Tower Of Power – Monster On A Leash (1991)

Tower Of Power - Monster On A Leash (1991)
Artist: Tower Of Power
Album: Monster On A Leash
Genre: Jazz-Funk / Soul
Label: Epic Records
Released: 1991
Quality: APE (image+.cue)
Tracklist:
A Little Knowledge (Is A Dangerous Thing) (4:25)
How Could This Happen To Me (4:10)
Who Do You Think You Are (4:22)
Attitude Dance (5:36)
You Can’t Fall Up (You Just Fall Down) (4:55)
Funk The Dumb Stuff (5:27)
Believe It (4:35)
Personal Possessions (5:07)
Miss Trouble (Got A Lot Of Nerve) (4:45)
Keep Your Monster On A Leash (4:33)
Someone New (4:28)
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (5:26)

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By 1991, Tower of Power was already considered a bit old hat. Many of their 1980s albums were middling affairs that only occasionally called back to the greatness of the early albums. They were no longer churning out classics like “You’re Still a Young Man” or “What Is Hip?” – funk classics that established the Bay Area outfit as one of the best groove machines in the country.

In writing about Monster on a Leash I confront a problem which will probably recur many times as I consider music in this blog: I grew up with this album, I am intensely familiar with it, and therefore I probably like and appreciate it more than I would if I had only heard it for the first time recently. For me, familiarity rarely breeds contempt when it comes to music – just the opposite. Certainly, too, the power of nostalgia is difficult to ignore.

So, I won’t try to. While I will be open when I feel that childhood familiarity biases me in favor of albums, I won’t apologize for my opinions. To me, Monster on a Leash is one of TOP’s best albums; the songwriting is crisp, with only a couple of clunkers (the lyrics to “Funk the Dumb Stuff” amused me as a kid, but now they are vaguely embarrassing). But then again, Tower of Power has never really been known for great lyrics – they’re known for groove, and man, the band sounds really tight!

The album definitely has a less gritty, perhaps less overtly funky sound as some of their earlier classics, but the playing here is too good to discount. The best songs feature memorable hooks – to me, one of the most important elements in a good pop song. The horns are in perfect synch and the new lead singer, Tom Bowes, sounds very assured, if perhaps a tad less virtuosic than some of TOP’s other singers.

Tower of Power features arguably the best horn section in music – there’s a reason they have so often been called upon to support other artists. Their sense of rhythm, mastery of syncopation, and clean sound can’t be faked by good production; these players are at the top of their game here. The rhythm section is also too good to escape mention.

Monster on a Leash opens with three of its best tracks back-to-back-to-back, and closes with one of the most grooving instrumentals on any TOP album. A key word on this album is attitude, and it’s an idea they follow up on from beginning to end. It makes for great party music for those hip enough to appreciate it. Yeah, more kids are probably playing LMFAO tonight than Tower of Power – but they don’t know what they’re missing.

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