Soulful Solo: David Ruffin’s First Four Albums on Real Gone Music
By Ken Paulson
David Ruffin, the man who sang lead on the Temptations’ “My Girl” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” died of a drug overdose at age 50, the epitome of squandered talent.
Yet two new releases from Real Gone Music remind us of the richness of his early solo career, when for a time it looked like he might match the success of his former group.
Each of the two discs contains two Ruffin solo albums on Motown: My Whole World Ended and Feelin’ Good from 1969 and David Ruffin and Me ‘n Rock ‘n’ Roll Are Here to Stay, from 1973 and 1974 respectively.
The first album is a stunner, fueled by the title hit and the similarly despairing “I Lost Everything I’ve Ever Loved.” This is classic Motown with driving and inventive songs from a wide range of writers, including Johnny Bristol, Harvey Fuqua and Pamela Sawyer, plus a soaring cover of “Everlasting Love.”
Feelin’ Good is much of the same, though there were no breakout pop hits. “I Could Never Be President” is both topical and goofy; this guy could solve all the world’s problems, but he’s too busy being in love. It appears the writers skipped civics class: “Congress would veto the first bill I would pass.”
Less impressive, but still worthy, are the third and fourth albums. It’s odd that after an army of writers on the first two releases, Motown opted to have Bobby Miller produce and write most of David Ruffin.” “The Rovin’ Kind” and the audacious “Go On with Your Bad Self” are highlights.
I was a young music writer and college radio station programmer when Me and Rock ‘n’ Roll Are Here to Stay was released and remember being surprised by the odd packaging. The orange cover with a large jukebox graphic suggested something from Starland Vocal Band or Dawn, and certainly not the work of a soul great.
Norman Whitfield’s production was ambitious and sometimes intrusive. Otherwise compelling versions of “Superstar (Remember How You Got to Where You Are) are marred by pumped-up audience noise. The album didn’t even crack the Top 200.
Both collections capture the vibrancy of early ‘70s soul, and the first two albums are a must for fans of Motown’s golden era.
(This article originally appeared on Sun209.com at http://sun209.com/?p=6719.)