MINNIE RIPERTON-ADVENTURES IN PARADISE.

MINNIE RIPERTON-ADVENTURES IN PARADISE.

As anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis will have gathered, I love soul music. I always have, and always will. Previously I’ve written about a number of soul singers, mostly ones from the 1960s and 1970s, and today, I’m going to write about one of my all time favorite female soul singers. She only released five albums during her lifetime, which tragically, was cut short aged thirty-one, when she died of cancer. Minnie Riperton however, had one of the greatest voices in soul music, possessing a vocal range that spanned five and a half octaves. When I last wrote about Minnie’s career, it was her brilliant second album Perfect Angel I reviewed. Today, I’ll write about the follow-up to Perfect Angel, Adventures In Paradise, released in May 1975. Adventures In Paradise contained one of Minnie’s greatest songs, the seminal track Inside Your Love. Before I tell you what makes this such a great album, I’ll give you some background on how the album came about.

Minnie’s second album Perfect Angel had been a huge success, gaining Minnie a gold disc in the process. Part of the success of the album was the inclusion of the beautiful song Lovin’ You. It was only released as a single when Minnie and her husband Richard Rudolph encouraged Epic to do so. They’d heard that it was being played on some MOR radio stations. Epic agreed to release the single, over a three month period, it gradually climbed to number one on the pop charts. The success of Lovin’ You really helped sales of Perfect Angel. So once Perfect Angel had ended its chart run, Epic wanted a new album. This new album would become Adventures In Paradise.

When it came to record Adventures In Paradise, the coproducer of Perfect Angel Stevie Wonder, was unavailable. He was recording Songs In the Key of Life. Instead, Stewart Levine was hired to coproduce the album. Of the ten songs on the album, Minnie and husband Richard Rudolph cowrote five themselves, and collaborated with other artists on the other five. Among the other artists collaborating with them were some highly respected musicians and songwriters. This included Leon Ware and Joe Sample of The Jazz Crusaders. Leon Ware was going through a busy and highly successful period in his career. He’d worked with Marvin Gaye on his hugely successful 1976 album I Want You. The following year Leon Ware would release one of his best know albums Musical Massage. Larry Carlton was brought in to arrange Adventures In Paradise, and in doing so, produced a gorgeous laid back soul-jazz album.

Of the ten songs on the album, probably the best know track is Inside My Love. It’s one of the most beautiful and sensual songs ever recorded. However, to ensure the lyrics weren’t misconstrued, Minnie took care to explain the song’s true meaning. Minnie made it clear that the song wasn’t about a woman asking a man to have sex with her. She made it clear that the song had a much deeper meaning. What the song is about is succeeding in achieving true and proper intimacy with a lover. This is obvious if you listen carefully to the lyrics. Sadly, when the song was released, it only reached number thirty-seven on the pop charts, because many radio stations refused to play the single because of certain lyrics. Leon Ware came to the song’s defense, claiming the lyrics were inspired by a preacher he’d heard as a child who said “let us come into the house of the Lord.” Regardless of Leon’s words, radio stations still wouldn’t play the song. Since then, Inside My Love is played on radio stations worldwide. Thankfully, times are less conservative and such examples of censorship are less prevalent.

Adventures In Paradise album’s cover features Minnie sitting next to a lion. Minnie is sitting looking beautiful and calm next to the lion. However, the photo shoot wasn’t without its own problems. One minute Minnie is sitting next to lion and all is well, the next the lion lunges towards Minnie. Thankfully, the lion’s keeper and tamer was quickly able to sedate the animal, and Minnie was unharmed. 

When Adventures In Paradise was released in May 1975 the album reached number eighteen in US Billboard Pop Charts. The album was well received and reasonably successful. It’s thought to be around this time that Minnie discovered that she had breast cancer For the rest of her career, she bravely fought this terrible illness, doing so with grace and determination. Tragically, she died in 1979, aged just thirty-one. That day, soul music lost one of its greatest voices.

Adventures In Paradise opens with Baby, This Love I Have a slow track that begins with bass, drums and keyboards before Minnie sings. When she sings, her voice is quiet with a tenderness present. Sometimes she’s almost whispering some of the lyrics. Later her voice gets louder and stronger. Behind her, an arrangement complete with brass section, strings, guitar and rhythm section plays. The arrangement is perfect for the song. Although it’s quite a full arrangement, it never once overpowers Minnie’s voice. Backing singers accompany Minnie later in the song, as she demonstrates her powerful five and a half octave range. During the track Minnie sings this love song beautifully, with emotion and love. It’s a lovely track to open the album.

When you hear the opening bars of Feelin’ That the Feeling’s Good you straight away, realize that this is going to be a really good track. This is apparent from the subtle guitar solo at the start, which is then accompanied by bass and drums. Minnie sings some lovely thoughtful lyrics softly, accompanied by strings, drums playing quietly and keyboards. Her voice is tender and beautiful, and the arrangement stunning. One minute it’s understated, with strings lushly playing, the next it wanders into almost jazz funk territory, complete with funky bass, keyboards, sweeping strings and saxophone. Similarly, Minnie’s vocal changes, it quickens slightly, soars and she sings the song sweetly, with passion and feeling. Quite simply, this is great track, soulfully and beautifully sung by Minnie, with a great arrangement from Larry Carlton, a mixture of soul, jazz and funk.

A really funky bass line drums, and guitars opens When It Comes Down To It. Soon, it’s joined by Minnie. Here, her voice is quite different, she seems to be getting in on the funky vibe that’s emerging. She gives quite a dramatic performance, full of feeling, her phrasing and diction perfect. Her voice is drenched by the brass section, keyboards and guitars. Overall, it’s a brilliant arrangement courtesy of a tight band. However, Minnie is the star of the track. Although her voice is quite different from the previous two tracks, it demonstrates her versatility, and ability to sing different types of songs.

One of the most beautiful songs on Adventures In Paradise is Minnie’s Lament, a track that has a lovely, slow and meandering start. It’s just a guitar, keyboards, drums and percussion accompanying Minnie, each played gently as her voice gently soars, as she ad-libs. When she starts singing the lyrics, her voice is quiet, gentle and thoughtful, before it soars high, demonstrating the ethereal, crystalline quality of her voice. I’ve rarely heard such a slow, careful and thoughtful arrangement. It would appear that the band realize that they’re witnessing one of the most stunning vocal performances they’ll ever hear, and are taking the utmost care with their playing, not wanting to spoil what is a brilliant performance from Minnie. Minnie’s Lament is one of the most heart-achingly beautiful songs you’ll ever be fortunate enough to hear, and Minnie’s delivery of some wonderful lyrics is masterful. 

How do you follow such a beautiful previous track as Minnie’s Lament? The answer is quite simple, with another one Love and Its Glory. Jazz legend Dorothy Ashby plays the harp as the track opens, accompanied by the rhythm section. An already lush and beautiful sound gets even better when Minnie sings, her voice soaring high. She uses her voice brilliantly to tell the story of a two young teenagers who long to be together despite their parents protests. In the song, the girl Maya, named after Minnie’s daughter, is forced to marry against her will. Thankfully, there’s a twist in the story when her true love rescues her at the altar. During the song, Minnie uses her voice to highlight the plight of the young couple, and in doing so, brings the story to life. Behind her the arrangement is perfect for the song. The band play their part in bringing the song to life, especially, the rhythm section, piano, horns and woodwind. Together, the band and Minnie produce a beautiful, romantic song that’s a combination sadness and happiness.

Joe Sample from The Jazz Crusaders cowrote the title track Adventures In Paradise with Minnie and her husband Richard Rudolph. Maybe Sample’s influence helped turn the song into a masterful combination of soul, jazz and funk. From the start, there is a huge funk influence apparent. This is created by bass and drums, and when keyboards play this accentuates the funk influence. Minnie’s vocal on the track is spectacular, and if you ever want to hear a singer use their full vocal range properly, this is a track you must hear. Whilst around her a jazz and funk workout is taking place, Minnie’s voice soars through her vocal range. It’s a demonstration of strength, power and control. One minute it’s high pitched and soaring high, the next it’s deep and powerful. Very few female vocalists can match Minnie’s performance. By the end of the track, you can’t help marvel at Minnie’s brilliant voice, and admire her versatility and ability to sing a wide variety of styles of music. Her performance here is peerless and stunning.

The track from Adventures In Paradise that’s best known is Inside My Love, a track that proved controversial on its release in the US. Since then, the track has become a classic, and one of the best known, best loved of Minnie’s songs. For nearly five minutes, you’ll hear one of the most sensuous, beautiful songs about succeeding in achieving true intimacy, a truly beautiful experience. Keyboards, drums, percussion accompany Minnie as she sings the introduction. She’s then joined by guitar and bass as she gives one of the most heartfelt, beautiful vocals ever recorded. It’s here when she sings those beautiful sensuous lyrics, that the versatility and strength of her voice comes into its own. Many people have covered the song, but there’s only one version for me, Minnie’s. Most of the success of the track is down to Minnie, but Larry Graham’s arrangement is perfect. At the start, it’s subtle, it grows, building up slowly, until an amazing arrangement emerges. Strings sweep and the brass section join the rest of the band, guitars chime, keyboards play slowly and dramatically. Quite simply, the arrangement is lush, beautiful and full of subtleties and nuances, that reveal themselves. Only one word can describe Minnie’s vocal and the arrangement. Sublime.

When Alone In Brewster Bay begins, it’s like the sound of coast, bringing to mind a beautiful bay somewhere quiet and picturesque. An acoustic guitar opens the track, accompanying Minnie. Her voice is strong and powerful, and she takes care with her phrasing and diction as her voice soars. During the track her delivery is breathtakingly beautiful, backed by a lovely arrangement. Although fuller in parts, there’s an understated beauty to parts of the arrangement. It’s a combination of strings, piano, drums and acoustic guitar. The acoustic guitar especially at the introduction, and towards the end is highly effective and suits the track. It fills in before Minnie sings and when her vocal ends. Overall, it’s a great song, with some lovely, thoughtful lyrics, stunningly sung by Minnie.

Like Alone In Brewster Bay, it’s an acoustic guitar that opens Simple Things. This time it’s played much quicker, accompanied by keyboards and saxophone. When Minnie sings, her vocal is much quicker, than on the previous track. Again her delivery is exceptional, that mixture of power and soaring vocal. Behind her, it’s a much fuller, jazz influenced arrangement that’s emerging. Guitars, strings, keyboards and rhythm section all combine producing an arrangement that sweeps and swings along. The lyrics have a lovely happy sentiment, and Minnie sings them brilliantly. This song is melodic with hooks aplenty, and there’s something really catchy about the track. What makes this song so good, is Minnie’s vocal and another really good arrangement from Larry Graham.

Adventures In Paradise ends with Don’t Let Anyone Bring You Down. It has a dramatic start with a piano playing. When Minnie sings, her voice although strong has a sweetness, as she sings about not letting anyone bring her down. The lyrics are joyous sounding, and Minnie sounds really happy. Meanwhile the piano plays one of the main parts in the song, along with a chiming guitar, strings and rhythm section playing really slow, adding to the drama. At the end of the song Minnie sings “I hope I’ve made you feel good?” The answer to that is simple, yes. This, the final song on the album sung beautifully by Minnie, has a joyous, uplifting quality, and demonstrated just how great a vocalist she was. A great way to end the album.

Minnie Riperton has long been one of my favorite singers, not just soul singers but singers per se. She was blessed with one of the most beautiful voices in musical history, and on Adventures In Paradise uses that voice brilliantly. On each song, she makes good use of her five and a half vocal range, as she sings a mixture of songs. Here, she demonstrated her versatility as a singer tackling songs which were a mixture of soul, jazz and even tinges of funk. During each track, she sung both beautifully and brilliantly. Like many people, I cherish Minnie Riperton’s music, and love each of her albums. To me, Adventures In Paradise is a great album, and that it wasn’t more successful saddens me. Maybe if Inside Your Love had received more radio airplay, then it would have been a similar success to Lovin’ You which helped sell more copies of Perfect Angel. However, things were much more conservative back then, and radio stations more likely to indulge in censorship, if they deemed lyrics not to be suitable for the public to hear. Now that seems incredible, because you can turn the radio on in the morning or afternoon, and Inside Your Love is playing. However, there is more to Adventures In Paradise than Inside Your Love. There are nine other songs on the album, and each one is of the highest quality. If you’ve never heard this album, the good news is that it can be found along with Perfect Angel on one CD released by Stateside, so you can hear two great albums for the price of one. So the next time you’re in your record store, why not treat yourself to some great music by one of soul music’s greatest voices. Standout Tracks: Feelin’ That the Feeling’s Good, Minnie’s Lament, Inside Your Love and Don’t Let Anyone Bring You Down.

MINNIE RIPERTON-ADVENTURES IN PARADISE.

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