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Review: Real Gone Offers Temptations From David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks

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David Ruffin - My Whole World EndedThree recent releases from the team at Real Gone Music feature the solo music of David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks, two-fifths of the original Temptations line-up. The label has reissued Ruffin’s first four albums on two single CDs, two to each CD, and has premiered Kendricks’ post-Motown LP Love Keys, for Atlantic Records, on CD.

David Ruffin had departed The Temptations after the April 1968 release of the Wish It Would Rain album, with Dennis Edwards officially joining the group onstage in July and on record in November for the joint effort Diana Ross & The Supremes Join the Temptations. Wish It Would Rain is considered to be the Temps’ final album squarely in the “classic Motown” bag, as producer Norman Whitfield steered them in a “psychedelic soul” direction with their next group-only album, Cloud Nine. The Sound of Young America, however, was abundant on Ruffin’s 1969 solo debut My Whole World Ended.

Its cover depicts an introspective-looking Ruffin, and though the album’s lyrics are filled with woeful tales – perhaps none more so than the bleak “I’ve Lost Everything I’ve Ever Loved” – it’s hardly a depressing or downbeat listen. There’s nary a straight ballad on the set, with grief-stricken lyrics usually set to mid- or uptempo melodies. It’s anchored by the No. 9 Pop/No. 2 R&B title track from a host of writers including Johnny Bristol, Jimmy Roach, Pam Sawyer and its producer, Harvey Fuqua. “My Whole World Ended” is a stunning piece of utterly despairing pop set to an irresistibly dramatic melody, which Ruffin sings as if his whole life depended upon it. Far from ending, the song augured a new beginning for the Temptation.

The numerous producers whose work was tapped to create the album – Johnny Bristol, Harvey Fuqua, Henry Cosby, Ivy Jo Hunter and George Gordy – all put Ruffin’s powerful, versatile voice front and center. Ruffin had a husky rasp that lent itself to expressions of pain and passion, whether crooning tenderly or reaching for his falsetto register for a well-placed shriek of anguish (as he does frequently). None of the songs on My Whole World Ended would have seemed like a radical departure from his lead vocals with The Temptations although the female backing vocals on a number of the tracks lent quite a different quality. Ruffin even engages in a bit of church-inspired call-and-response with the chorus on “World of Darkness.” Another atypical track is Bristol and Marv Johnson’s “My Love is Growing Stronger” with its unusual (for Motown, anyway) waltz tempo. “Everlasting Love” is a Motown spin on the Buzz Cason/Mac Gayden song that was a hit for Robert Knight (in 1967), Love Affair (in 1968), Carl Carlton (in 1974) – just to name a few of the artists who have had chart success with the driving melody! “Flower Child” is early Motown psychedelia, with a funky, Whitfield-style rhythm and a dirty electric guitar.

Follow-up album Feelin’ Good (which doesn’t have a cover of the Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse song of that title) again was the work of numerous producers, among them the returning Johnny Bristol, George Gordy and Henry Cosby plus Leonard Caston, Clay McMurray, Al Kent, Terry Johnson, Nickolas Ashford and Valarie Simpson, and even Berry Gordy. It arrived later in 1969, just months after its predecessor, with a freshly-minted cover of Jackie DeShannon’s hit “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” one of the tracks here to subtly add a contemporary edge with sitar. Other tracks were actually recorded prior to sessions for Ruffin’s first album. Though there’s still plenty of Despair, Ruffin-Style, it’s a lighter listen than My Whole World Ended, too.

The boisterous and brassy “I Could Never Be President” (“…just as long as I’m lovin’ you!”) arrived at Motown from southern soul scribes “We Three,” a.k.a. Homer Banks, Bettye Crutcher and Raymond Jackson. Closer to home, Gladys Knight, her brother and Pip Merald Knight and Johnny Bristol penned “I Pray Everyday You Won’t Regret Leaving Me,” which sizzles thanks to Ruffin’s dynamic vocal on its shifting melody. He can’t top Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s recording of Ashford and Simpson’s “What You Gave Me” (which recalls “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” in its melody and arrangement) but comes close on this sweet track.  Another Motown great, Smokey Robinson, co-wrote “The Letter.”

Despite the variety of material, Ruffin simply wasn’t capable of turning in a less-than-authentic vocal performance. Berry Gordy oversaw the full-tilt gospel of “I’m So Glad I Fell for You” with the choir (credited as The Hal Davis Singers) and the requisite organ; on the other end of the spectrum is a straightforward cover of Dave Mason’s “Feelin’ Alright” (why wasn’t that selected as the album’s title?) with the familiar piano part of the Joe Cocker recording. Oddly, a couple of tracks sound more like The Four Tops than The Temptations: Clay McMurray’s urgent “I Don’t Know Why I Love You” and Norma Toney, Albert Hamilton and William Garrett’s “One More Hurt.”

After the jump: a look at David Ruffin/Me ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll are Here to Stay and Eddie Kendricks’ Love Keys! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 8, 2014 at 12:46

Release Round-Up: Week of April 1

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Cyndi Lauper - She's So UnusualCyndi Lauper, She’s So Unusual: A 30th Anniversary Celebration (Portrait/Epic/Legacy)

One of MTV’s first queens wears the crown anew on this deluxe set featuring new remixes, rarities from the vault, rare photographs and a fun expanded package with a diorama and reusable sticker set.

Amazon U.S.: 1CD / 2CD / LP
Amazon U.K.: 1CD2CD / LP

Keith AllisonReal Gone slate: Doris Day, Music, Movies & Memories / Doris Day, Sings Her Great Movie Hits / Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, The Complete Atlantic Sides Plus (2-CD Set) / Cowboy, Reach for the Sky / Keith Allison, In Action — The Complete Columbia Sides and More!/ The Ohio Express, Beg, Borrow and Steal — The Complete Cameo Recordings / Eddie Kendricks, Love Keys / Vicki Lawrence, The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia — The Complete Bell Recordings / The Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Vol. 19 — 10/19/73 Oklahoma City Fairgrounds Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

The latest Real Gone slate includes two compilations to celebrate Doris Day’s 90th birthday, soul rarities from Eddie Kendricks and Patti LaBelle and a great new Keith Allison set featuring new liner notes from Joe!

Doris Day/Music, Movies & MemoriesAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Doris Day/Great Movie HitsAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Patti LaBelle: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Cowboy: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Keith Allison: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Ohio Express: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Eddie Kendricks: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Vicki Lawrence: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Grateful Dead: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Alan Parsons Project - CompleteThe Alan Parsons Project, The Complete Albums Collection (Arista/Legacy)

The complete Alan Parsons Project discography in one box, including their non-Arista debut, 1976’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allen Poe and the unreleased 1981 instrumental album The Sicilian Defence. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Dylan's GospelThe Brothers and Sisters, Dylan’s Gospel (Ode/Light in the Attic)

Ten gospel-fied covers of Bob Dylan tunes, featuring singers from Merry Clayton to Patrice Holloway, arrangements from Gene Page and contributions from Ode artists and friends including Carole King and John Phillips. First time in print in more than a decade!

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Andy CappAndy Capp: Original West End Cast Recording (Stage Door Records)

Stage Door revives the original London cast recording of the 1982 musical based on Reg Smythe’s long-running comic strip. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

TCM Play It Again SamVarious Artists, Play It Again: The Classic Sound of Hollywood (TCM/Masterworks)

Joe will have a full rundown of the latest title in Masterworks and TCM’s vintage Hollywood series later this week! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Action, Action, Action! Real Gone’s April Release Schedule Announced

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Keith Allison

Second Disc HQ may be surrounded by layers of detestable snow, but a new release schedule from Real Gone Music is as good as any sunshine! (Plus, these titles are due in April, by which everything will have melted…WE HOPE.)

You’ve already read about two of the label’s new April releases courtesy of Joe’s post about Doris Day earlier today, but that’s not all they’re offering. A complete singles collection by Patti LaBelle and The Bluebells – featuring the three future members of LaBelle with future Supremes member Cindy Birdsong – is forthcoming, as are chronicles of The Ohio Express on Cameo Records, Vicki Lawrence (“The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia”) on Bell, and a tempting reissue of Eddie Kendricks’ 1981 final solo LP, his only for Atlantic Records.

But we have to confess we’re a little excited about In Action: The Complete Columbia Sides and More, a new collection devoted to Keith Allison, an underrated rock legend who sat in with The Monkees on some of their best albums, and whose Columbia works were produced by Gary Usher, featuring songs written by Boyce & Hart (the iconic theme to TV series Where the Action Is), Neil Diamond and Mark Lindsay, who’d later recruit him into Paul Revere & The Raiders. In addition to being an airtight, rarity-packed set, we once again can reveal a Real Gone Music release has liner notes penned by our own Joe Marchese, featuring excerpts from a new interview with Keith himself!

So what are you waiting for? Full specs on all titles, including Jacksonville band Cowboy (a favorite of Duane Allman’s) and another Grateful Dead Dick’s Picks title, are after the jump, and all of them are released on April 1 (no foolin’!).

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