After her biggest album (1974’s Perfect Angel, the one with “Lovin’ You”) had ended its chart run, singer Minnie Riperton – she of four-octave range, including super-high “whistle register” - went back into the studio with a team of outstanding musicians and made a follow-up record that was just as good as her hit. That album, 1975’s Adventures in Paradise, proved to be a minor success, yet it stands today as an underrated R&B gem.
First of all, let’s talk about that band. The great Jazz Messenger Joe Sample provided expert keyboard work and proved just as great on the uptempo numbers as he did on the ballads. Larry Carlton was brought aboard as an arranger, but he also contributed some great guitar work (along with Dean Parks and co-producer Richard Rudolph), as was his forte. And the rhythm section was phenomenal – the largely unheralded bassist Ed Brown is a prominent force, locked in as he was with session master (and Joe Cocker and Eric Clapton sideman) Jim Gordon on drums.
The songs, most written by Riperton and Rudolph (her husband), are top-notch, silky-smooth mid-’70s soul, replete with lyrics about finding love, making love, losing love and yearning for love (four main staples of slow-jam songwriting). Take the album-opening “Baby, This Love I Have,” with Riperton’s pleading vocal. “I hope you'll recognize what's right before your eyes,” she sings - words simply get in the way of love that’s so obvious.
Adventures is probably best known for “Inside My Love” - forget double-entendre; this is single-entendre stuff (“We should be one,” “Will you come inside me?”). It was a little too explicit for the pop Top 40, but nevertheless hit the R&B Top 5.
“Alone in Brewster Bay” is a classic study in dynamics, starting with a simple acoustic guitar backing Riperton’s voice, then building as her yearning builds.
“Minnie’s Lament” is all about mood and achieving an ethereal quality in the mix and the music. The lyrics are sparse, but Riperton’s voice goes into the whistle register at the end - five or six of her, in perfect high harmony.
She ends the record with “Don’t Let Anyone Bring You Down,” something of a motivational track, a soft anthem of determination that should have resonated with a larger audience.
Riperton’s own determination would factor into the last five years of her career, as she died of breast cancer on July 12, 1979, at only 31 years of age. Her legacy was set, though, by songs as excellent and indicative of their time as those on Adventures in Paradise.