Donell Jones had already made a name for himself, writing for the likes of Usher, Jade, and Madonna, when his debut album My Heart hit stores in the summer of 1996. Jones’s debut featured the hit singles “In The Hood,” “You Should Know,” and his cover of the timeless Stevie Wonder classic “Knocks Me Off My Feet.” Furthermore, two of the album tracks, the slow jams “No Interruptions” and “I Want You To Know,” are better songs than some folk’s entire discographies that entered the music game in the last twenty years.
Second Listen Sunday : David Ruffin, Gentleman Ruffin
Soul singer David Ruffin had already earned his place in R&B history during his days as the lead singer of the iconic group, The Temptations. Ruffin and The Tempts cut ties in 1968, and the singer’s first solo album, My Whole World Ended, arrived in 1968. Over the next twelve years, Ruffin would release eight additional solo albums, including this week’s Second Listen Sunday selection, Gentleman Ruffin.
Arriving in record stores on June 15, 1980, Gentleman Ruffin was the singer’s second solo album with Warner Bros. Records and primarily produced by Don Davis. Ruffin opens up his ninth solo album with “I Wanna Be with You,” written by Ben Adkins. A mid-tempo ballad, the song has the right amount of oomph to bring the singer into a new decade. One of the things I loved about this song was how Ruffin’s vocals meshed with the background vocalists.
The David T. Garner penned “All I Need” song is a soaring ballad that recalls Ruffin’s days in The Tempts. Carolyn Franklin, Diane Davis, and Patsy Lewis provide the background vocals and I can easily hear The Supremes on backing vocals if the song hit airwaves during Motown’s heyday. “Love Supply” is up next and finds Ruffin reuniting with Laverna Mason, who provided backing vocals on the album’s opening number.
“Still in Love with You” follows. Honestly, I was expecting another ballad based on the song’s title. Instead, Ruffin gives us an up-tempo number that indeed would’ve packed the dance floor in 1980. The song is also the first of three collaborations with iconic background vocalists Leon Ware, Marc Laroi Cummings and Ronnie McNeir. The club vibes then continue with “I Got a Thing for You.”
Ruffin returns to the balladry with “Can We Make Love One More Time.” Hearing this particular bop, I thought of lava lumps, bearskin rugs, and Colt 45. I could easily hear this song in a post-era Blaxploitation film where our hero attempts to get his main squeeze back after he messes up for the last time. Similar to the earlier mentioned “Still in Love with You”, the production choice on “Slow Dance” took me by surprise.
“Slow Dance” features a great groove that reminded me of a skating rink. Hearing Ruffin croon the lyrics, a smile crept upon my face when times were simpler. And kudos to R&B duo and iconic Hip Hop group Little Brother who sampled this track effectively. Ruffin closes out his final album with “Don’t You Go Home,” which finds Ruffin in begging style. However, when the loving is good, there’s nothing wrong with expressing your feelings which Ruffin does with ease.
Sadly, Gentleman Ruffin would serve as Ruffin’s last solo album of original material. Ruffin would later release a duet album with fellow Tempts member Eddie Kendrick’s in 1987 titled Ruffin & Kendrick and continue to tour until his untimely passing in 1991. I consider myself a music connoisseur and can’t help but wonder how a Ruffin collaboration with producers Leon Sylvers III, Babyface, or Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis would be.
Gentleman Ruffin is an excellent swan song to the solo career of one of the iconic voices in R&B history.
Final Grade: A –
Gentleman Ruffin is available on all streaming platforms.
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