Listen Up: Wednesday, November 5, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Howard Tate

Rediscovered (Private Music)

By Jimmy Fowler

The troubled saga of 64-year-old R&B singer Howard Tate can be recounted by checking off the decades: huge critical acclaim with tunes like “Get It While You Can” (made famous by Janis Joplin) and “Ain’t Nobody Home” in the late ’60s; touring burnout and his daughter’s tragic death in the ’70s; alcohol and crack addiction as well as periodic homelessness throughout the ’80s; and a 1994 spiritual awakening that eventually led him back into performing. Rediscovered is Tate’s first album in 30 years and marks his reunion with original producer-mentor Jerry Ragovoy. The results are supposed to go thus: blues-fired crooner à la Bobby Bland and Little Milton returns with a ravaged voice whose frayed tones are supposed to convey that “to-hell-and-back” wisdom. But Rediscovered could easily have been titled Reincarnated, because whiskey and crack smoke seemingly never touched Tate’s playful, plaintive pipes. His pure falsetto and devilish dips into bass are more indicative of a young racehorse straight out the gates than of a ragged fossil. Ragovoy has fashioned modest arrangements of light funk and unsentimental soul, muscled-up with the famed Uptown Horns. “Sorry, Wrong Number” is one of those storytelling ballads that can easily be translated into the twang of country, the strum of folk, and the bent notes of blues; Tate references them all and makes it an instant keeper. On the other end, “Organic Love (100% Natural, Baby)” is a novelty tune made infectious by the humorous bob-and-weave of Tate’s delivery over a killer Hi Records-style bass line. The singer closes with the burnished gospel of “Get It While You Can,” accompanied solely by Ragovoy on piano, and its testimony to the primacy of human connection is so softly elegant, it raises the hairs on the back of your neck. Don’t buy the wholly pleasurable Rediscovered just because Tate is a “survivor”; get it because his best years seem to be happening now.


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