Minnie Riperton – 1974 – Perfect Angel
Minnie Riperton’s first album for Epic – and the record that broke her from a hip Chicago underground artist into one of the seventies’ biggest soul divas! The record moves past the baroque soul of Minnie’s early years with Rotary Connection and Charles Stepney – and hits a mix of mellow compressed LA styles and slicker funkier numbers that do the same thing for her Chicago-trained vocals that Rufus’ backing did for that of Chaka Khan. Of course, it helps that she’s got some superbly sensitive writing and arranging help by husband Richard Rudolph – and Stevie Wonder’s definitely lurking in the background, too. Includes Minnie’s huge crossover hit “Loving You“, a perfect showcase for her beautiful 5 octave voice.
A1 Reasons 3:25
A2 It’s So Nice (To See Old Friends) 4:47
A3 Take a Little Trip 4:11
A4 Seeing You This Way 2:51
A5 The Edge of a Dream 4:20
B1 Perfect Angel 3:41
B2 Every Time He Comes Around 4:16
B3 Lovin’ You 3:54
B4 Our Lives 5:56
From opener Reasons on, Perfect Angel is one of the most joyous soul-rock hybrids ever released. With Riperton standing away from her group, Rotary Connection, in the early 70s, Perfect Angel was her second solo album, following on from 1970’s Come To My Garden.
She’d been living in semi-retirement, bringing up her children with husband Richard Rudolph in Florida. She had returned to singing, supporting Stevie Wonder as part of his Wonderlove and singing on Fulfillingness’ First Finale.
Although it was the Wonder connection that made her hot again, she had all the talent already. Perfect Angel consists of seven Rudolph/Riperton originals plus Stevie Wonder’s title track, complete with its incorporation of Shirley Ellis’ Clapping Song. It is a joyous example of a writer and his muse being both at their creative peak.
Showcasing her five-octave range, Perfect Angel is infused with the hanging loose at home vibe of the era – It’s So Nice (To See Old Friends) typifies this blessed-out approach.
And all of this is before Lovin’ You, one of the tenderest records ever to grace the US top spot. With its extended chant to Maya, her daughter, at the end, it is still as affecting now as when it was first heard.
Perfect Angel owes more to a Van Morrison album of the early 70s than to any out-and-out soul record. It’s bucolic, laid back, freewheeling and a pleasure from start to finish. Its mix of sultriness and innocence reminds us if just how great a loss Riperton – who died tragically young of cancer in 1979 – was to the world (BBC Review).
Minnie Riperton’s “Perfect Angel” is perhaps the singer’s most popular album. It contains the song that characterizes her career for most people, “Lovin’ You”. Unfortunately, people tend to view Minnie Riperton’s music as sort of a joke because of this song and do not recognize her work with the psychedelic soul group Rotary Connection or her other solo efforts besides her biggest hit (“Lovin’ You”).
“Perfect Angel” starts with an electric guitar riff on the surprisingly rock-like “Reasons”. “Reasons” is actually somewhat edgy, or would certainly seem to be for anyone expecting more “Lovin’ You” out of the album. She revisits the style of “Reasons” on “Every Time He Comes Around” which is also obviously rock influenced. The albums does have its share of smoother cuts that are closer in sound to what a someone might expect to hear from a Minnnie Riperton album. Those songs include the title track “Perfect Angel” and the album’s best song “The Edge of A Dream”. The song is a very optimistic and meaningful tune written by Riperton and her husband Richard Rudolph in dedication of Martin Luther King Jr. The meaningful lyrics throughout “Perfect Angel” are in fact one of the album’s best qualities. The instrumentation is also impressive but in a way that is uncommon for soul music. There are no string arrangements or horn stabs like what was popular at the time. For the most part, Minnie Riperton’s vocals are backed by nothing much more than acoustic guitars, bass, piano and light drums. This allows for a focus on her voice which was truly one of the finest in music.
Something special about “Perfect Angel” is the cast which made it possible. The album features instrumentation in the form of drums, piano and harmonica from a mysterious “El Toro Negro,” was arranged by “Wonderlove” and produced by Scorbu Productions. All three of these names are code for Stevie Wonder. That’s right, Stevie Wonder played multiple instruments, including drums on “Reasons” where he plays an impressive shuffle accompanied by frequent drums fills, produced, and arranged on “Perfect Angel.” He also wrote two of the songs including the title track which he performed a stripped down version of on Soul Train after the tragic death of Minnie Ripertion. The genius who is Stevie Wonder contributed greatly to “Perfect Angel” and his influence is strongly present. Considering it was released in 1974 around the same time as a “Innervisions” it goes without saying the work he put into the album is nothing short of impressive. Stevie Wonder’s genius teamed with that Minnie Riperton, who is too brilliant despite her lack of recognition, created a meaningful album with that is a must have for the many Stevie Wonder fans as “Perfect Angel” is in my opinion his finest work besides his own.