Saturday, February 03, 2007

Soul-Blues Saturday: Rediscovered!

Howard Tate - Sorry Wrong Number

Soul fandom was turned on its ear when the legendary soul singer Howard Tate, who hadn't recorded anything since 1976 and had virtually fallen off the edge of the earth (the common assumption was that he had died), was found in 2001 in New Jersey, preaching the gospel in a ministry aimed at the homeless and troubled after having hit quite a few lows of his own. A great interview with Tate can be found here, which covers his remarkable story. Howard reunited with Jerry Ragovoy, writer and producer of many of his '60s hits, to record the Grammy-nominated Rediscovered, his first LP since his eponymous 1972 LP for Atlantic. (Rediscovered is the second of the four great soul comeback albums of this decade, the others being Solomon Burke's Don't Give Up On Me, Bettye LaVette's I've Got My Own Hell To Raise and Candi Staton's His Hands.) Although soul fans decried the somewhat pedestrian backing band (and Ragovoy's decision to play the bass parts on a keyboard rather than use a bass player) and a few tepid selections, the album showed Tate to be in good voice and showed that Ragovoy could still write some good songs. Howard also resumed making live appearances. I saw him in Chicago in 2004 and, although his stage patter reflected a long absence from the stage, he gave a good show.

The Ragovoy-penned "Sorry Wrong Number" is one of my favorites from Rediscovered. The song revisits "Ain't Nobody Home" in its theme, but the brash Tate heard on "Ain't Nobody Home" is replaced by a more world-weary man, one who is still rejecting the one who did him wrong but who is more interested in moving on than seeking revenge. It's a very solid recording that would've fit nicely with his '60s Verve material or the '70s Atlantic LP.

Tate's revitalized career has led to the release of a good live album and a forthcoming album, A Portrait of Howard, both of which are featured on Howard's official website. The rediscovery of Howard Tate is a watershed moment in the history of soul, and I look forward to what will come next from the soul legend.

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