Thursday, 21 November 2019

David Ruffin

My Whole World Ended (1969)

My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)/Pieces Of A Man/Somebody Stole My Dream/I've Lost Everything I've Ever Loved/Everlasting Love/I've Got To Find Myself A Brand New Baby/The Double Cross/Message From Maria/World Of Darkness/We'll Have A Good Thing Going On/My Love Is Growing Stronger/Flower Child

This was ex-Temptation and notoriously 'difficult' David Ruffin's first solo album, from 1969. His stock was still high sat Motown so he was afforded quality musicians and production. Contrary to much of The Temptations' output from the same period, which was heading via producer Norman Whitfield towards 'issue' related material, this is an album of romantic, often heartbreaking pure soul love songs.

The album's big hit single, My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me), is a horn and percussion-driven glorious and often-overlooked Motown classic. It is not often included on compilations of Motown greats and it damn well should be. It cooks from the moment it starts. Ruffin's vocal is soaring and the backing is sumptuous, from the sweeping strings to the infectious percussion.

Equally intoxicating is Pieces Of A Man - Ruffin's vocal is simply top notch on this and the backing, once again is superb. It is overflowing with soul, musically and vocally.

Somebody Stole My Dream is beautifully bassy and laid-back in its instinctive soulfulness. I've Lost Everything I've Ever Loved is a wonderful big bass and brass Motown groove, similar to older brother Jimmy's material. I just love this late sixties Motown stuff, it positively drips with soul passion. I bet Steven Van Zandt and Southside Johnny loved this. Indeed, Van Zandt has quoted Ruffin as being his favourite Motown artist.

I love Everlasting Love from its Love Affair version. Ruffin's take is more similar to Robert Knight's more soulful interpretation of the song. Congas dominate as opposed to the Love Affair's horns. It's a great song and Ruffin is a great singer, so that's fine by me. 

I've Got To Find Myself A Brand New Baby continues the horn-driven magnificence of the album thus far. What a first side.

The Double Cross is solidly soulful but slightly slower paced than its predecessors. Check out that big drum sound though, and those guitars too. Message From Maria would seem to be a companion song to brother Jimmy's Take A Letter Maria. Listen to that fantastic bass line on this one. 

Another top quality number is the gorgeous groove of World Of Darkness which is again driven along by a stunning bass line. It goes without saying that David's vocal takes us skywards. We'll Have A Good Thing Going On is powered by a punchy brass backing and its vibe is just so soulful it hurts. 

My Love Is Growing Stronger is a slow but dignified piece of soul backed by some impressive gospelly vocals. Flower Child, as opposed to being some sort of hippy anthem is a chunky number that is the album's most close relation to The Temptations' contemporary material. 

This album is up there with Jimmy Ruffin's Ruff'n Ready as one of the great late sixties Motown albums. It is seriously good.

Feelin' Good (1969)

Loving You (Is Hurting Me)/Put A Little Love In Your Heart/I'm So Glad I Fell For You/Feelin' Aright/I Could Never Be President/I Pray Everyday You Won't Regret Loving Me/What You Gave Me/One More Hurt/I Let Love Slip Away/I Don't Know Why I Love You/The Forgotten Man/The Letter

This was David Ruffin's second solo album of 1969 and was pretty much made up from the tracks that didn't quite make the cut for his debut earlier in the year. 

Loving You (Is Hurting Me) is a brassy, upbeat opener with a real Levi Stubbs-Four Tops feel to it. It also has tinges of Bobby Womack in Ruffin's vocal too. It goes without saying that the bass line is rumblingly brilliant too. Jackie DeShannon's Put A Little Love In Your Heart is covered convincingly by Ruffin in a supremely soulful, insistent way. It is the album's best cut, for me. Ruffin is just so effortlessly soulful. Top quality.

I'm So Glad I Fell For You, a slower, churchy number, suffers from a considerable amount of background hiss at the beginning, as if it dates from ten years earlier. Let that not detract from Ruffin's supreme delivery, though. 

Traffic's Feelin' Alright has been covered so many soul artists and they invariably do a good job, as, of course, does David. It is a solid, grinding pace, bassy interpretation, featuring nice bass, drums and piano. 

I Could Never Be President is a short but punchy, seemingly politically-motivated song that merges David's unwillingness to be president if it meant he lost the love of his lady. I Pray Everyday You Won't Regret Loving Me is a solid Temptations-esque mid-pace grinder. What You Gave Me is a very Bobby Womack-influenced number.

One More Hurt is Motown soul of the period by numbers - nothing special, but strong and appealing at the same time. I Let Love Slip Away is the album's first late night  smoocher that once again has Ruffin sounding very much like Bobby Womack. I Don't Know Why I Love You sees a return to the thumping Four Tops vibe of earlier on the album.

The Forgotten Man is a big production tearjerking but gritty ballad and The Letter finishes the album in the same style. 

There is not a huge amount to be said about each individual track, unlike, say on a David Bowie album. It is just quality soul of its time, nothing more, nothing less.

David (1970)

Each Day Is A Lifetime/I Want You Back/Out In The Country/You Can Come Right Back To Me/I Can't Be Hurt Anymore/Rainy Night In Georgia/I've Got A Need For You/Anything That You Ask For/Let Somebody Love Me/For The Shelter Of Your Love/Dinah/Don't Stop Lovin' Me


It's Gonna Take Whole A Lot Of Doin'/I Want Her To Say It Again/Your Heartaches Can Surely Heal/Get Away Heartbreak (Keep On Moving)/You Make Me Do Things (I Don't Want To Do)/Mountain Of Memories/Heaven Help Us All

For some reason, David Ruffin's proposed 1970 third solo album, David (inventive title eh?) was shelved by Motown. Maybe they were irked by Ruffin's famously confrontational and often uncooperative attitude - the reason has never been explained. Either way, it left lots of fine material in the "vaults" that took years and years to see the light of day (why?). Motown, particularly, amassed literally hundreds of songs deemed unfit for release, many of which are anything but. This is certainly true of the songs on this album, along with the seven ones that didn't even make the cut for this one too.

Whereas it seemed all the other Motown artists were recording socially aware material during this period - The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Undisputed Truth - even Diana Ross and The Four Tops were dabbling in conscious stuff - this collection of songs is pure Motown soul, almost a throw back in some respects, but with a contemporary solidity of sound and a willingness to experiment in psychedelic sounds and keyboard innovations. 

I will not go through the material song by song, but there are lots of great ones here including fine singles in Don't Stop Lovin' Me, the heavily-orchestrated and Four Tops-esque Each Day Is A Lifetime and the Northern Soul hit You Can Come Right Back To Me. Another excellent track is the classic soaring Motown soul of Anything That You Ask For, along with the poppy Dinah, the Chi-Lites-ish glory of Let Somebody Love Me and It's Gonna Take A Whole Lot Of Doin'. All quality songs.

The bonus track I Want Her To Say It Again is an absolute corker. Check out Your Heartaches Can Surely Heal too. The Temptations-esque fuzzy funk of Get Away Heartbreak (Keep On Moving) is up there with the best of anything Ruffin laid down. In fact, the bonus tracks get the nod over the original album ones.

Interesting covers are to be found in a soulful interpretation of The Jackson 5's I Want You Back, that turns the song from a joyous teenage pop song into a serving of mature soul; an unsurprisingly competent version of Brook Benton's Rainy Night In Georgia and a moving rendition of Stevie Wonder's Heaven Help Us All. The latter is one of the only "issue" songs in the collection. 

Again, quite why Motown chose not to release this remains a mystery. It is a delicious helping of lip-smacking Motown fare.

David Ruffin (1973)

Rovin' Kind/Common Man/I'm Just A Mortal Man/(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want To Be Right/There Will Always Be Another Song To Sing/I Miss You (Part 1)/Blood Donors Needed (Give All You Can)/A Little More Trust/Go On With Your Bad Self/A Day In The Life Of A Working Man

Also released at the end of Ruffin's more productive Motown period was this eponymous album, from 1973.

It has definitely slipped under the radar but it is easily as good as any of the previous albums. Indeed, there is an argument to say that it is the best of the lot. It basically gives us more classic, gritty Ruffin soul and has that trademark tinge of sadness to it that seems to go hand-in-hand with the beginning of the end of his time with Motown. It wasn't his last Motown album, but in many ways it seemed like it. 

Despite his wonderful, evocative voice, one feels he never really achieved the success that he should have done. Along with Levi Stubbs he as, for me, the great Motown male voice. 

Check out the pure soul of Rovin' Kind, Common Man or the pounding funk of A Day In The Life Of A Working Man or Blood Donors Needed (Give All You Can) for proof. Go On With Your Bad Self positively drips with funk. I also have to say that the sound quality on this album is excellent - nice and warm and bassy, just as I like it. 

I'm Just A Mortal Man is soaringly soulful too and There Will Always Be Another Song To Sing is simply Heaven-sent. God bless you David, however complex a character you were, what is in no doubt is that you had soul by the bucketload. You could take any of these albums and use them as examples of what a top quality soul man David Ruffin was.

Ruffin & Kendrick (1987)

I Couldn't Believe It/Ordinary Girl/One More For The Lonely Hearts Club/Whatever You Got/Don't Know Why (You're Dreaming)/Family Affair/One Last Kiss/You Only Get What You Put Out/Goodnight Pillow  

Daryl Hall & John Oates managed to get these two ex-Temptations together to record this little-known comeback album in 1987, long after they had left The Temptations. They also used the two of them to join in parts of their stage show on a Motown nostalgia slot. I used to own a long-deleted live album of that show and it was really good. (Actually it still exists, I'll get round to reviewing it - it's called Live At The Apollo).

Eddie Kendricks reverted to his birth surname of Kendrick, without the 's' for this album and throughout the 1980s.

Anyway, this album is a long-forgotten soul rarity with some good stuff on it and it is great to hear them singing together again. Tragically, within five years, both of them would have passed away.
I Couldn't Believe It is a marvellous Motown-style stomper, led by Ruffin's mellifluous voice, backed up by Kendrick's falsetto. Both of them are sounding understandably older, but man, they've still got it, haven't they? The song has a killer saxophone solo too. The backing is slightly more eighties than sixties, but you can't help but bop along. It has a bit of feel of those "modern Northern Soul" records, recorded in the eighties to sound "Northern". 

Ordinary Girl has a very Hall & Oates-style backing that sounds like that they used on Maneater. It is not a Hall & Oates song but it sure sounds like it, with that frisky, fast bass beat. Kendrick leads on the syrupy ballad One More For The Lonely Hearts Club. Ruffin's backing vocal is sumptuous.

Whatever You Got is a solid slice of eighties soul funk, led by Ruffin, featuring some nice jazzy saxophone.The synthy backing is very eighties, though. 

Don't Know Why (You're Dreaming) has a summery, vaguely reggae-ish beat. The pair's cover of Sly & The Family Stone's Family Affair is handled competently enough but doesn't really find me wanting to listen to it in preference to the original. Its eighties backing takes some of the appeal of the original seventies funk away from it.

One Last Kiss is a delicious slice of sweet, harmonious soul. You Only Get What You Put Out is a cookin' pot full of funk with the two voices interacting perfectly. Once more I have to say that it is very eighties. Goodnight Pillow is a late night slushy number as you might expect.

Overall, this is a pleasant, quality soul album. It is nothing outstanding, though and is rendered a little important by its very synthesised eighties backing, but there is no denying the timbre of the voices. It is eminently listenable certainly not essential.


Regarding "best of" compilations, a good way of accessing David Ruffin's Motown material (minus the "David" album) is via these two excellent complete studio albums sets:-

No comments:

Post a comment