david ruffin

david ruffin

THE RUFFIN BROTHERS -"TURN BACK THE HANDS OF TIME" (1970)

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With neither Ruffin brother experiencing significant success in the wake of their non-simultaneous departure from the Temptations, Jimmy latched upon the idea of recording a duet album with the younger David -- partially as a way to pay tribute to their recently passed parents, partially as a way to jump-start their stalled careers. In regards to the latter, 1970's I Am My Brother's Keeper was no great shakes, barely scraping the pop charts and its lead single "Stand by Me" only reaching 24 on the R&B charts, but as a testament to the familial talents of the Ruffins, the LP succeeds, proving that these two great voices could enliven familiar tunes. It's a knack that's needed here, for much of I Am My Brother's Keeper consists of splashy, sequin-studded and polyester-draped covers of pop and R&B hits. Just under half of the album consists of versions of tunes by the Hollies, Ben E. King, the Delfonics and Tyrone Davis, with the rest of the record coming from in-house Motown writers and elsewhere, including the rousing Gloria Jones co-write "When My Love Hand Comes Down." This is one of five Bobby Taylor productions on the LP, and he gives the Ruffins soulful, funky sounds that showcase them at their best, with Henry Cosby, Duke Browner, Frank Wilson and Al Kent responsible for the songs that edge a little closer to the pop charts. Combined, all the producers provide a sampler of Motown sounds at the dawn of the '70s -- sometimes things are deeply funky, sometimes things are slick enough for a televised variety revue -- but the Ruffins pull it all together, sounding comfortable in every setting, always commanding attention. Perhaps its underwhelming commercial performance is understandable -- there are no true knockouts here, just a bunch of strong soul -- but I Am My Brother's Keeper is an album that seems stronger in retrospect, as it was the last time one of the great brother teams in soul sung together so joyfully. [Hip-O Select's 2010 reissue adds the excellent unreleased "You're What I Need (Not What I Want)" -- produced by Bobby Taylor and co-written by Gloria Jones and Pamela Sawyer -- and a mix of "Stand by Me" that removes the fake live overdubs of the original.]