Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  And It Don't Stop
  Book Reports
  Is It Still Good to Ya?
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Xgau Sez
  And It Don't Stop
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Rolling Stone
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
Web Site:
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
CG Search:
Google Search:

Howard Tate

  • Howard Tate [Verve, 1967] A-
  • Get It While You Can [Verve, 1967]  
  • Howard Tate's Reaction [Turntable, 1970] B
  • Howard Tate [Atlantic, 1972] A-
  • Get It While You Can: The Legendary Sessions [Mercury, 1995] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Howard Tate [Verve, 1967]
Collect a series of singles (including several not on the original 1967 configuration, Get It While You Can, which I can't locate) that never quite broke pop and you have a concept album in reverse. It nevertheless (or therefore) qualifies as the underground soul LP, offering quality songwriting, welcome dollops of humor, and a solid, danceable groove. Tate shouts and keens in a slightly sweeter version of the hoarse gospel style bequeathed by Julius Cheeks to James Brown and Wilson Pickett, and producer Jerry Ragavoy avoids his characteristic melodrama while grafting on instrumental voicings from B.B. King as well as Stax-Volt, an obvious otherwise unexploited combination. A-

Get It While You Can [Verve, 1967]
Macon-born and Philadelphia-raised, Howard Tate never went Top Ten even on the soul charts but is remembered along with James Carr as the great lost soul man. "Ain't Nobody Home" became a B.B. King perennial, "Look at Granny Run Run" was the best thing to happen to senior sex till Levitra, and "Get It While You Can" was taken up as a showstopper by none other than Janis Joplin. The album didn't chart at all. But Tate had a supernal falsetto shriek to complement his rough howl, and writer-producer Jerry Ragovoy knew how to milk them both -- among other things, by adding two blues standards to his own sharp songs, which even for a guy who retired on "Piece of My Heart" got pretty peaky here. [Rolling Stone: The 40 Essential Albums of 1967]  

Howard Tate's Reaction [Turntable, 1970]
Born in Macon and resident in Philadelphia, Tate is a truly underground soul singer whose few small late-'60s hits (collected on one superb Verve LP) have earned him a rep among cognoscenti as diverse as Mike Bloomfield and Mark Farner. This album, produced by underground schlock-soul singers Lloyd Price and Johnny Nash in Jamaica, is based on even smaller hits. One of them, "These Are the Things That Make Me Know You're Gone" ("refrigerator left ajar," like that), dishonors his rep. But "My Soul's Got a Hole in It" doesn't, and Tate's voice is potent enough to activate more inert material. Cognoscenti will dig. B

Howard Tate [Atlantic, 1972]
In which Jerry Ragovoy sets out once again to prove to a callous world that the man with the high aaahh deserves better than a hack license between visits to the studio. This does almost as much for Tate's amazing vocal and emotional range--as cocksure as Wilson Pickett one moment, as sweet and hurting as B.B. King the next, and as corny as Joe Tex to top it off--as his Verve stuff with Ragovoy. Reservation: a few too many compositions by the producer. "She's a Burglar" and "Keep Cool, Don't Be a Fool" are as memorable as "Piece of My Heart," but I don't know about the hitchhiking song. How about a little "Good Rockin' Tonight," Jerry? A-

Get It While You Can: The Legendary Sessions [Mercury, 1995]
The CD biz caught up with both Great Lost Soul Men in 1995. Razor & Tie's The Essential James Carr documents a Memphis depressive who feels everything and understands nothing, and although the half that wasn't on Blue Side's 1987 At the Dark End of the Street is markedly less distinctive than the half that was, it'll sure make you wonder what Eddie Vedder has to get so upset about. Tate is a blues-drenched Macon native who had the desire to head north and sounds it every time he gooses a lament with one of the trademark keens that signify the escape he never achieved. He brought out the best in soul pro Jerry Ragovoy, who made Tate's records jump instead of arranging them into submission, and gave him lyrics with some wit to them besides. In return, Ragovoy brought out the best in Tate. So corporate politics be damned--I'm docking this a notch for ignoring their great lost '72 Atlantic collaboration. A-

See Also