Funny how picky we get with our cult heroes. Were Otis Redding discovered to be alive somehow, it would only be a matter of time before somebody convinced him to record new material, and predictably, we the geeks would say, "I liked his early works better." Hey, it's not our fault that old music sounds warmer. The human ear is an analogue instrument -- it was meant to hear textures, not encoded signals. So often we check in to see what old souls bring to the new format only to discover that innovation sucks the soul out of timeless music.
That said, go out and get your hands on the new Howard Tate album immediately. It's like the '80s and '90s never happened.
Howard should have been right up there with Otis. Tate's epic 1966 long-player Get It While You Can (Verve) put him on the cult hero map right before he fell off it. One day he just disappeared. For many years, everyone who knew Tate thought he was dead. (See "Soul Survivor," September 25, 2002.) In 2001, he was recognized in the produce aisle of a New Jersey grocery store and informed that legions of vinyl junkies worshipped him. Soon, the offers came in from three continents, and Tate was reunited with his old partner in songwriting, Jerry Ragovoy (who penned "Time Is on My Side," covered by the Rolling Stones).
The ripened fruits of their reunion thrive on Rediscovered. Nearly nothing has been lost. Tate's voice sounds more seasoned and elastic than his early recordings -- a healthy religious lifestyle preserved his golden voice. He inflects falsettos that would blow a normal man's throat to pieces, all the while letting loose the floodgates on unsung years of love and pain. With the Uptown Horns behind him, Elvis Costello collaborating on one track, a cover of Prince's "Kiss," a stripped-down reprise of his 1966 title track (once covered by Janis Joplin), and a warm, vintage tone throughout, this is how classic soul music should sound today.
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