David Ruffin – 1979 – So Soon We Change
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Research & review by Raggedy
Rip & posting by Nikos
We welcome our new family member Raggedy, a very well known and respected Lady in the blogsphere, who runs the amazing Soul of The 60’s & 70’s : Sounds of The Soul blog, which you should all visit daily. Here in her first contribution she chose an album of one of the greatest R’n’B singers of all time :
Regrettably, David Ruffin’s brief stint with the Temptations (1964 – 1968) has for the longest time overshadowed his solo work. His solo material consists of nine LPs, released between 1969 and 1980. Not counting his album David, recorded and scheduled for release in 1971, but ending up shelved by the Motown label.
David re-surfaced in 2004 as David — The Unreleased Abum as limited edition of 3500 copies. He also had several releases in collaboration with Eddie Kendricks, Hall and Oats, and his brother Jimmy Ruffin.
While all the albums he cut for Motown definitely are marked — some of them even marred — by the label’s distinct sound, his two post Motown releases are pleasantly different.
I had no problem deciding not to discuss any of his Motown releases, but it took some internal (and a few external) debates to choose one of the two Warner Bros. albums. I settled for his first album with the new label because of the three songs that taught me to acknowledge David Ruffin as one of the most talented modern day vocalists.
(His second Warner Bros., Gentleman Ruffin, was released in 1980.)
A1 Let Your Love Rain Down On Me 5.42
A2 Break My Heart 4.16
A3 I Get Excited 2.55
A4 Chain On The Brain 5.49
B1 Morning Sun Looks Blue 4.06
B2 Let’s Stay Together 5.25
B3 So Soon We Change 3.56
B4 Sexy Dancer 4.42
David Ruffin had an exceptionally wide vocal range. For those interested in a detailed study of his voice, I recommend the following clip, which in itself is a little masterpiece, here.
But even the most impressive of vocal ranges will not result in a truly great singer like David Ruffin. It takes other, less measurable yet highly perceptible abilities to turn a song into an experience for the soul and the senses. David brought all these necessary extras to the table: soulful grittiness, the gift of an almost unlimited intensity, and the ability to express human emotions ranging from subtle to supercharged.
He belted with excitement or pain, cried in sorrow and despair, groaned with gloom and hopelessness. And on So Soon We Change all these characteristics of David Ruffin’s style show very clearly.
So Soon We Change was produced by Don Davis, a legend in his own name. Davis had worked with the great Johnnie Taylor, for example, and The Dramatics. Strangely enough, some reviews I’ve read consider this album a flop, claiming, for example, that it “consists of one of Ruffin’s most compelling vocals and seven stiffs.” (allmusic.com)
I could not disagree more.
The weakest songs, in my opinion, are Let’s Stay Together and Chain On The Brain — which all too obviously cater to the late 70’s disco scene lovers. Nevertheless, David handles well — and even adds — some zest to these two lame compositions. Although also unmistakable disco tunes, Let your Love Rain Down On Me and Sexy Dancer provide David with a little more leeway to show his versatility.
The undisputed stars on this album, however, sparkle with David Ruffin’s magnificent talent. The Morning Sun Looks Blue vividly describes a lonely soul’s torments while trying to keep a fading love alive. This song features a what sounds to me like a brilliant trumpet solo as a surprise. (I couldn’t find a reference to a trumpet in the credits, however.) And David reaches for the highest notes, effortless and so smoothly, you shake your head not only in disbelief but also in speechless admiration. I doubt that anyone listening to this performance is able to escape a gooseflesh attack extraordinaire.
Break My Heart, the other stunning beauty on this album, captivates you with truly stunning female background vocals and David’s no nonsense approach to expressing heartache and sadness. I never fail to react to the painful, drawn out “free” at the end of the song with at least a lump in my throat. This is David Ruffin reaching into the depths of the human heart. Yet even such a sad song as Break My Heart, which in someone else’s hands may easily turn into a sappy, schmaltzy mess, sounds genuine and grounded in reality if interpreted by the great Ruff.
Finally, the title song So Soon We Change provides another example of David’s ability to mete out emotionality without ever going overboard. Without a doubt, So Soon We Change will put you in a reflective mood. It is a true-to-life portrayal of the final stage in a painful separation: acquiescence. Again, David brings the words to life by a hint of lamentation and the occasional flare up of resistance to the inevitable. This is David Ruffin giving soul to a song.
Now, that my review of David Ruffin’s So Soon We Chance has reached its end, all that’s left for me to say is, “Go ahead and enjoy the gift of the magnificent voice of David Ruffin.”
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