Howard Tate

Howard Tate

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Howard Tate hopped labels during the late '60s and early '70s, skipping from Verve to Lloyd Price's Turntable to Atlantic and never releasing more than one LP for any of them. His lone Atlantic LP, a self-titled release from 1972, was the least consistent of the three; despite a few highlights that made it worth hearing for fans, the album was plagued by substandard songs that sapped Tate and his crack band. The person most at fault was, surprisingly, producer Jerry Ragovoy, who had written and produced Tate's best songs for Verve (as well as dozens of other soul classics). Unfortunately, he simply wasn't firing here and wrote a set of surprising duds, including "When I Was a Young Man" and "She's a Burglar" ("She's a burg-a-lar/she broke into my mind"). The arrangements are staid period soul, and while the musicians back Tate with confidence and energy, it's difficult for them to open up within such constrained charts. One of the few interesting songs is "Girl From the North Country," a Dylan cover never recorded by any other soul singer. Ragovoy and the band don't help him here, either, but Tate's performance -- beginning with control but growing gradually more uninhibited with every verse -- illustrated that he was still a master of soul. His own song, "The Bitter End," is also a highlight, a working-class narrative with a surprisingly sweet vocal.

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