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June 2001

Rippingtons Featuring Russ Freeman
Life in the Tropics
Peak Records

As defined by The Rippingtons, Life in the Tropics means accenting the band's usual easygoing spotlight-on-Russ-Freeman sound with a few well-placed exotic twists. While the album features examples of the Rips' fine cruising, melodic anthems ("Be Cool") as well as their propensity for over-slick ballads (the overdramatized "I Found Heaven"), it also dips a toe into Latin stylings-with mixed results. Where the brisk "Avenida del Mar" is elemental and striking, with Freeman's fuzzy guitar and a hard horn section leading the way, "Rhythm of Your Life" sinks its samba piano in an oil-slick keyboard and whisper-sung, hackneyed lyrics. Other textures adding to the mix include Peter White's classical guitar duet with Freeman on "Caribbean Breeze," which accents and transcends the sunny groove backdrop, and Eric Marienthal's muscular sax work on "Club Paradiso," which adds a crisp counterpoint to the heady, busy atmosphere. Other pieces are hit-and-miss, often saddling good ideas with unnecessary layers and trappings. "South Beach Mambo," for example, loses Kim Stone's gamely sweeping bass and Freeman's stinging lead work with those familiar smooth-genre keyboard layers.

Originally published in June 2001
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