David Ruffin

Feelin' Good

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Less than six months after the release of his triumphant solo debut My Whole World Ended (1969), Motown issued former Temptations' frontman David Ruffin's dozen-song follow-up Feelin' Good (1969). One factor in such a rapid turnaround was the availability of several leftovers from Ruffin's former project and another was undoubtedly to strike again while the iron was still hot -- as My Whole World Ended had topped the R&B charts for two weeks and spawned a pair of pop crossover hits to boot. Keen-eared listeners can discern the earlier recordings as Ruffin's voice hasn't developed the noticeably grittier quality that is reflected in the opening upbeat soul stirrer "Loving You (Is Hurting Me)." His timeless falsetto has a weariness that simply can't be simulated. Of the two non-Motown covers on this collection, the incendiary update of Dave Mason's "Feelin' Alright" wins hands down over the comparatively uninspired, but charming take of Jackie DeShannon's anthemic "Put a Little Love in Your Heart." None other than Motown founding father Berry Gordy himself is credited with the production on the gospel-flavored ballad "I'm So Glad I Fell for You." The raw emotion in Ruffin's fervent delivery and the spirited support of the Hal Davis Singers were enough to take the tune into the Top 20 R&B charts. Although the specific references may have changed, "I Could Never Be President" is as much a politically charged statement as it is an exuberant love song. It projects a more positive future than the present set of circumstances that most of Ruffin's core audience would have been concurrently experiencing. The exceptionally funky rocker "I Pray Everyday You Won't Regret Loving Me" -- which was co-penned by Gladys Knight and her brother (not to mention a Pip) Merald "Bubba" Knight -- is one of the better remnants from the My Whole World Ended sessions, standing among the album's better deep cuts. The lightness of Ashford & Simpson's "What You Gave to Me" pays an homage to Sagittarius' psychedelic sleeper "My World Fell Down" by essentially stealing the opening lyric "Just like a breath of spring/you came my way" and condensing it to "Like a breath of spring you came...." Ruffin's perfect falsetto helps turn in another excellent leftover, which is also the source for the sublime mid-tempo "I Let Love Slip Away." Before Ruffin was assigned the selection, a backing track was created for fellow Motown artist Marvin Gaye. As Gaye never got around to it, Ruffin was thankfully given a chance to see where he could take it. The austerity of Ruffin's instrument indicates more about his personal state of affairs than perhaps he had intended to reveal. Yet he is able to conjure up the same beguiling temperament that had contributed to masterpieces such as "I Wish It Would Rain" and "My Girl." Hip-O Select's Great David Ruffin: The Motown Solo Albums, Vol. 1 (2005) double-disc anthology includes Feelin' Good and its predecessor My Whole World Ended (1969), as well as David Ruffin (1973), and Me 'N Rock 'N Roll Are Here to Stay (1974) -- all of which have been digitally remastered for optimal fidelity.

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