in the top ten anyway, Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective. It's a seven disc collection of the great, ill-fated guitarist, including not just Allman Brothers classics, but many tracks by obscure artists (and not so obscure, e.g., Aretha, Wilson Pickett, Boz Scaggs) recorded when he was the hottest session guitarist in a soul-drenched land of musical plenty. (Samples.)
It was originally released as a limited edition, but the initial run of 10,000 sold out on pre-order. This "encore edition" is missing a few goodies but has all the music, so that's what counts.
Yeah, it's expensive, which is why I'm going to use amazon Visa points to get it. I charge everything I can on my amazon Visa, and then use the points to purchase music, so then I don't feel guilty about my compulsion to hear Everything. Foolproof self-deception.