RUFFIN AND KENDRICK: Ruffin and Kendrick (Super Bird)

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David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks were, of course, the twin strikers in the dream team line up of the Temptations. For whatever reasons both chose to go solo (Ruffin in ’68 and Kendricks in ’71) and as individuals they both enjoyed mixed success but, most would agree, neither quite achieved what their remarkable talents deserved. By the mid 80s both were in an artistic trough, when fate stepped in in the shape of blue-eyed soul duo, Daryl Hall and John Oates. Both had been long-term fans of the vintage Temptations and David and Eddie didn’t need much persuasion to join H & O for their high profile Harlem Apollo show. The success of that show led to a Ruffin/Kendrick deal with RCA (Eddie dropped the S from his surname around this time) and the result was this album, newly reissued by specialist label Super Bird.

The compact little nine tracker is a great little 80s soul set but – as many critics pointed out on initial release – it could have been a whole lot better. There are plenty of high spots. The Ronnie McNeir opener, ‘I Couldn’t Believe It’ is superb and as good as any Temptations’ hit, with the boys clearly enjoying trading lines with each other as they’d done back in the day. ‘Don’t Know Why You’re Dreaming’ (another McNeir confection) will grow on you too, while there are some great ballads – ‘One More For The Lonely Hearts Club’, ‘One Last Kiss’ and the closing ‘Goodnight Pillow’ which harks back to the pair’s doo-wop roots.

Elsewhere ‘Ordinary Girl’ tries too hard to sound like Hall and Oates, while ‘Whatever You Got’ , ‘You Only Get What You Put Out’ and the cover of Sly’s ‘Family Affair’ suffer from that tinny, 80s instrumentation. What saves them (it’s obvious really) is the remarkable voices of the two protagonists. Ruffin’s rasp aches perfectly and Kendrick’s falsetto is as sweet as it had ever been. Sadly this was to be the duo’s last proper recording. David Ruffin died in 1991 – his body found in a Philadelphia crack house (minus his dollar stuffed money belt apparently) and Eddie Kendricks succumbed to lung cancer the following year. Be thankful we still have their music to enjoy and this album is just as important a part of their legacy as anything they recorded with the Tempts and as solo stars.

(BB) 4/5