Ask any soul fan for a short list of that music’s biggest ‘cult heroes’ and you can bet that Tommy Tate will be up there with Sam Dees, George Jackson and Phillip Mitchell. Like all of these men, Tommy is a first-tier songwriter, with hundreds of quality copyrights to his credit. And like all of them, too, Tommy’s catalogue of released masters, from the 1960s to the 21st Century, is frighteningly meagre in comparison with his talent. In a 40+ year career that began in 1965, Tommy has probably released no more than 50 recordings that feature him as lead vocalist. Happily, Kent is now able to make 20 of the very best available – in many cases, for the first time outside of Japan – on a CD that will have most of its buyers echoing the sentiments of its title – “I’m So Satisfied”.
17 of the 20 recordings on display are what has survived from Tommy’s seven year tenure as a Ko Ko Records artist. The majority of them were cut in Muscle Shoals and with musicians from the City’s famous Rhythm Section. Others were recorded with Isaac Hayes’ backing musicians, the Movement. This is exactly the kind of thing that all lovers of Southern Soul like, and, if they haven’t heard the tracks before, they will not be disappointed in any way.
Tommy always played second fiddle, in terms of promotion, to Ko Ko’s top (and, indeed, only other) artist Luther Ingram, and beyond the magnificent autobiography of School Of Life there was very little chart action to show for seven years on the same label. When he was finally granted the luxury of an LP in 1977, to be titled “I’m So Satisfied”, Ko Ko’s notorious boss Johnny Baylor closed the company down, just as copies were due to be pressed. The same fate also befell If You’ve Got To Love Somebody, a tune much beloved by the Modern Soul scene that at least got as far as being pressed as a demo, before being taken off schedule and to having just about its entire pressing scrapped.
Of course, it’s inclded here for your pleasure, along with all of Tommy’s other Ko Ko sides plus three tracks that he recorded for Stax as the temporary lead singer of the Nightingales, just prior to signing to Ko Ko. Other than an impossibly rare limited-edition CD pressing by Japanese label P-Vine, from more than a decade ago, this CD marks the first time that these tracks will have been given the worldwide audience that they have been denied since 1977.
That ought to make everyone Satisfied…
By Tony Rounce