Minnie Riperton – Come To My Garden (1970): Review

Striking a dramatic move away from the psychedelic overtones of her day job as front woman for the experimental Rotary Connection, “Come To My Garden” marks the solo introduction of one the most criminally overlooked Soul vocalists of our time. Granted, anyone can be impressed with her 5 octave vocal range and an ability to sing at whistle pitch, but that’s not the whole story. Minnie Riperton was also one of the most sensual, seductive and damn sexy interpreters of a romantic song that ever lived. Her later works would fully realize the intense ability she had in making many of her songs sound like pre/post coital lullabies, lovers’ pillow talk, intense confessions of undying passion. There have been many similar female Soul voices since, but the overriding impression is that the likes of Mariah Carey, Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, Beyonce and Christina Aguilera were always performing to the mass audience; Minnie Riperton was singing softly to you,… like you were her world.

To the inductee to Minnie Riperton’s melodramatic world “Come To My Garden” is an unforgettable debut. Bringing in arranger and producer Charles Stepney to put together an elegant, flourishing backdrop of orchestral overtones, the album bears a heavy resemblance to Bacharach/David recordings of the time. Minnie’s nimble backing vocals switch from powerfully soaring multi-tracked majesty to intimately restrained whispers in an instant. The opener “Les Fleurs” perfectly exemplifies this, with its subtle, sweet verse building momentum to the explosive operatic chorus and joyous horn ensemble. “Rainy Day In Centerville” by comparison is stark, a mysteriously lonely tale of lost love set to the quietest, almost apologetic rhythms. Minnie’s voice remains centre stage throughout the collection, skipping confidently through the octaves with unassuming ease, although there’s never a hint of self confidence or over egging her undeniable vocal ability. If there is a minor reservation, it’s that one or two of the arrangements carry a complexity which tends to muddy some of the melodies.

The awe inspiring purity and virtuosity of Minnie Riperton’s debut will deepen with every listen and guarantee that if this is your first time, you’ll want more.

9/10

A1 Les Fleurs 3:19
A2 Completeness 3:36
A3 Come to My Garden 3:22
A4 Memory Band 4:11
A5 Rainy Day in Centerville 5:25
B1 Close Your Eyes and Remember 3:45
B2 Oh, by the Way 3:07
B3 Expecting 3:58
B4 Only When I’m Dreaming 3:31
B5 Whenever, Wherever 3:32

Les Fleurs

Rainy Day In Centerville

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