RONNIE McNEIR: Ronnie McNeir (Label: Dusty Groove)

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RONNIE McNEIR: Ronnie McNeir

Those redoubtable Chicagoans at Dusty Groove have come up trumps with this latest release in their ‘Essential Reissue’ series… Ronnie McNeir’s eponymous 1972 debut for RCA Records. Much turbulent water has flown under Ronnie’s and soul’s collective bridges since ’72 of course, but what has remained constant is the quality of both big Ron’s voice and his ability to pen songs that connect in melody and lyric. Despite being a mere 22 years old when he recorded this album, the work shows a huge maturity and sophistication that stands comparison with contemporaries like Leroy Hutson, Donny Hathaway and Norman Whitfield. Indeed on a number of cuts, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Motown maestro was sitting in the producer’s chair. ‘Trouble’s A Loser’ and ‘Girl You’re Gonna Lose Your Groove’ both have that that busy wah-wah funk feel that Whitfield had perfected with the Temptations, while ‘Young Girl’ would have been a perfect vehicle for the Eddie Kendricks-led Tempts. They’re great tunes, but then so too are ‘Extra, Extra’ and ‘I’m So Thankful’. The former is an urgent, pacey dancer with some delightful chord changes while the latter is a beautiful floater. However, cherry-picking tracks is futile. McNeir conceived the album as concept – with tracks linked by snatches of dialogue (Kim Weston, I believe) and interludes; it’s a tale of love lost and regained, and the set needs to be played right through to appreciate it in its fullness and, in truth, it’s one of the few albums that can withstand that particular critical pressure. RCA dropped McNeir after the album – it didn’t suit their hit single dynamic – but Ronnie persisted with his love for the concept album and soon found a modicum of success at Motown and then, of course, he became that label’s “super sub”, eventually finding his niche with the Four Tops. Over the years he’s continued to record his own solo sets and they show the same commitment and soulfulness as this ’72 debut. ‘Essential Reissue’?… I’ll say. By the way, I’ve seen this CD on sale with Amazon for over £50… get it a fraction of that at the source –
(BB) 4/5