Wednesday, November 08, 2006

When David Met Michael

David Ruffin - I Want You Back

As Motown Records moved into the 1970s, a sea change in its history was in the making: Diana Ross had left the Supremes, whose pop chart success would slacken thereafter (although the group would stick around on Motown for more hits until 1976 or so); the Jackson 5 were breaking out as Motown's dynamite act; the Four Tops were feeling restless and would leave the label in 1972; Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder would wrest creative control from Berry Gordy and release masterpieces that varied greatly from the original "Motown sound"; and the label would make the move from Detroit to Los Angeles, effectively ending the label's golden era. David Ruffin, whose lead vocals had graced many hits for the Temptations before his dismissal from the group in 1968, was also finding his solo career running out of steam. Although he had hit right out of the gate with "My Whole World Ended," Ruffin's subsequent records were not faring so well. I'm sure that this cool streak, coupled with Ruffin's difficult personality, caused Motown to shelve a planned 1971 album on Ruffin, who, fortunately, did get another go of things and hit with "Walk Away From Love" later in the decade. The unreleased album was finally issued as David by Hip-O Select in 2004 and is worth checking out, as it's top-notch material.

With all the changes going on at Motown, it seems only appropriate that one of the tunes on the album was a cover of the Jackson 5's debut smash "I Want You Back," representing a changing of the guard of sorts at the label. Ruffin's gritty vocals take the song out of the realm of bubblegum (and, in my opinion, but not to slight the classic version, his vocals make the lyrics intelligible) and he really sells the song. This version was also included on the great Motown Sings Motown Treasures comp, which is a major treat in itself. Check out this set as well; you won't be disappointed.


Deezy said...

That "FOLLowin' the girl" is worth the price of admission.

Paul said...

This is hands down the best version of the song. The Unreleased Album is a real treat through and through.

UnderCoverAnna said...

I agree ... No one does it better than Mr. Ruffin. And the album is a showcase of his talent -- no doubt about it.
I love his rendition of "Rainy Night in Georgia" on the CD.