Reuben James Richards "About Time" (JIGSAW 5)

by Greg Burgess

We'll Always Be Together; Please Let Me Down Easy; Who's Foolin' Who; A.S.A.P.; I'm Only Guilty Of Loving You; Sugar Cane; Your Broken Promises; Taking A Chance; Hold On My Heart; Let Me Be The One.

Reuben James RichardsIn 1994 a shooting star dazzled and was gone almost before anyone had noticed. His name was Reuben James and the song was Listen‘Hold On My Heart’ issued on a small London label Frontier owned by Dave Williams.  What was arguably the finest soul record ever cut in an English studio had seemingly melted away into the ether by the time that the few copies of the CD single had been distributed. It was a case of ‘wherefore art thou Reuben’.

Eight years later Reuben’s power vocals reappeared to a wider public although many soul aficionados missed it entirely. Now performing as Reuben Richards he appeared on a TV talent show as an Otis Redding sound-a-like. He did well with a riveting performance that featured all the way to the final. It emerged that he’d been performing with the Odyssey Blues & Soul Band around London and the Home Counties for a few years.  A four track CD ‘Against the Odds’ featuring solid, energetic covers of some sixties classics that included ‘634-5789’ and ‘Hold On, I’m Comin’ was released on Odproductions Records but there was no major breakthrough.

A little digging under the name Rueben Richards reveals a music pedigree dating back to the 1970s when the St Vincent born singer joined his first band the Totton, Hampshire based The Hour. Although they built up a solid local following there were no recording offers.  Richards moved to the English Midlands and joined an Afro-Rock aggregate called Aztec before finally coming to settle in north London. In 1987 he finally made it to vinyl with the release of the soul/lovers rock album ’From My Heart’ recorded for the tiny Orbitone label. It’s a solid if unspectacular labour heavy on ballads of which the single ‘I’ll Choose You’ was outstanding. Although it was distributed by Jet Star it was largely unnoticed outside of the local West Indian community.

Since his appearance on ‘Stars in Your Eyes’ Richards has been performing as a semi-pro with various London bands, in between a return to St Vincent .  It could be that his moment in the constellation is about to happen as his old mentor Dave Williams has persuaded him to return to the studio in 2015 for a sophomore album eighteen years after his album for Orbitone. The appropriately named ‘About Time’ under the name Reuben James Richards is a major outing that has quickly garnered accolades included ‘Album of the Week’ on BBC Radio Two.  ‘Hold On To My Heart’ has been remixed for the occasion and remains a stirring highlight. Other ballad star turns include the country soul of ‘Your Broken Promises’ and the piano and vocal beauty ‘Let Me Be The One’. The contrast is provided by some rousing dance cuts starting with the opener ‘We’ll Always Be Together’ and followed by the Stax /Atlantic influenced ‘Taking a Chance’. The stunning ‘ Sugar Cane’ introduces some neat guitar frets and glorious horns and fair powers through the grooves.

‘About Time’  represents Reuben James Richards moment in the sun and it is fully deserved. It is a top notch retro soul outing that seems likely to garner good sales and a warm heart in those that hear it.


August 2015