(Written by Jimmy Ruffin)
The Miracle label, which was launched with this engaging R&B pop single, was the third label to be founded in Berry Gordy’s Motown empire following Tamla Records and Motown Records. The new label never hit the heights of its more famous stablemates and lasted a little under a year. Originally under the artistic direction of Gordy’s second wife Raynoma Liles Gordy (“Miss Ray”), a talented songwriter who also sang with the Rayber Voices and played keyboards on a number of early Motown records, Miracle Records is best remembered today for… Well, you can read all this stuff on the Miracle Records page. I want to talk about Jimmy Ruffin.
This is the first Motown appearance for either of the Ruffin brothers; both Jimmy and little brother David would go on to play important roles in the company as the Sixties went on. Both had childhood experience of singing live with the Ruffin family gospel group back home in Mississippi; since then, David had already recorded a couple of solo singles and then signed with Anna Records (the label owned by Berry Gordy’s sister Gwen) to record a follow-up.
Knowing his big brother’s potential, David encouraged Jimmy to follow him to Detroit; Jimmy took the advice, getting a day job at Ford and finding steady work as a session singer. He was also a budding songwriter, and wrote a number of songs during his early days in Detroit, including both sides of his début single. When David signed with Anna and got to know the setup at Motown, he implored Jimmy to audition with Berry Gordy’s company.
Initially hesitant, it was eventually the encouragement of singer/songwriters and Motown alumni Marv Johnson and Mary Wells, both of whom had been afforded the freedom to bring their own material to the table for their début releases Come To Me and Bye Bye Baby respectively, that made the difference. Jimmy auditioned and was signed on the spot.
Ruffin ( J ) admitted later that both sides of this self-penned single were heavily influenced by Jackie Wilson; in particular, they appear to be influenced by the songs written for Wilson by Berry Gordy, which must have gone down well. In fairness, it’s only Ruffin’s vocal which is particularly reminiscent of Wilson’s approach here; this A-side borrows just as much, in terms of structure and style, of past Motown releases by Barrett Strong and the aforementioned Marv Johnson, as well as external groups like the Isley Brothers.
So: somewhat derivative, already slightly dated even on release, and destined for no commercial glory whatsoever… all of this makes it sound like it’s one to skip. In fact, it’s plenty of fun, a breezy R&B romp which opens with a great drum roll and a rollicking burst of sax. Even if he wouldn’t use this particular vocal style again, Ruffin’s strong, emotional voice is already present and correct on this early release, and even if the song is a bit run-of-the-mill, it’s done with enough conviction to make it enjoyable.
It’s an admirable effort, all told, one which showed enough character and potential – as with Henry Lumpkin before him and Marvin Gaye later down the line – to persuade Motown to keep him on the books, despite an initial lack of chart success. It would be more than three years before Ruffin got another Motown release (Since I’ve Lost You, eventually released – to similar commercial effect – in 1964), and more than five before he finally hit paydirt with What Becomes of the Brokenhearted in June 1966, but however long it took for his record sales to repay Motown’s faith and patience, he got there.
A footnote: this single and its flip, both produced by Miss Ray, were the first Motown releases to be credited to a producer other than Berry Gordy.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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