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Topaz
     

Topaz

5.0 1
by The Rippingtons
 

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Don't fix it if it ain't broken. Russ Freeman, the auteur behind the Rippingtons, knows how to make his band sound great: set them up with catchy melodies and easy-grooving rhythms, feature lyrical soloists --not least the guitar-picking leader -- wrap the whole accessible package in listener-friendly arrangements and high-end production values, and there you have it.

Overview

Don't fix it if it ain't broken. Russ Freeman, the auteur behind the Rippingtons, knows how to make his band sound great: set them up with catchy melodies and easy-grooving rhythms, feature lyrical soloists --not least the guitar-picking leader -- wrap the whole accessible package in listener-friendly arrangements and high-end production values, and there you have it. If TOPAZ is more of the same, then more power to Freeman and his please-the-people band. Inspired by the open-air spirit of the Southwest, TOPAZ has its share of instantly embraceable tunes -- "Spirits in the Canyon," "Snakedance," "Under a Spanish Moon," "Rain," and the title tune, which, like many of the album's performances, moves to a slinky Latin beat. It's all state-of-the-art smooth jazz -- just the way Freeman, and his fans, love it.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Jonathan Widran
Whether traveling musically to places like Aruba or Kenya, or spending a playful weekend in Monaco as he did in 1992, Russ Freeman has mastered the art of the exotic, smooth-jazz sojourn. Rather than getting a passport this time, he and the new Rippingtons lineup (with guest Paul Taylor replacing longtime saxman Jeff Kashiwa) take a trip just down the road from Freeman's Colorado spread, to the New Mexico arts community of Taos. Long a brilliant classical guitarist, Freeman upped the ante with a memorable flamenco jaunt on the Rippingtons' last album Black Diamond. Here, inspired by the Spanish vibe of his adopted environment, he more fully explores those traditions in an accessible pop context. On the opening track "Taos," he follows a gently loping flamenco pattern with a powerful electric guitar-driven hook, reminding us that he is, indeed, one of smooth jazz's best melody writers and producers. "Under a Spanish Moon" begins with a rumbling flamenco intro by Tom Gannaway, then becomes a lively, atmosphere-heavy, Latin-flavored romp -- led by Freeman's swaying acoustic melody, enhanced by a sparkling Dave Kochanski piano solo -- along a dusty desert trail. Freeman's liner notes explain that his interest in all things Western grew out of his 1998 dual project with Craig Chaquico, From the Redwoods to the Rockies. The jumpy acoustic jam "Snakedance" sounds like an outtake from those sessions, but with Freeman himself crisply counterpointing rhythm and melody lines with two interweaving acoustic guitar tracks. With soundscape master Steve Reid having departed from the band and only appearing on one track here, Freeman turns for spiritual atmosphere to Native American flutist Robert Tree Cody. Cody appears on three tunes, blending perfectly with Freeman's guitars on "Stories of the Painted Desert" and taking the lead over a rolling, darkly toned bassline on "Led Here by an Eagle." His presence adds a touch of authenticity to Freeman's brilliant reflection on the spirit of the Southwest.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/18/1999
Label:
Windham Hill Records
UPC:
0019341143826
catalogNumber:
11438

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Rippingtons   Primary Artist
Steve Reid   Percussion
Robert Tree Cody   Flute
Bill Heller   Keyboards
Dave Hooper   Percussion,Drums
Tony Morales   Drums
Kim Stone   Bass
Paul Taylor   Alto Saxophone,Soprano Saxophone
Dave Kochanski   Piano
Russ Freeman   Bass,Guitar,Electric Guitar,Keyboards

Technical Credits

Andi Howard   Executive Producer
Patrick Clifford   Art Direction
Nick Sodano   Engineer,Engineering
Russ Freeman   Arranger,Producer,Engineer,Executive Producer,Engineering

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Topaz 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
ToniY More than 1 year ago
I listen to this every time I arrive in the San Francisco Bay Area. It's like coming home. Whenever I hear this music I long to be back there again.