Minnie Riperton: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — June 8, 2022

THE GREATEST SONGS OF THE 1960s THAT NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD

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. . . .

https://dereksmusicblog.com/2011/12/17/minnie-riperton-come-to-my-garden/

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.

https://dereksmusicblog.com/2011/12/17/minnie-riperton-come-to-my-garden/

“Sitting all alone, I hear the tapping of the rain. Dance ballerina, dance. Talking with the rain in some small city, I feel the pain. She’s dancing all alone. Thinking how we’d wait together. Sitting by the fire in weather just like this. Playing lovers’ games, hoping the rain would never end. And I thought about the night we met. How the gentle rain fell down, kissed the ground. Then I knew no one ever could take your place. . . . Nothing seems the same but the falling rain. You’ve gone away. Walking by the sea, sitting beneath a tree. You are not here . . . .”

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