The Groove Governor (Mini Replica)
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The Groove Governor
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Audio CD, 30 Jun 2016
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Elemental Music proudly presents, for the first time ever on CD, Jimmy Ruffin s The Groove Governor. Although it didn t chart, 'Let's Say Goodbye Tomorrow' has a good chorus and should have done better. The producer employs a spoken intro on Burt Bacharachs' 'This Guy's In Love With You,' to good effect. 'Living in a World I Created for Myself' has hit qualities but failed to make the grade. The backing vocals, aptly done by the Originals, are magnificent throughout. Jimmy Ruffin (1936-2014) was an American soul singer, and elder brother of David Ruffin of The Temptations. He had several hit records between the 1960s and 1980s, the most successful being the Top 10 hits 'What Becomes of the Brokenhearted' and 'Hold On (To My Love)'.
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I actually bought three consecutive LP releases on Motown's Soul label around that time: Jr. Walker & the All Stars' 'A Gasssss' (still not on CD), this one, and The Ruffin Brothers' (Jimmy and David) 'I Am My Brother's Keeper"' Although I consider this to to be essential Jimmy Ruffin and really like every track, it didn't register on any of the national LP charts in the US (and was never even issued in the UK).
But while Jimmy Ruffin saw no chart action (neither LPs nor singles) in the US in 1970 as a solo artist (the Ruffin Brothers fared a bit better with their aforementioned duet LP and single 'Stand by Me', a revival of the Ben E. King classic from nine years earlier), amazingly he was the second biggest male solo singles-chart vocalist in the UK that same year: ahead of Tom Jones and behind only Elvis Presley. This was the result of a string of three consecutive singles that reached the top eight and had lengthy chart runs. Thus it became obvious to Ruffin that by year's end he should permanently relocate to Britain, where he would forever be regarded as a soul icon and become a well-known personality.
Ironically, Ruffin's British singles chart hit streak would be broken soon after his move to London when the lead-off track here, 'Let's Say Goodbye Tomorrow' - one of three "Groove Governor" tracks penned and produced by 'What Becomes of the Brokenhearted' / 'I've Passed This Way Before' co-creators James Dean and William Weatherspoon - failed to chart. I appreciate most of the melodies and the lyrical depth of Dean and Weatherspoon, but despite another one of their soaring hooks in the chorus of this midtempo ballad, beautifully delivered by Jimmy (and superbly backed by the Originals), the verses seemingly lacked the catchiness needed to attract a large audience. In the US, the excellent second track from this LP, 'Maria (You Were the Only One)' - a highly compelling and dramatic tune - likewise failed to register as a topside single. (In the UK, it appeared as the neglected B-side of 'Let's Say Goodbye Tomorrow'.) Jimmy Ruffin had long been suffering from a chronic lack of promotion by Motown in the US; and at a time of Jackson 5 dominance, Diana Ross's solo career being launched, the Temptations' 'Ball of Confusion' and Edwin Starr's 'War' (not to mention Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Gladys Knight & the Pips, etc.), his getting almost totally overlooked in his native country, despite the high quality of his work, was fairly inevitable.
Receiving a belated single release (his last at Motown) in 1972, Jimmy Ruffin's own fine composition, 'Our Favorite Melody', which is given a gorgeous orchestral arrangement, vanished without a trace; but we can enjoy it here as Trk 4.
Ruffin's reading of R.B. Greaves' recent hit 'Take a Letter Maria' (the second 'Maria' song here) is well done but uncomfortably close to the original. Much more notable on the pop remake front are his takes on Burt Bacharach-Hal David's smash 'This Guy's in Love with You' and Jimmy Webb's 'Honey Come Back'. At the time, titles such as these would have produced yawns - if not groans - but, in my opinion, they are both superior to the hit versions (by Herb Alpert and Glen Campbell, respectively), if one is looking for emotional depth and soul. They both feature talking parts, which is something Ruffin excelled at, if you recall the arresting intro to 'I've Passed This Way Before'. Again, IMO, this and Gene Chandler's cover versions are the best ones on 'This Guy's in Love with You'; and Chuck Jackson's ORIGINAL version of 'Honey Come Back' (from when Jimmy Webb was writing at Motown) is absolutely unbeatable [Get it on the Chuck Jackson CD 'Goin' Back to Jackson'. Also heard here is Ruffin's convincing version of Frank Wilson's 'If You Let Me', two years before it would become a hit for Eddie Kendricks.
If you appreciate the vocal artistry of the late Jimmy Ruffin, grab 'The Groove Governor' with great gusto - and be grateful that you got it!