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.