MP3 Ronnie McNeir - Ronnie Mac & Company
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URBAN/R&B: Smooth Soul, JAZZ: Soul-Jazz
"Smooth Jazz," "Smooth Soul," and the "Funky Grooves" of a man in all his human complexity. Ronald McNeir, sweet soulful tenor of the Motown, legendary group the Four Tops, delivers life, love, pain and joy in his New Solo CD.
THE MAC IS BACK
Soul veteran and current Four Tops member Ronnie McNeir returns with what many are calling his tour de force. His latest release, Ronnie Mac & Company is a smooth mix of sensuality, romance, spirituality and social consciousness. From the stepperâs groove of âSummertime Medley IIâ to the redemptive â(Personal Testimony) I Really Need Your Help Father,â McNeir covers all bases with the help of talented friends like Kirk Whalum, Theo Peoples, The Ridgeway Sisters, and Las Vegas chanteuse Kathy Lamar. He uses his musical skills as a buttery smooth tenor, songwriter, composer, musician and producer to create a heartfelt and defining moment in smooth soul.
Ronnie is held in high esteem on the international soul scene in countries like the UK, Japan, The Netherlands, Sweden and beyond. During his stint with Motown Records, he was a pioneer in synth instrumentation. He has worked with Smokey Robinson, Teena Marie, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Bobby Womack, Rene and Angela, Billy Griffin and many more throughout the years, earning accolades from some of the most acclaimed names in the business. He was hand-selected by his best friend, original Four Top Renaldo âObieâ Benson, to become a member of the legendary group.
As a member of the Four Tops for the past seven years and a veteran of Las Vegasâ renowned lounge scene, Ronnie is a consummate performer who can entrance any audience with his soulful and jazzy hybrid vocals.
Many of the greatest names in soul music know Ronnie McNeirâ¦ so should you.
MEDIA AND PRESS
To look at the resume of artists with whom Ronnie McNeir has worked is like reading a who's who in soul music: from Bobby Womack and Smokey Robinson to the Whispers and Angela Winbush. Best known for his duet with Teena Marie on the 1984 classic "We've Got to Stop Meeting Like This," Ronnie has, for the last decade, been pleasing audiences across the globe as a member of the legendary Four Tops.
With the release of his tenth solo project, Ronnie Mac & Company, McNeir delivers 17 splendid tracks of straight-up grown folk's music. A spoken intro about an unfaithful companion sets the tone for the first track, "What Goes Around Comes Back Around." Kirk Whalum drops in to bless "I'm In the Mood" with his tenor saxophone as Ronnie tickles the ivories in true soul man fashion. Other highlights include "Funkin' In Las Vegas," "I Really Need Your Help Father (My Personal Testimony)," and "Down in the Neighborhood."
Ronnie Mac & Company is from the heart of a man who is all about making good soul music. His tenor voice resonates throughout the disc and his smooth voice is the epitome of cool. Recommended.
This is, for this scribe at any rate, the best and most consistent album Ronnie McNeir has ever produced. It has been 10 years since "Down In The Neighborhood," so it is with immense pleasure that I have soaked up this album over the past few weeks. Ronnie is one of the greatest unrecognized talents of our time. This album lays any reservations to bed on that score. Joining Ronnie on this set are Kirk Whalum and the Ridgeway Sisters amongst others, adding extra spice. I would rather have seen this album titled "The Many Facets of Ronnie McNeir" as the master weaves a colorful blanket of sounds from jazz, quiet storm soul, funk to urban contemporary. Ronnie covers all aspects of life and love here, and shows that he is more than socially conscious â he is completely and utterly socially awake.
The proficiency of his observations set to music is a damning indictment of the way many live today. From this I see that Ronnie not only has a big heart, he cares enough to try and do something about it. It's also an unashamedly personal album about himself, warts and all. Ronnie tackles how he feels about losing his father, eldest child and his "big brother," Four Top Renaldo "Obie" Benson, whom he co-wrote songs with for years. If anyone pays a tribute to me one tenth of what Ronnie does to Renaldo here, then my life would not have been in vain.
So is this not what soul music should be about? Life, love, pain, happiness, regret and sorrow. It is also about hope and having a damn good time. Ronnie apportions all of life's textures within this soulful blanket and does naught but receive total commendation and praise from me. This is an album that I can put on and leave on and, on more than one instance, hit the repeat button.
"What Goes Around" is the first song to greet you and if you are not won over instantly then there is definitely something wrong with your soul! Ronnie is right in the 2007 quality groove from the first instant; he hits the ground running and simply does not stop. From this excellent track we find ourselves in pure jazzy and slinky territory with "Look at All the People". This is a tune that you would expect Al Jarreau to excel at. In fact, one could possibly see where Mr. Jarreau got some of his influence. "I Love You" is a warm, bassy number that sashays along to some tinkling piano and finger clicks. This song is simply excellent.
"I'm in the Mood" sounds a little older â perhaps one of the earliest recordings on this set â and is a funky, brassy effort that, again, Al Jarreau would do well to perform. Updated for 2007 is "Summer Medley." I loved the introduction on the original version BUT after that I fear I lost the song completely, but this version is a real cracker. All that's missing is the summertime. Honestly, it's the end of June here and we have our heating on at night. Can you believe that? Anyway, "Ain't It Good To Know You've Got a Friend" should warm the cockles. Musically it reminds me of a cross between Betty Wright's 90s material and Michael Sutton's "Hopeless Romantic." Vocalist Kathy Lamar also appears alongside Ronnie on this tune.
Ronnie hits a sultry Afro-Cuban note with the semi-instrumental effort "Song For My Brothers". This is a cheeky little number with a definite tongue-in-cheek approach. "I Need You Around" finds Ronnie in the romantic groove again, his voice smoother than a bar of galaxy on a silk sheet, but is completely juxtaposed by the chunky, funky and self-indulgent "Funkin' In Las Vegas." This sassy number does nothing but add more texture to the album. Fans of ex-Temptation Theo Peoples will be happy to know that he has a new album on the way, and a taster for this is this toothsome delight as he supplies his raw, powerful and gritty vocals as emphasis to the SUPERB personal reflection of "I Really Need Your Help Father (My Personal Testimony". This is such a strong track anyway, but Theo's gutsy, ripping performance takes an already excellent track to a higher level.
Ronnie co-wrote "Down In The Neighborhood" along with Renaldo Benson over 10 years ago, and this song is revisited here. The song is bleak about what is happening in the communities out there. Ronnie McNeir is literally telling it like it is. There is no bravado, no reveling in the fact that guns are commonplace; that children die for no good reason that because they wear the wrong color in the wrong street. "Don't Feel That Way" and "Such A Shame People Have To Live This Way" are also poignant tracks that amount to a lot more than navel gazing. The man has been pointing out for years about what is wrong in society â the world - for years. Is anybody listening? Obviously not anyone who like to think they are in power.
Whatever you do, do not overlook this album.
I always come back to the fact that soul music is all about credibility. If I believe in you when you are telling me a story, I consider it soul; a message coming from within. Ray Charles once explained soul music to be something that can lighten up a room.
I consider Ronnie McNeir to be one of our most underrated artists. He has more to his credit than most have within the life of an entire career. Hailing from Camden, Alabama, he moved to Detroit at an early age. In 1972 he went to Los Angeles where playing in the local churches, he met Motown legends Kim Weston and Mickey Stevenson. Kim had her own recording studio where Ronnie recorded his first self titled album for RCA. The rest is more or less a piece of classic music history. Just ask Teena Marie, Smokey Robinson, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendrick, Rene & Angelaâ¦..
We haven't heard anything from Ronnie on his own since the Expansion release, "Down In The Neighborhood" from 1997 (an updated title track is included on this album). The many true fans of McNeir have been waiting patiently for a follow up album for ten years and finally the wait is over. When you listen to "Ronnie Mac & Company" his tenth album, you very soon realize that it was all worth waiting for. I prefer quality before quantity.
Having a smooth and very sensitive tenor voice, he is also a keyboardist, producer and songwriter. When combining all of these skills we receive a genuine Ronnie McNeir "product", even if "The Company" stands for the musicians and singers helping him out on this album. Ronnie has been involved in the arranging, composing and song writing on all of the songs.
I consider this to be a pure soul music album, even though there are jazz elements on Look At The People, the bossa/jazzy Song For My Brother and even some funky beats on Funkin In Las Vegas; a better title on that one would actually be "Funkin In Ohio". This song is unfortunately, superfluous for me.
I have promised myself not to compromise with the music I am playing on my radio shows. My soul is "not for sale". But I would without doubt add the majority of the songs from Ronnie Mac & Company to my play list. On top I would put, I Love You, What Goes Around Comes Around, Tell It Like It Is or why not Down In The Neighborhood . These are songs reaching its final destination, the human soul. Remember, soul music is all about credibility.
Ronnie McNeir has lightened up my roomâ¦.
Blues and Soul
RONNIE McNEIR â GREAT COMPANY â¦of courseâ¦
BLUES AND SOULâS BILL BUCKLEY GETS TO GRIPS WITH UK SOUL FAVE RONNIE McNEIR AND TALKS ABOUT THE GOOD TIMES, THE NOT âSO-GOOD-TIMES AND - MOST IMPORTANTLY - A BRAND NEW SOLO ALBUM!
To say Ronnie McNeirâs a soul veteran is like saying the Popeâs a Catholic! Ronâs sweet and distinctive styleâs been wooing audiences for over thirty years, yet he still has fond memories of how he was first bitten by the music bug, âYes, it was way backâ, remembered Ron. âDad bought mum a piano and it came with free lessons! Mum got the piano and I got the lessons â¦ and then dad kind of took me under his wing and started putting me into talent shows â in between singing in Church, of course.â
Those talent shows led to a first single on the Deto label â âSitting In My Classâ (still a Northern favourite), then, after relocating from Pontiac, Michigan to Los Angles, a young Ronnie became involved with a local church choir and through that he got to know Motown songstress Kim Weston. Kim helped Ronnie get a deal with RCA but the eponymous album didnât mean much, though on re-issue in the UK in 1978 it did sell well. After RCA, ambitious Ronnie soon set up his own label, Setting Sun. But money was a problem. Ronnie:- âI had this fine silver ring that I was about to pawn for $150 to buy some studio time, but my friend , Lloyd Tyson stepped in and made me a loanâ. With the cash Ron cut the oh-so-catchy âWendy Is Goneâ. Its instant, finger-click appeal attracted the attention of ex Motown exec Barney Ales who bought the song and subsequent album for his Prodigal Records. Then things got complicated, as Ronnie explains. âUnbeknown to me, Barney went back to Motown and gave them my record â which I wasnât happy withâ cos Iâ heard how easy it was for artists to get lost at Motown. But I was contracted to them and cut another LP, âLoveâs Cominâ Downâ, but after that Berry Gordy agreed to let me go. People say a lot of things about Berry Gordy but I really respect him for that. We both knew it wasnât going to happen for me at Motownâ.
After that Ronnie admits that he just floated around the edge of the music biz. He worked with people like Don Davis and Bunky Sheppard and his sporadic recordings included a fine duet with Rena Scott (âA Different Kind Of Loveâ), a four track EP called âThe Ronnie McNeir Experienceâ and producing David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrickâsâ I Couldnât Believe Itâ. Ronnie also worked with Little Milton, Rance Allen, Carrie Lucas and Bobby Womack â working on âCaught Up In The Middleâ with him. However by the 1990s McNeirâs main living was playing the lounges of Las Vegas. Some of those earlier sporadic recordings, however, eventually turned up on British soul labels and their classy, sweet, sweet sound sealed Ronâs reputation as a bona-fide cult soul man. Sadly though it was a tough time for McNeir and he saw very little for his efforts â âwith those records and all those deals, financially it just didnât happen. I was surprised âcos I knew I was sellingâ¦. And maybe one dayâ¦one day, Iâll get whatâs owed to me.â
Thankfully, however, things started to turn around. Ronnie recalls, âIt was like a Cinderella story. It was in 2000 and I wasnât working, when I got a call from the 4 Tops to stand in for their musical director who was ill. When he got better the Tops asked me to stay as a kind of safety valve âcase the man got sick again. Then one night just as they were going on stage Levi Stubbs was sick and they asked if I would step in for the night Wow! You know, I ditched the MD's tuxedo and Leviâs stage suit fitted just perfectâ¦ and, you know, Iâm still there now! â
Ronnieâs association with the 4 Tops, of course, goes back long, long before 2000. Founding member of the Tops, Obie Benson had a hand in Ronâs two ground-breaking Motown albums and the pair soon became firm friends. Since meeting him, Ron always saw Obie as a second father â a trusted mentor.
Ronnie now tours constantly with the Tops and is working with them on a new album -watch for the first single âEast Coast, West Coastâ in Julyâ - but though very busy, Ron has still found time to record a brand new album on his own Jupiter-Island label. âIâd had enough bad deals from other labels so I went back to having my own. I ainât gonna rip myself off.â The albumâs called âRonnie Mac and Companyâ â Why? âWell weâre like a real ensemble â a company if you like . On the album thereâs Kirk Whalum, Kathy Lamar, the Ridgeway Sisters Miki Brown and my colleague in the Tops Theo Peoplesâ. But Ronnieâ vocals and his cool piano playing lead the way. Thereâs a real soul jazz feel to the music harking back to the style of one of our man's big musical influences Les McCann. âYes, says Ronnie, â thereâs a big company on the album but I lead on the pianoâ and though its over thirty years since Wendy Is Goneâ you can still hear those distinctive multi-note piano chords. All the songs on the album are written by Ronnie, and its clear that the albumâs most poignant track is a spoken eulogy to Obie Benson. Ronnie describes Obie as âa dynamite person â¦ who kinda adopted me and showed me around the music biz. He also showed me not to worry or fret about anything.â
Ronnieâs in the UK in the Autumn with the 4 Tops and heâs hoping to find time to promote the album too. But in the meantime he has a message for his UK supporters, âIâd like to thank all my friends and fans in the UK for sticking with me â youâre my consolation. No matter how many people bootleg me and rip me off, I know the fans still respect and love my music.â
Thank you for stopping by CD Baby and supporting my music. It is very much appreciated. Enjoy!
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