Thanks the production work of Charles Stepney & the proto-Hendrix guitar playing of Phil Upchurch, & the soaring voice of Minnie Riperton – Rotary Connection emerged as one of the best experimental soul/psychedelic groups of the 60s. Think Mamas & Papas with Jimi on lead guitar. Their albums mixed originals with sublime covers of songs like Tales of Brave Ulysses, Lady Jane.
In an mp3 collection I have Rotary Connection: First (1967); Aladdin (1968); Peace (1968); Songs (1969); Dinner Music (1970); Hey, Love (1971) As well as solo lps by Minnie Ripperton: Come Into My Garden (1970); Perfect Angel (1974); Adventures in Paradise (1975); Stay in Love (1977).
I had their first & Songs as lps while I was living on the east coast. My friends didn’t like them that much but I was amazed by their first & by Songs – both which I discovered in remainder bins – Cape Breton wasn’t a market for experimental soul/psychedelic 🙂
The others I found 2nd hand when I moved to Toronto or eventually downloaded. Peace is one of my favourite Christmas albums. It is a very urban soul take on Christmas – the opposite of the Phil Spector holiday album. Sidewalk Santa should be a classic & the guitar work on Silent Night is breathtaking. I you are tired of syrupy Xmas music get this if you don’t have it.
Minnie Riperton was a studio background singer for a few years before Rotary Connection – Charles Stepney utilized her stratospheric voice on several Ramsey Lewis lps (also worth checking out) & produced her first solo lp – Come Into My Garden. It presents her as a ballad singer & sometimes drowns her in distracting orchestrations.
She stepped away from the industry for a few years to raise her children & made an unexpected return with Perfect Angel (1974) – full of warm, accessible soul-pop – adult contemporary. Adventures in Paradise (1975) – is a more sophisticated lp with denser lyrics about love & sense of self. On Stay in Love (1977) she moves into a soft disco sound (as hoped to bpm diva) that is sexy, soothing & romantic. All worth having.