Minnie Riperton — “Rainy Day in Centerville”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — June 8, 2022


478) Minnie Riperton — “Rainy Day in Centerville”

Today, I feature a second track from Minnie’s glorious debut album (see #23), the soaring “Rainy Day in Centerville.” Derek Anderson says that:

[T]he lyrics have a wistful, melancholy sound when sung by Minnie. . . , [who’s] vocal veers between a tender style, to one where she’s able to demonstrate her power and five and a half octave range. However, she’s just as effective when she sings tenderly, resulting in a wistful, melancholy sound. Later in the track, there’s some clever interplay with the piano and horns, with the strings floating above a crescendo of drama builds and builds, giving way to Minnie’s powerful, yet ethereal and beautiful vocal. This was a masterstroke on Charles Stepney’s, resulting in a hugely, memorable and impressive ending to the song. . . .


Jason Ankeny relays some of Minnie Riperton’s history:

The tragic death of 31-year-old Minnie Riperton in 1979 silenced one of soul music’s most unique and unforgettable voices. Blessed with an angelic five-octave vocal range, she scored her greatest commercial success with the chart-topping pop ballad “Lovin’ You.” . . . In 1968, Riperton was installed as the lead vocalist of the psychedelic soul band Rotary Connection, which debuted that year with a self-titled LP on Cadet Concept. The singles “Amen” and “Lady Jane” found a home on underground FM radio, but the group failed to make much of an impression on mainstream outlets. While still a member of the band, Riperton mounted a solo career. Teaming with husband and fellow composer Richard Rudolf, and Rotary Connection catalyst Charles Stepney as co-writer, producer, and arranger, she issued her brilliant debut, Come to My Garden, in 1970. . . . [which] is in many respects her finest hour . . . . couch[ing] her miraculous voice in the elegant arrangements of the great Charles Stepney, striking a perfect balance between romantic melodrama and sensual nuance. Call Stepney’s singular approach “chamber soul”–the nimble melodies and insistent grooves swell with orchestral flourishes, while the jazz-inspired rhythms (courtesy of Ramsey Lewis’ group) at times evoke Van Morrison’s masterpiece Astral Weeks. Stepney creates the ideal backdrop for Riperton’s soaring vocals . . . .

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/minnie-riperton-mn0000500889/biography; https://www.allmusic.com/album/come-to-my-garden-mw0000220490

Derek Anderson contemplates that:

[I]t’s always amazed me how many great albums fail to be a commercial success when they’re released. When Come To my Garden was released, it was to critical acclaim. . . . [The album is full of] lush, orchestral soundscapes, with Minnie’s ethereal, beautiful voice sitting above them. . . . Sadly, on its release in April 1970, [it] peaked at number 160 on the US Billboard 200. . . . Maybe the album was too sophisticated . . . . a magical, musical masterpiece full of the lushest orchestral soundscapes, with the graceful, elegant and ethereal voice of Minnie Riperton taking centre-stage.


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