RONNIE McNEIR; Love’s Comin’ Down (Expansion)

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Having interviewed him a number of times, I know Ronnie McNeir won’t mind me calling him a soul veteran. He now, of course, is an integral part of a veteran group too – the 4 Tops However, in 1976 when this album was first released, Ronnie was still a comparative greenhorn – trying to build a solo career. He’d enjoyed underground success in ’66 with ‘Sitting In My Class’ and ’75’s ‘Wendy Is Gone’ had become a classic while the Prodigal album built around it had garnered some decent reviews. But ‘Love’s Comin’ Down’ was his first, proper full Motown album and it announced the arrival of a major talent with a unique take on soul. Playing the bulk of the instrumentation himself, he used hyperkinetic (broken chord) jazz bass lines, gospel-based organ, multi-note piano chords and ARP solo lines to craft a sound that could only be Ronnie McNeir. Now, thanks to Expansion, this breakthrough album is available on CD (for the first time) and we can all hear again what was so very special about it.

Like the aforementioned Prodigal LP, ‘Love’s Comin’ Down’ was meant to be a song cycle rather than an album where the individual tracks could stand alone, so looking for standouts is maybe a redundant exercise. Over the years, though, two cuts have been singled out and constantly cited as an important part of Ronnie’s heritage. They are ‘You’re All I Need To Survive’ and ‘Selling My Heart To The Junkman’. The former still sounds gorgeous, as it builds in that understated way which Ron specialises in. The latter is almost an ensemble ballad piece – the kind of thing the 4 Tops did/do so well … hardly surprising since it was co-authored by McNeir’s long-time mentor Renaldo Benson. Elsewhere we have the rolling loose dancers – ‘Have You Seen Them Shake’ and ‘Funky Situation’; the very personal ‘Mama And Daddy’; the jaunty ‘Goodbye After Sunday’ and the pleasing ‘Say You Will’, ‘2-1= Loneliness’, and ‘It Won’t Be Long’ and though the title song has a hint of ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ in its introduction it all adds up to a great 70’s soul set.

If the original album reissue isn’t a coup in itself, then the addition of 8 previously unissued bonus cuts make the set unmissable. Of the “new”/old stuff there’s plenty that could have been issued at the time – notably a Wonder-influenced ‘Dream Come True’ and a trio of sweet ballads – ‘Just You Babe’, ‘Love Proposition’ and the dramatic ‘Start Over As Your Man’. Apparently there’s much, much more Ronnie McNeir material in the Motown vault and Expansion are hoping to get more out in the next 12 months. In the meantime, this great set should satisfy Ronnie’s numerous fans.

(BB) 4/5