Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Get It While You Can - Howard Tate

Get It While You Can
Howard Tate
Verve V-5022

I'm so far behind on my posts.  I went away for the holidays and then got sick and it has just been tough finding time to work on this between job and family obligations.  However I don't want to miss the opportunity to acknowledge the passing of Howard Tate on December 2nd of last year.  Tate had a pretty rough life, he quit music in the 1970s apparently because he was tired of getting ripped off by the music industry.  Then his daughter died, his marriage broke up and he ended up addicted to drugs.  Tate found God and put his life and career back on track in the past decade, a truly inspiring story of perseverance and redemption.  I've heard some of his music from this period and it remains impressive - check out his titanic vocal on "I Learned It All The Hard Way" on "Howard Tate Live," the man could still bring it big time.  "Get It While You Can" was his first album and it is an excellent one although it is somewhat skimpy with only ten total tracks.  Tate was born in Macon, Georgia where Little Richard was born and Otis Redding was raised, there must be something in the water down there that makes a man sing so full of vitality and passion.  Tate reminds me a lot of Redding actually in his style and tone, and for me there is no higher compliment than that.  Tate moved to Philadelphia as a child and according to the liner notes he was working there as a cab driver when producer Jerry Ragovoy discovered him after hearing his amazing voice on a demo record.  However I read an interview with Ragovoy where he denied this story and in any case Tate had been involved in music as a member of vocal groups well before he started his solo career.  In addition to producing the album, Ragovoy also arranged much of it and wrote or co-wrote many of the songs.  This record begins with his first hit single "Ain't Nobody Home" from 1966.  LIke most of the album it is arranged in the mold of the Atlantic/Stax style soul of the mid-1960s with a wonderful vocal from Tate that shows his versatility and range.  That is nothing though compared to his stupendous performance on "Part-Time Love" which ought to be much better known.  It is a landmark in 1960s soul, fully the equal of the best work of Redding or Wilson Pickett.  "Glad I Knew Better" is more poppy sounding but with another passionate vocal from Tate, it reminds me of the Young Rascals particularly with its dynamic organ line.  "How Blue Can You Get" is best known in B.B. King's classic version, but Tate's version is very strong as well.  I love Janis Joplin, who did a famous version of "Get It While You Can," but for me Tate's performance is the definitive one.  His gospel inspired vocal really sends me.   "Baby, I Love You" was a modest hit for Tate on the R&B chart in 1967.  It is an uptempo, swinging song with an urgent vocal from Tate.  "I Learned It All The Hard Way" is a slow, smoldering song that Tate pours his heart out into.  Tate takes on Joe Williams and B.B. King with "Everyday I Have The Blues" and I don't think he wins, but when he hits the high notes he comes pretty close.  "How Come My Bull Dog Don't Bark" is a pedestrian song that resembles a lot like other soul songs from the period, although Tate still sings the song like he really means it.  The album ends with "Look At Granny Run Run" which was another hit single for Tate.  It sounds a lot like Wilson Pickett.  It is a fun song but far from my favorite.  I knew very little about this record when I picked it up many years ago, I bought it mostly because I admire Ragovoy's work and I wanted to hear the original version of "Get It While You Can" (plus I really dug Tate's hair in the cover photo!)  When I played it, I was astonished.  I couldn't believe that I had never heard of such a talented singer.  If you have any interest in 1960s soul you ought to check it out.  It has been reissued on CD with loads of bonus tracks.  Recommended for fans of Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. 

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