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Ruffin and Kendrick - Ruffin and Kendrick (LP)

Ruffin and Kendrick - Ruffin and Kendrick (LP)

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Genre: soul
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title:  Ruffin & Kendrick
Company: RCA Victor
Catalog: C
Year: 1987
Country/State: US
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: still in shrink wrap
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6098
Price: $15.00

I'm a big Eddie Kendrick, David Ruffin, and The Temptations fan, but I've got to admit I didn't even know this album existed until I stumbled across it in a cut out bin. Even then I wasn't quite sure what I was holding since I was use to seeing the extra 's' on the end of Eddie's surname. So much for RCA's promotional efforts on this one ...

The collection itself was an outgrowth of the pair's 1985 collaboration with Darryl Hall and John Oates on their 1985 live album "Live at the Apollo with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick".

Coupled with a push from Darryl Hall, the duo's extensive promotional appearances on television, and an appearance with Hall and Oates at Live Aid, RCA management offered the pair a contract of their own. The result was 1987's cleverly titled 'Ruffin & Kendrick".

To be totally honest, the first couple of times I listened to the collection I was singularly unimpressed. Given how different their voices were, this wasn't really much of a collaboration. While, the two split vocal duties on the majority of the nine tracks, true to the billing order Ruffin managed to grab the spotlight on the majority of the nine tracks. His voice was simply that overwhelming and while he occasionally sounded flat and uninterested, there was no denying the fact he still had a great voice and was still capable of turning in a dazzling performance. While largely reduced to a backup role, Kendrick still managed to acquit himself well on his isolated spotlight appearances. The up tempo 'You Only Get What You Put Ou' may have been one of the collection's more formulaic songs, but Kendrick's performance was saved the song from complete oblivion and he turned in a nice performance on the sweet closing ballad 'Goodnight Pillow' (which he helped write). Unfortunately neither man sounded at his creative peak and much of the material suffered from a generic and badly dated mid-1980s production feel - tons of synthesizers and an overly slick adult contemporary sound that felt more like radio product than art ('One Last Kiss'). That said, this was one of those collections that slowly grew on me to the point where I could overlook quite a few of those earlier flaws.

- Featuring Ruffin on lead vocals, 'Couldn't Believe It' was probably the most Motown-styled song on the album. Ruffin sounded in prime form on this one, making the most of a great old school soul melody and making you overlook the jittery horn arrangement. rating: **** stars
- 'Ordinary Girl' found the pair pulling a page out of the Hall and Oates catalog. Musically this one sounded like it had been spliced together from a series of Hall and Oates singles (Oates was credited with helping out on the lyrics). Sporting Hall and Oates signature jittery pop sound, it may not have been particularly original, but it sure was catchy and commercial. rating: **** stars
- One of the ffew tracks where Kendrick and Ruffin actually shared lead vocals, 'One More for the Lonely Hearts Club' was a pretty ballad that would have been even better without the lame 80s production effects. I'm sure hosts of fans will disagree, but at least to my ears the song's a pretty good example of how poorly their voices melded. For anyone interested, YouTube has a video of the song at: rating: ** stars - Whoever decided to have the pair dip their toes in funk should have been fired since 'Whatever You Got' was a completely pedestrian and forgettable exercise. Ruffin clearly didn't feel particularly comfortable with the song, trying to power his way through the track. rating: ** stars
- Built on a reggae rhythm, 'Don't Know Why You're Dreaming' was side one's biggest surprise. In theory this should have been one big aural mess, but the pair somehow managed to pull it off ... Yeah, if was FM-lite material, but Ruffin sounded great pouring his soul out on this one. rating: **** stars
- Slowing down Sly's classic 'Family Affair' and slathering it with a bunch of crappy '80s studio effects (slap bass, syndrums, and chirpy background singers), didn't do much for me at first, but the breezy arrangement actually grew on me (at least until it got to the needless synthesizers towards the end of the track). Call it a modestly entertaining number and move on ... rating: *** stars
- Opening up with an adult contemporary-styled sax solo, 'One Last Kiss' was one of those ballads clearly written for mid-1980s radio play. Vapid and completely soulless, this could have been a Michael Bolton track. Yech, a total waste of their talents. rating: * star
- The up tempo 'You Only Get What You Put Out' was another track that suffered from an extremely dated '80s sound. For what it was worth, Kendrick won the battle on this one with his silky croon outshining Ruffin's ragged vocal. Actually, you could argue that the female backing singer won this one ... rating: *** stars
- Co-written by Kendrick, 'Goodnight Pillow' was a pretty, old school soul ballad that actually sounded a bit like prime Smokey Robinson. rating: *** stars

RCA tapped the album for a couple of singles:

7" releases
- 1987's 'Couldn't Believe It' b/w 'Don't Know Why You're Dreaming (RCA catalog number 5313-7-R)

12" releases
- 1987's 'Couldn't Believe It' (extended) b/w 'Couldn't Believe It' (single version) and 'Couldn't Believe It' (instrumental) (RCA catalog number 6688-1)
- 1988's 'One More for the Lonely Hearts Club' b/w '' (RCA catalog number 6925)
Propelled by decent reviews and considerable publicity the album managed to hit # 60 on the R&B charts.

Not a classic soul album by any stretch of the imagination, but still worth hearing and it stands as their final studio effort. As most fans already know, Ruffin died from a drug overdose in June 1991. Only 52, in October 1992 Kendrick succumbed to lung cancer.

"Ruffin & Kendrick" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Couldn't Believe It (Ronnie McNeir - M. Crump - R. Benson) -
2.) Ordinary Girl (Rahni Song - David Songbrdge) -
3.) One More for the Lonely Hearts Club (Charles White - Eddie Kendrick - Murvay Braxton - John Oates - Jim Bonnefond) -
4.) Whatever You Got (Rick Iantosca - Jim Bonnefond - Irwinw Levine) -
5.) Don't Know Why You're Dreaming (R. McNeir - M. Crump - R. Benson) -

(side 2)
1.) Family Affair (Sylvester Stewart) -
2.) One Last Kiss (Gene McFadden - Linda Vitali - Paul Fox) -
3.) You Only Get What You Put Out (Gene McFadden - Linda Vitali - Paul Fox) -
4.) Goodnight Pillow (Charles White - Eddie Kendrick - Murvay Braxton -
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