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Since the departure of lead singer Lenny Williams in 1976, it’s been difficult not to think of Oakland-based aggregation Tower of Power as the musical equivalent of a sports franchise that’s a single player away from greatness. What’s even more frustrating about Tower’s post-Williams output is the fact that the ensemble has generally maintained the high instrumental standards that made ’70s dates like Urban Renewal and Back to Oakland enduring classics. Unfortunately, the newly issued Souled Out is marred by yet another lame lead vocalist—and, surprisingly, a bumper crop of compositional clichés from the usually surefire pens of longtime Tower members Emilio Castillo and Stephen “Doc” Kupka. There are supple, funky grooves throughout the date, but the invigorating joy one associates with TOP just doesn’t sustain itself, despite the unceasingly brilliant bass work of Fracis Rocco Prestia and the now-caressing, now-stuttering TOP brass section.