Howard Tate made his reputation strong with the Verve label in the
late '60s. The Northern Soul production of Jerry Ragovoy, who also
wrote much of Tate's material, helped Tate chart inside the
Billboard R&B Top 20 three times in the late '60s ("Ain't Nobody
Home," "Stop," and "Look at Granny Run Run").
"Get It While You Can" (Verve 1966)
1. Ain't Nobody Home
"Howard Tate's Reaction" (Turntable 1969)
"Howard Tate" (Atlantic 1972)
1. She's a Burglar
"Rediscovered" (Private Music 2003)
1. Mama Was Right
"Get It While You Can" The Complete Legendary Verve Sessions" (Verve/Hip-O Select 2004)
1. Ain't Nobody Home
"Live" (Shout! Factory 2006)
***1/2 The return of Howard Tate was a most welcome one in 2004 when his first record since forever was released. "Rediscovered" was a decent record consisting of 11 (10 new) Jerry Ragovay songs and a cover of Prince's "Kiss". Tate sang well but the album was a bit stilted in production. This new 15 track live collection recorded at the Tuno Island Music Festival in Denmark August 26, 2004 remedies this as five of those songs are reprised and improved upon here. The band, which thankfully includes a horn section, is loose but on point and Tate is in superb voice. Reaching back he breathes new life into classics like "Get It While You Can", "Part Time Love", "I Learned It All The Hard Way", "Ain't Nobody Home", "She's A Burglar", "Everyday I Have The Blues", "Look At Granny Run Run" & "Stop", all of which he originally recorded for his essential 1966 masterpiece "Get It While You Can". Even if you own that record these new seasoned readings are worth having. Plus there's his fabulous take on the slow blues chestnut "Sweet Sixteen" and "Eight Days On The Road" from his 1972 LP "Howard Tate". There's a lot of useless live records out there but when one is done right there's nothing like it.
"Portrait Of Howard" (Solid Ground Prod. 2006)
1. I'll Be Home
**1/2 One thing that occurred to me when listening to Tate's fair 2003 comeback CD "Rediscovered" was he sounded a lot better on the slow songs than the upbeat cuts. Although his voice remained a marvelous instrument he just didn't have the power he once had to deliver those funky blues nuggets he was known for. But boy can that aching tenor croon and falsetto whoop as well as ever and that's why "Portrait Of Howard" seemed a welcome idea. Instead of trying to re-create his Soul Blues style, producer Steve Weisberg has placed Tate in an orchestrated Pop Vocals setting- lots of brass, violins, piano- and he often gets the most out of that one-of-a-kind voice. Still the idea of Tate doing a Burt Bacharach song is hard to accept even if his "Close To You" is better than you might think.
Weisberg got the idea for this record after Tate wowed the producer with his sterling version of Randy Newman's gorgeous "Louisiana 1927" at a Randy Newman tribute concert in 2002. Weisberg, music director for that show, asked to do charts for Tate's next studio release but overtime won the privilege of producing an entire record. The early release of a studio version of "Louisiana 1927" created a healthy buzz for this record and that track is easily one of the the highlights here. Newman fans will dig Tate's disparate reading of the chorus. Two more superb Newman covers appear ("I'll Be Home" and "Every Time It Rains"), which makes me long for a "Tate Sings Newman" record in the future (ala "Nilsson Sings Newman"). Always a fine interpreter of songs, Tate also graces Nick Lowe's "Homewrecker" and "Gone" (a co-write with Chrissie Hynde) in addition to an orchestrated arrangement of a Lou Reed song ("How Do You Think It Feels") and the inspirational "The Lord Is Listenin' To Ya, Hallelujah" (Carla Bay).
Less stellar, however, are the originals- material coming from the pens of Weisberg and Tate. The bluesy "With You No More" starts great but unfortunately drags at 7-plus minutes. "Left For Dead" and "Solid Ground" are Jazzy Pop/Soul movers that could use stronger hooks. Same goes for Weisberg's busy "One Hit". Better is "Dear Lord", one of the more Soulful pieces on the record. They just leave you wishing they were better. I (you) want to love this record but I just don't. It has it's virtues and it's moments but based on the three Newman gems, a full "Tate Sings Newman" disc might've lived up to the hype....(or maybe a Soul Blues record after all?)
"Blue Day" (Evidence 2008)
1. Miss Beehive
*** Tate's welcomed return has been an underwhelming one in terms of quality since 2003's comeback CD "Rediscovered". That set was good but had it's share of filler. Less thrilling was the low profile "Portrait Of Howard", which fitted Tate with disparate pop music by the likes of Randy Newman, Nick Lowe and Burt Bacharach. A fine "Live" collection was dropped in 2006 by Shout! Factory.
It's 2008 and ubiquitous producer Jon Tiven is given complete control on this Evidence Records debut. Tiven has managed to gain crossover (read white Blues audience) acclaim for the likes of Little Milton and Wilson Pickett with his Swamp Rocky-flvaored Soul/Blues. "Blue Day" stumbles in it's first step with it's goofy song about troubled singer Amy Winehouse. On "Miss Beehive" Tate sings "She should be feeling so pretty/Got the world on a string/But the girl's so used to the Blues/Thinking that she was born to be bad/Everybody knows she's putting something up her nose and she don't want to go to rehab". Um, too brusque. Anyway, the project gets on track with the next three selections ("40 Days", "Blue Day", "If God Brought You To It"), two of which were borrowed from Ellis Hooks.
Tiven projects are some of the more generous out there as he doesn't seem to believe in outtakes. Like other albums he's produced "Blue Day" boasts fifteen cuts. Sure, there's a good share of duds and the overall ragged sound tends to get redundant but the Tae/Tiven pairing succeeds nevertheless.