Howard Tate

Rediscovered

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Having been left for dead -- quite literally -- Howard Tate and his return to the music world made for one of the more remarkable and most unexpected stories of 2001. With Rediscovered, his first new studio album in nearly 30 years, Tate makes the comeback complete. While Rediscovered makes for a perfectly fitting (if perfectly obvious) title, it works on another level: the album reunites Tate not only with the music world, but also with his key writer and producer, Jerry Ragovoy. Ragovoy, who had long been particularly sympathetic to Tate's style and taste in material, produced this set and wrote or co-wrote 11 of its 12 tracks, adding his touch on piano to most of them as well. The recaptured combination is at its most magical on the ballads "Sorry Wrong Number," "Don't Compromise Yourself," and the Elvis Costello collaboration "Either Side of the Same Town." The latter, which in lesser hands would be just another tale of a dismantled relationship, is colored with vivid imagery and some of Tate's most inspired and colorful interpretation. "Don't Compromise Yourself," clearly inspired by some of the more unseemly aspects of the music business, is another standout in its remarkably personalized reading, while the equally personal "Eternity" allows him to interpolate a touch of the preacher. The album closer, a revisitation of his previously recorded (and lauded) "Get It While You Can," serves the same spiritual purpose. All the facets of Tate's voice that had drawn R&B aficionados to his work in years past are still present, particularly his sweetly effortless falsetto fills. His delivery is wiser but not wizened, and the absence of overemoting is a refreshing reminder that so often in deep soul, less is more. A few tepid bar-blues arrangements temper the power of the collection; the Uptown Horns, while entirely competent, are nowhere near as innovative or funky in arrangement or delivery as, say, the punchy brass section on Tate's self-titled 1972 release. Additionally, the tracks "Organic Love" and "She May Be White (But She Be Funky)" are a little too gimmicky for their own good (though the latter slyly and smartly addresses lingering attitudes against miscegenation). These quibbles aside, Tate proves with Rediscovered that his was -- and remained -- a voice to be reckoned with, one underappreciated yet worthy of being considered alongside such luminaries as Al Green. Rediscovered, yes -- and one hopes, someday, rewarded.

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