Full of peace, love and sensuality, this is one of Riperton’s greatest recordings.
Daryl Easlea 2012-02-01
Adventures in Paradise was the first album that Minnie Riperton made with some stellar success behind her. Previously the singer’s singer, she had worked behind the scenes at Chess and made some delicious, cultish recordings with Rotary Connection and on her 1970 solo debut Come to My Garden. However, all that changed with her 1974 album, Perfect Angel, and its US number one hit single, Lovin’ You, which showcased her remarkable five-octave vocal range and briefly made her a household name.
Produced with Stevie Wonder, Perfect Angel was a huge, much-loved success. Adventures in Paradise was its follow-up and, inevitably, comparisons with its predecessor were made. Co-produced by The Crusaders’ studio man Stewart Levine (with Riperton and her husband/co-writer Richard Rudloph), it’s an exceptionally well-played, well-made album. It was not as commercially successful as Perfect Angel and therefore was initially seen as something of a failure. It is anything but.
It shares a similar feel to the rest of her work, singing the praises of love, friends and family, with a loose, almost hippie-like groove for such a polished record. Three tracks were co-written with Leon Ware, one of the greatest protagonists of the slow jam (he would go on to write Marvin Gaye’s I Want You). Of Ware’s tracks, the standout is Inside My Love, where ambiguous yet explicit sexual imagery is tempered by the innocence of Riperton’s vocal. There is sultry ambience on Minnie’s Lament, beautiful reggae-influenced soul on Love and Its Glory, and the busy, climatic groove of the title-track, which demonstrates her vocal dexterity, clearly something record executives wanted to hear more of in the wake of Lovin’ You.
Riperton died of breast cancer tragically early in 1979 at the age of 31, leaving a body of work that marked her out as something very special indeed. When the Talkin’ Loud label came along in the 90s, her work was a much referred-to touchstone and a new audience got to hear her previous standards Les Fleur, I am the Black Gold of the Sun and, thanks to director Quentin Tarantino using it in his Blaxploitation homage, Jackie Brown, Inside My Love became well-known, too. Full of peace, love and sensuality, Adventures in Paradise is one of Riperton’s greatest recordings.