David Ruffin was asked to leave the Temptations in 1972 and he responded to his new-found solo status by releasing two albums within a period of six months. My Whole World Ended and Feelin’ Good may not have been perfect but they were fine introductions to his developing style outside of a group setting.
His next two solo releases, David Ruffin (1972) and Me ‘N Rock ’N Roll Are Here To Stay (1973) find him traveling in a number of directions. In some ways the albums were more about producers Bobby Miller and Norman Whitfield. While there are some good performances hidden among the tracks, both albums have an inconsistency to them.
Bobby Miller was more of a Philadelphia soul producer than one versed in the legacy of Motown. He wrote or co-wrote eight of the ten tracks and many take Ruffin away from his Temptations roots. Ruffin’s voice had a wonderful and smooth tone but the material is challenging for him.
“The Rovin’ Kind” moves in a psychedelic soul direction complete with motorcycle sounds, and an odd melody, which doesn’t quite match his vocal style. “Common Man” would have been a better fit in a country setting and the swinging “I’m Just A Mortal Man” moves him away from his comfort zone.
On the positive side, Eddie Kendrick makes an appearance on “I Miss You (Part 1),” which puts him back on solid ground. “Go On With Your Bad Self” is so over the top that it actually works. ”Blood Donors Needed” has a harder edge as he tackles the urban violence of the day.
Me ‘N Rock ‘N Roll Are Here To Stay finds Norman Whitfield in charge and he composes much of the material and tries to fit it into Ruffin’s style. Ruffin voice is best appreciated when it is not over-encumbered but here it meets Whitfield’s excessive production. The prime example of this approach is the seven minute, synthesizer laden opus “I Saw You When You Met Her,” where Ruffin doesn’t appear until the two minute mark.
He gives a wonderful and jazzy performance on the classic “Smiling Faces Sometimes.” He is at his best on a cover of “Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)” where is explores the gentle soulful side of the song. He also gives soulful performances on the story-songs “No Matter Where” and “City Stars.”
Both albums met with moderate commercial success. Over 40 years after their release, they sound somewhat dated, yet provide a good introduction into the changing music scene of the early 1970’s by one of soul’s better vocalists.