Howard Tate: Keep Cool (1972)

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Howard Tate: Keep Cool (1972)

In this column about shameful record covers I'm proud to own, I noted you should never judge Eastern European -- or bellydance -- albums by their covers. They are often an afterthought and the contents can be often much more interesting and exciting than the kitsch covers might suggest.

You'd guess perhaps only soul singer Howard Tate's family though the cover of his self-titled '72 album was any good, and it wasn't that he was such an established artist he didn't need to "present" himself.

Tate -- who only died in December 2011 -- released two albums prior to this one on Atlantic which was produced by Jerry Ragovoy in New York's Hit Factory. Ragovoy wrote almost everything on the album -- there's also a soulful cover of Dylan's Girl From the North Country and the Band's Jemima Surrender -- and he seemed to have had an ear for exactly the right emotion and lyric which Tate could wring out.

There was a lot of country-blues alongside soul in Georgia-born Tate and he should have been a major contender. But a couple of decades od drug dependency and homelessness meant he disappeared from the mid Seventies until he was rediscovered in the last decade of his life.

By then he'd cleaned up and was a preacher.

But in those many years of his absence, people searched out this album. And not for the cover.

This disc is one of the 20 in the excellent, much recommended Bargain Buy box, Atlantic Soul Legends (see here

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory use the RSS feed for daily updates, and check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.

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Chris - Mar 11, 2014

I don't get it - what exactly is the problem with this cover? He's a handsome dude with a great Afro. His lips are better than his teeth, so he wisely keeps them closed. His hair is a lot better than it was earlier in his career, when it was oiled into something that looked like a mushroom crowd. Is it that in the mirror image, it looks like it is a woman? I've had the album for 25 years and the only thing that I remember is the disappointment that his voice is high and reedy, but not in a good way, like Van Morrison - whose Astral Weeks has a cover shot by the same photographer as this, Joel Brodsky. Am I missing something? GRAHAM REPLIES: My comment isn't about whether he's handsome or not etc, just that this photo looks like it took about 20 seconds to think up and take. Mr Brodsky hardly stretched himself on this one.

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