THE RUFFIN BROTHERS; I Am My Brother’s Keeper (Hip-O Select/Motown)

  • Home
  • Reviews
  • THE RUFFIN BROTHERS; I Am My Brother’s Keeper (Hip-O Select/Motown)

It’s a given that Berry Gordy and his Motown marketing men were masters at exploiting their various labels’ resources. One ploy they regularly used was to pair artists into twosomes to create further revenue sources. So, main man Marvin Gaye was (over time) teamed up with a whole bevy of Motown soulstresses, while the Supremes secured a number of hits with both the Temptations and the Four Tops. Even second stringers like Edwin Starr found themselves given the opportunity to go down the duet road. Surprisingly, though, the savvy marketeers waited till 1970 to try the most obvious pairing on their roster – the coming together of Mississippi brothers Jimmy and David Ruffin.

In that year the pair were brought together in an attempt to reignite their careers… Jimmy was only finding success in the UK while David’s solo career was clearly stalling. The 12 track album hit the US sales racks in October 1970 and was released in the UK the following May and despite considerable hype it was a commercial failure and since then it has become something of a collectors’ item – chiefly because anything of David Ruffin’s that didn’t do too well on release is now in big, big demand and listening now to this remastered Hip-O Select reissue you appreciate (again) why the younger Ruffin is held in such esteem. Equally you can hear a number of reasons why the LP bombed on release. First – some of the original songs don’t quite come up to the mark while some of the chosen covers didn’t cross genres too well (I’m thinking of the Hollies’ ‘He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother’ and James Taylor’s ‘Lo And Behold’). Then, it’s evident that though we’ve got brothers working together, the chemistry wasn’t always there. At the time of recording David Ruffin was bedevilled by countless demons and sometimes it’s obvious that his heart wasn’t in the project. Equally, it’s clear that on some of the cuts the siblings weren’t even in the studio at the same time. Yes, I know, lots of duets are recorded with the protagonists miles apart – but I’m old fashioned, and still believe that soulful sincerity stems from the moment.

That said, when it all comes together here the result is fabulous soul –as on reworkings of the Delfonics’ ‘Didn’t I ( Blow Your Mind This Time)’ and Tyrone Davis’ ‘Turn Back The Hands Of Time’ and the superb Gloria Jones/Pam Sawyer ballad ‘You’re Love Was Worth Waiting For’. This reissue comes with two bonus cuts, both previously unreleased – the Bobby Taylor-produced ‘You’re What I Need (Not What I Want)’ and a “clean” version of Ben E King’s ‘Stand By Me’ – the original album cut featured overdubbed live sounds. As ever the pack is enhanced with some great pics and a thoughtful piece from Stu Hackel who includes lots of comments from Jimmy Ruffin in it. So, at long last, one of soul’s Holy Grails is available – grab it while you can, if only to enjoy that remarkable David Ruffin voice again.

(BB) 4/5