Shortcut: Link to Feelin’ Good on Spotify
David Ruffin’s second solo album, Feelin’ Good, was released in November 1969, 6 months after the first album, My Whole World Ended. Feelin’ Good has some serious gems in it, but at times it also feels hastily slapped together to leverage the fans’ desire to see a Ruffin / Temptations reunion. I ain’t blaimin’ them for it. It’s what I would have done were I Berry Gordy. The only other play would be to The Temps to, “suck it up and deal with David” – which would have failed miserably and, thus, why I’m not in charge of Motown at the moment.
But, sadly, you can even hear it in Ruffin’s voice that he was on a decline. Kind of. When the songs were about pain, he was incredible as if he got to be cathartic – “tears of a clown”. When the songs were about love or happiness, he sounded like he was just trying to entertain because he had to fake it. And, sure, many artists do that, but in Ruffin’s case, he goes from sounding like, well, David Ruffin, to sounding like competition for the Rat Pack: more Vegas-y and less Soul.
Let’s start with the must-hear songs on “Feelin’ Good.”
1) Feeling Alright. A cover of Dave Mason’s 1968 standard, Feelin’ Alright?. Originally performed by Traffic.
The only real problem I have with this song is the title. I mean, they wrote the album in the same syntax & style as Dave Mason’s song, titled “Feelin’ Alright?” – down to the apostrophe to show diction. Then, when they go to title this song, they remove the apostrophe and spell it out. I wouldn’t even be so hard on it but, had they known 47 years later (from the time of this writing), they the mess with Spotify’s search algorithm, they might have left it the way Mason intended it.
Otherwise, I loved this version so much that I wrote a separate post about it. I loved David Ruffin’s version of Feeling Alright more than even Joe Cocker’s cover of Feelin’ Alright?, released six months earlier in May of 1969 on his album, With a Little Help from My Friends.
This version kicked my ass when I first heard it on I5, driving down to Southern California from Bay Area. Finding this song and hearing it for the first time reminded me why I love going through the classics. It’s like panning for gold: when you find a treasure, oh, the joy that comes with it. It’s the Funk Brothers allowed to be the Funk Brothers, coupled with David Ruffin allowing to express how he truly feels about things (presumed, from what I hear in the song). David Ruffin’s Feeling Alright is a big, explosive, “Fuck You,” to the demons overtaking him.
And, here I continue. It utilizes Joe Cocker’s version of the song as an outline on which the build upon. It’ll blow your hair back if you hadn’t already heard it.
2) Put a Little Love in Your Heart. Written in 1969 by “Jackie DeShannon, who composed it with her brother, Randy Myers and Jimmy Holiday” – (Wikipedia). Originally performed by Jackie DeShannon and placed in an album by the same name.
As much as I was brought into the world by a mother who’s family was trying the beatnik life on a farm in Maine, I still have trouble with listening to Jackie DeShannon’s version of this song. Blame Oldies 104.3 in Chicago. This was on chronic replay.
Yet, when you put Ruffin and the Funk Brothers on it, I actually look forward to hearing it. It actually blends well with Ruffin’s Vegas-y approach to non-painful songs. It was like he was as much trouble trying to accept the concept as those for whom the message of the song was intended.
3) “The Forgotten Man.” Written by (Henry Cosby, Joe Hinton, and Pam Sawyer)
I find myself looking forward to Ruffin belting out the chorus. Especially post-Temptations with hopes for a reunion, David Ruffin pulls the ripcord and lets it all out in those moments.
1) The Letter. No, not a cover of The Boxtops.
I first cringed when I saw the title, The Letter, on the album. I hate The Boxtops The Letter. It’s like the casino “cooler” song that always seem to be played to break up a great run of soul songs on oldies radio. Joe Cocker did a much, much, better version of the song and if I hadn’t heard Joe Cocker in awhile, I’ll leave it on. But otherwise…
Luckily, David Ruffin’s The Letter has nothing to do with that Boxtops mood-killer. But I have trouble with the song because everytime I hear the phrase, “The Letter”, I start to cringe. A Pavlov’s dog moment for me, I suppose.
2) I Could Never Be President. No.
I read a blog review where someone called this, “politically-charged.” It would only be politically charged if someone had an issue with JFK’s fling with Marilyn Monroe or had a thing for Joan of Arc. Otherwise, this is about as political as a gumball machine in a candy store.
All the song is saying is that Ruffin knows he couldn’t be given the power because all he would do would be to use the powers to protect his girl – whichever one it was at the moment. I have a hard time hearing Ruffin sing this. I just demand more from him. I get “B” songs made to fill an album, but this one slipped through the 1950s. (My apologies to Bettye Crutcher, Homer Banks, and Raymond Jackson – the songwriters of I Could Never Be President. It’s not that bad of a song. It’s just not one Ruffin should have been doing).
Skip the intro to the intro song, Loving You (Is Hurting Me)
My only other beef is with the opening track, but that might be me. I love when the Funk Brothers get to be the Funk Brothers, and don’t have to share the state with that much string & horn orchestration. I know, then it wouldn’t be Motown. But, man, I want to cut the intro to the song, which is also the intro the album, in half. And, if you’re going to use a sitar (that’s what it sounds like) in a song, bring it to the forefront. Don’t make it sound like you’re tuning it in the background. It’s just way too distinct of an instrument.
Sidenote: Sitars aren’t easy to play
And, yeah, I’m guessing the sitar player was still getting used to the instrument. Several western musicians who picked on up learned the hard way a sitar is not played like a guitar.
The rest are understated little jams that’ll slip through your ears, making you wonder if you heard them. Then, you’ll go back and go, “Okay, not bad. It didn’t set the world on fire by it kept my foot a’tappin’.” And you’ll want to hear them again
Otherwise I’ve been listening to this album off and on for the last 2 weeks. It took a little while to grow on me, but eventually the gems shined through. And, as stated above, I found the points that felt like dissidence to me. Know those moments are coming, and you can play this album many, many times.
It’s not bad for an album that’s made of covers and songs that The Temptations and Marvin Gaye ever got around to recording or rejected.
David Ruffin’s second solo album, Feelin’ Good is available on Spotify
If you get through Feelin’ Good and have thoughts to share on it, I’d love to hear them.
Here are some other reviews of the album worth reading