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Articles Home » 1993 Articles » Ruff, Michael - 1993 Speaking In Melodies
Ruff, Michael - 1993 Speaking In Melodies

ARTIST: Ruff, Michael
ALBUM: Speaking In Melodies
LABEL: Sheffield Lab
YEAR: 1993


LINEUP: Michael Ruff - lead vocals, piano * Per Lindvall, John Robinson - drums * Lars Danielsson, Abraham Laboriel, Leland Sklar - bass * Luis Conte, Mike Shapiro, Alex Acuna, Lenny Castro, Mike Fisher - percussion * Henrik Janson - guitar, cello * Nadia Ruff, Leslie Smith, Mark Lennon - background vocals * Pat Coil - synthesizers * Dean Parks - acoustic guitar * Nils Landgren - trombone * Greg Mathieson - organ * Jerry Petersen - double saxes

TRACK LISTING: 01 What Kind Of World * 02 Lover's Mask * 03 I Will Find You There * 04 The Eyes Of Love * 05 Seeing For The Very First Time * 06 Any Less Than This * 07 That's Not Me * 08 Poor Boy * 09 Watching Like Angels * 10 Beside Myself * 11 Wishing Well * 12 More Than You'll Ever Know * 13 I Will Find You There (Jam)


I did once have a soft side, collecting lots of wimpy westcoast. Yes, I still buy the odd one and pull out the vinyl which usually means a Japanese issue to play once and a while, especially when the sun is out. The trouble is I've been caught out many times as some releases were only one step away from being 'middle of the road', with the group found to be wearing shirts and ties with a dodgy moustaches growing on their top lips, therefore my dalliance with this genre came to a somewhat abrupt end. Although in that time, I did more than manage to pick up some real classics, take the following instance, Joe Chemay Band, Kazu Matsui, Sneaker and endless Bobby Caldwell releases. While this 1993 release from Michael Ruff may not sit that comfortably alongside that immense line up, it is still a nice little Westcoast album, which at times is excellent but falls down on the heavy burden of just too many ballads and has a too lower gear ratio to get the pulse running. Sporting a good head of hair he could easily give the housewives choice Michael Bolton a run for his money, not in terms of vocals, because Mr Ruff is far from his name suggests as it is much more softer in delivery, but being able to write a cracking ballad. But his career was not going to pan out that way, after issuing a number of good releases before this, Michael choose to spend more of his time to speak to God, making pot plants, all those things that go on in heaven, but continued as a much in demand song writer, and increased his role as a worship leader, which he has concentrated on and looking back many of the tunes found here have that lyrical slant, but more in terms of what is happening in the world, in society and your neighbourhood.

The Songs
My last statement about the lyrical content can be best explained by the opening 'What Kind Of World', which is quite a damning indictment of the world. However the song melody is not dark at all, beginning with a Toto movement; it is one of the more striking of tunes. Excellent vocals listen to the 'solitary' part, beautiful harmonies which are professionally pieced together. In fact, the likeness to Toto is immense and could easily be covered by Frederic Slama on one of his AOR releases.

'Lover's Mask' it's claimed was written at a sound check in Germany with the words made up on stage that night, really I wouldn't be that surprised, as it just have a very loose feel, with far too talented musicians with big grins just adding parts and playing along to produce an excellent composition. Jealous? Yes of course I am, but I can more than appreciate the talent.

The opening trio are by far the best of the bunch, with the third one being 'I Will Find You There' being just brilliant. It sounds like a mix of Diane Warren and Desmond Child in song writing terms, gentle verse, with Nadia Ruff adding depth to the pre chorus, while the chorus is delightful, again Lukather style guitar with a touch of Bruce Hornsby and The Range piano. If Michael had chosen to stick to this path, then I wouldn't be writing this now, as it would have been one of the first of my reviews at Glorydazemusic.

So what does the rest of the album hold?, 'The Eyes Of Love' and 'Seeing The Very First Time' are a fine choice for the other Michael, being Mr Jackson, with a piano and single led vocal performance. With that the rest of album falls into the 'mood' terms of an album, being you have to be in the right mood to listen to it, as 'Any Less Than This' is a the ballad, yes three in a row!, with the only change in direction being the horns similar to Chicago, thus moving from the melodic highway to the worrying 'middle of the road'. Fine guitaring is added but you feel yourself falling deeper into a westcoast slumber, yes it's still high quality songwriting and musicianship but when does it fall into being far too self-indulgent? You decide.

Here we go though as 'That's Not Me' pumps up the flow, again a saxophone that waves over the background. It injects more life into the proceedings and has a likeness to Michael Bolton at his 'Time Love And Tenderness' stage of his career, even Richard Marx. It does bring a refreshing coolness and powers a faint breeze to ruffle your hair.

Looking to increase efficiency is not an issue with 'Poor Boy' as it comes in at a staggering 7 minutes, while it might have appealed to the likes of those who watch those Arts TV Channels, you know one of those live from 'Montreux' specials, but to my mind it becomes a touch wearisome. Of course it is technically a great work out by quality musicians so I am probably missing the point. It's a kind of tune that is similar to what Steven Curtis Chapman and Brett Williams would achieve in around 3 minutes.

'Watching Like Angels' brings the ballad count to five (and we still have got a quarter of the album left!), but this is a good one, delicately poised on the brink of greatness, slow jazz piano, a hint of acoustic guitar interplay, which slides gently into a westcoast relaxation daze. This moves nicely onto a Christopher Cross styled 'Beside Myself'.

'Wishing Well' injects a touch of blues into the scenery, that is genuinely moving quicker than the sun takes to set, but ultimately it spoils the horizon. Michael's penchant for ballads is again displayed on the closing 'More Than You'll Ever Know' but at what point does a song become forgettable rather than unforgettable, sorry to end on a downer, but hang on because he resurrects the best tune again, being 'I Will Find You There' by way of an instrumental jam.

In Summary
If you are looking for some supercool melodies then parts of this album will fulfil that need, but I do find that the pulse of the album does fall worrying low at times. Of course followers of Mr Ruff would go for his earlier albums like his 1984 'Once In A Lifetime' which has a much more larger selection of different tempos on offer. However I still prefer 'Speaking In Melodies' and I would wager Michael does as well. Especially as I have read in an interview that on his earlier albums he lacked the control of full musical direction, so maybe a change from Warner Bros to the smaller 'Sheffield Lab' gave him the benefit of being able to express more fully what he enjoyed, which was to write ballads. It is a shame that Jeff Porcaro was not able to appear as initially he was lined up to contribute before his untimely passing. Extended periods between recordings also showed his reluctance to concentrate more on his own solo career, spending increasing time touring and writing for the likes of Brenda Russell and Lionel Ritchie. In the end this album has more soul than rock, but it has a lot of breeding and at times waves of westcoast quality come rushing out of every pore, although it could be said an album like this wins as many enemies as it does friends, to me rather than maintain a neutral viewpoint I find myself just falling off the fence into Michael's garden.

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#1 | roadrunner158 on July 15 2011 14:55:46
A great CD if you're in the right mood. Definitely one to listen to while cruising in your car with the top down, or in the evening with a good glass of wine. It has to be mentioned that this is a Sheffield Lab recording, meaning the whole CD was recorded (and mixed, as far as I know) live in the studio.
#2 | code4 on October 22 2015 20:16:26
My favorite Michael Ruff cd is his second limited edition album (simply titled Michael Ruff and released in 1988). Only 7 tracks long but Hi-tech AOR heaven of the highest order. And wow, hear the jazz quality in it too on songs like 'Poor boy' after the first chorus passes (every track is on youtube at the time of writing).
As for this album (his 4th i believe) I had the cd years ago and long since sold it but some songs were definitely excellent and a great sound too as pointed out (being a specialist audiophile production company). Good review choice when near every AOR related site out there focuses on his debut 'Once in A Lifetime' (i suppose itself quite a classic, less the song 'Let Her Stay' with it's nasal vocals that i'm not fond of).
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