July 24th, 2007
Artist: Howard Tate
Label: Shout Factory
Catalog No.: DK 10045
Howard Tate is “singing again after thirty years,” his official website proclaims. Well, that was nearly six years ago, when Tate performed a comeback show at New York’s Village Underground. Since then, he has released new material, toured North America and Europe, participated in various collaborations with younger, more widely known artists, and worked toward reestablishing himself as one of the last great soul singers from the 1960s still performing.
Tate left the music business in the 1970s and endured some hard times in the 1980s, causing his star to fade, if not vanish altogether; he is rarely included in the standard pop and soul music references. This is a shame, because Tate’s recordings from the ‘60s bristle with the energy and musicianship of that era’s great soul music. His singing and attitude rank with the best of Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett.
So how is Howard Tate Live? The singing itself is excellent. His voice certainly lacks its former youthfulness, but his thirty-year absence has evidently helped it escape the heavy toll that decades of R&B singing can exact. His spunky performance and charmisa are straight vintage soul, especially in the epic “I Learned It All the Hard Way.” Unfortunately, most the newer songs, as is so often the case in comeback albums, are noticeably weaker than the old hits. As for the band, while several performances—especially “Part-Time Love” and “Look at Granny Run Run”—recall the tight grooves and refreshingly sparse arrangements of Booker T and the MG’s, much of the album presents the laid-back, stale quality of R&B reunion tours, with little of the force that drove the original recordings. Tate himself is not to blame; perhaps the musicians had an off-night or were “phoning it in” for a European audience. Nonetheless, die-hard fans won’t care, nor should they. Howard Tate Live presents Tate at the top of his game, as one of the last living links from a classic era in African American music.
Posted by Jonathan Yaeger
Review Genre(s): Rhythm & Blues, Soul, Funk