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Rippingtons Featuring Russ Freeman: Live Across America

Live Across America (Windham Hill 01934-11509-2; 62:01) offers first-hand insight into the enduring appeal of The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman, chronicling the prolific band’s latest tour. Where the Rips’ studio material can sometimes suffer from sameness in its glossy, keyboard-candy shell and uptempo hooks, a concert setting offers greater opportunity for energy and stretch. The result is a thorough revitalization of favorites like “Big Sky,” which gives greater emphasis to its acoustic-y, brassy bounce and rollicking movement than the studio version. Likewise, “Welcome to the St. James Club” clicks and builds to a full-out jam, leaving just enough wake for a dazzling, spindly solo by Freeman. One of the ways the Rippingtons have kept things fresh through the years is by rotating band members. This time through, drummer Dave Hooper and percussionist Ramon Yslas join veteran bassist Kim Stone for a rock-solid rhythm section, adding texture to America’s new tune, “Road Warriors,” and hitting heavy for a rocking Jimi Hendrix medley-another great showcase for Freeman.

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