David Ruffin

Me 'n Rock 'n Roll Are Here to Stay

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Although his viability as a contemporary soul artist was clearly in question by the time of 1974's Me 'n Rock 'n Roll Are Here to Stay, David Ruffin was given another opportunity to prove himself. The former Temptations frontman was teamed with Norman Whitfield -- a producer whose prior accomplishments under the Motown umbrella included a host of indelible classics from the Temptations. Among the most prominent are "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep," "(I Know) I'm Losing You," "You're My Everything," "I Wish It Would Rain," "Cloud Nine," "Runaway Child, Running Wild," "I Can't Get Next to You," "Psychedelic Shack," "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)," "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)," and "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone." The love-gone-wrong lead track turns into a noir funky excursion replete with horn flairs, a moody and evocative string score, and even synth-produced wind sound effects -- all before Ruffin has sung his first note. Once he kicks in with his begging and soulful yearning, the elements coalesce into an effective and dramatically heart-wrenching "tear-stained letter." The upbeat "Take Me Clear from Here" was scheduled for the A-side of a 45 that would have paired it with the cover of Rare Earth's "I Just Wanna Celebrate." It's a pity that the 7" single was withdrawn, as the laid-back vibe reveals a dimension to Ruffin that was all too rarely heard.

Exhibiting a total 180-degree antithesis is the attitude-laden remake of the Undisputed Truth's "Smiling Faces Sometimes," which the vocalist introduces with a spoken prologue before easing into a sincere, almost paternal reading. The context of the times makes his delivery all the more poignant, as it seems that he was maintaining a long and tenuous relationship with many executives and fellow artists at Motown -- a few of whom had fallen out with Ruffin as far back as their days in Detroit. Indeed, it doesn't take much imagination from the listener to hear the wisdom in his voice, which is punctuated by the occasional interjection of his trademark falsetto. This number did make it out as a B-side, coupled with the album's ferocious title track that emphatically proclaims "Me 'n Rock 'n Roll Are Here to Stay." It certainly has been a while since Ruffin has sounded as committed as he does when he unleashes the telling line "I've made a lot of mistakes in my time...." If for no other reason, the reunion between Whitfield and Ruffin could be considered a success. And even as the single failed to make an impression on the charts, the hard-hitting groove remains as a testament to their remarkable talents.

Perhaps to infuse some additional mojo to the studio performances and in spite of the rear LP jacket text that proclaims "Motown Recording Studios, Hollywood" as the facility where the project was cut, the second half of the original platter is bathed in fake live concert applause and ambient sounds. The blues-based rave-up "Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)" is practically drowned out by the copious faux audience. Interestingly, the crowd simultaneously ducks out during "No Matter What" and the excellent update of Dobie Gray's "City Stars." Concluding the effort is a cover of "I Just Want to Celebrate," ending the platter on a high note, proving David Ruffin could still create effective and meaningful music when provided with suitable material and headstrong support behind the scenes -- despite his well-publicized personal and professional problems. In 2005, Me 'n Rock 'n Roll Are Here to Stay joined Ruffin'sMy Whole World Ended (1969), Feelin' Good (1969), and David Ruffin (1972) on the Great David Ruffin limited-edition double-CD compilation from Hip-O Select.

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