Big Rube is like that frustrating sports star who shows flashes of pure brilliance but then has his career hampered by injuries or weak team players. There’s no doubt about the man’s ability to deliver a tune. However, perhaps the stuff he feels most at home singing, which I would imagine to be the old school R&B of Donny Hathaway and even early Luther, isn’t perhaps the same stuff that sells by the masses to the broad swathe of the American public who know him from his American Idol success. Thus, with this album, there’s been an attempt cover all bases, appealing to the middle American AC mainstream as well as the hard core old school R&B enthusiast. The end result is a somewhat uneven album. To use another analogy, it’s old school politics, trying to appeal to everyone but in the age of Barack Obama, there’s something to be said for saying what you mean and meaning what you say and to heck with the consequences. As with Obama, chances are people will admire you more for that singular voice.
Anyway, with this album, which is a mix of covers and originals, I’m sure there will be people who’ll appreciate the covers of the likes of AC radio staples Extreme’s “More Than Words” or even the Beatles’ immortal “Long & Winding Road” but in my opinion it’s kind of like the guy in the Bronx who was keeping a tiger in his apartment as a domestic pet. Studdard’s voice needs the room to soar, float, plead and cry and those songs along with the likes of the country AC of “My Love Is A Rock” keep him caged up and polite when soul fans want to see him let loose and gritty.
The irony of the whole thing is is that Jam & Lewis produced the majority of this album (the exception being the happy, soulful first single “Together” which Stargate handled) and as if we doubted their ability to showcase Ruben at his best they deliver some stellar moments. “Just Because” is vintage Hathaway era soul and is warm, embracing best. The cover of Al Green’s “For The Good Times” is another feel good moment that must have been a blast to record.
“How You Make Me Feel” is a pleasant but not compulsive pop/soul house cut, while the warm, soulful mid-tempo “Don’t Make ‘Em Like You No More”, is undoubtedly the best new song on the album. How about next time round Jam & Lewis deliver and album that is more reflective of this and thus the artist’s and his core audience’s musical sensibilities...as opposed to those of record label’s accountant’s?
About the Writer
Jeff Lorez has enjoyed a long and varied career in the music business. As a journalist he has written for a slew of publications and web sites including, Blues & Soul, Billboard, Yahoo.com and the Daily Telegraph and as a music publisher he has been involved in recent chart topping hits by Alexis Jordan and Cher Lloyd.