B-side of Since I’ve Lost You
Before I start, a quick thank you to everyone who’s stopped by and read (or commented on) Motown Junkies these past twelve months. There’s just time for one more entry before the New Year. Hurrah!
When this single came out, Jimmy Ruffin was still some ways off being the star he’d grow to become (especially in Britain, where he’d still be having Top Ten hits ten years later), and this single – for all intents and purposes Jimmy’s Motown début proper, following his abortive, long-forgotten first effort Don’t Feel Sorry For Me three years previously – isn’t quite the finished article. As with the A-side, Since I’ve Lost You, Jimmy’s voice isn’t yet big enough to properly fill out the song Norman Whitfield’s knitted around him. As with the A-side, it’s still plenty engaging and plenty of fun.
This one’s a bit more ambitious than the A-side in some ways; it starts out almost like a pastiche of a show tune (definite shades of Bobby Breen’s You’re Just Like You, only much tougher and not nearly as annoying), such that you half expect Jimmy to make his entrance in top hat and tails, twirling a cane. But after those showy opening bars, the whole thing becomes a much more conventional affair; the Funk Brothers are getting frighteningly proficient now, and the horns and the backing singers are aiming for something bigger, but the boldness of their performances seems to contrast with the gentle progression of the melody and Jimmy’s low-key delivery, giving the overall impression of a rather workaday ballad; competent rather than astonishing.
It’s not a bad song, but it’s again hard to avoid coming to the conclusion that it’s Jimmy himself who’s adding to the sense of malaise; for the second time on this 45, he gives a technically-excellent Al Green performance of quiet, wounded pride that absolutely doesn’t fit the material. Whitfield, still finding his feet as a producer, again lays on big, heavy drums and a bevy of horns, all of which overwhelm Jimmy and leave him sounding underpowered (even though, as with the A-side, if you isolated his vocal and played it acapella, it’d rip your guts out).
For all of that, it’s by no means a bad record – it’s a pretty little song, Jimmy sounds good in his own right, the horns and backing vocals are special stuff. It’s just a less than ideal match of song and performer. The whole thing seems to me to be crying out for someone else to sing it – maybe even a group vocal, as this is far more in Four Tops territory, or perhaps Smokey’s Temptations.
Which is obviously not really a criticism, more of a wish, I suppose. If Jimmy gave a bigger performance, or if the production on both these sides were scaled down a bit, this could have been really good. Jimmy would get there soon enough, as would Whitfield the producer and Whitfield the writer. In the meantime, it’s a mark of the amazing strides Motown had made during this Golden Age that even the “filler” (for want of a better word) ends up as classy, highly listenable fare. That it could have obviously been even better is almost a churlish observation in these surroundings.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
(I’ve had MY say, now it’s your turn. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment, or click the thumbs at the bottom there. Dissent is encouraged!)
You’re reading Motown Junkies, an attempt to review every Motown A- and B-side ever released. Click on the “previous” and “next” buttons below to go back and forth through the catalogue, or visit the Master Index for a full list of reviews so far.
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“Since I’ve Lost You”
“You Make Me Happy”
|Motown Junkies presents the finest Motown cuts, big hits and hard to find classics.
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