Bandleader, guitarists and songwriter Russ Freeman pulls no stops on the Rippingtons' 25th anniversary release, Built to Last, featuring a full orchestra to complement the sound of his compositions, has he runs the gamut of the sounds that have influenced him throughout the years, moving from movie score-like tunes to heavy metal, country & western and retro-sounding jazz.
The album kicks off with the title tune, which sounds as if it belongs in a film soundtrack. Lush strings introduce the theme and the rest of the orchestra follows through before Freeman's programming takes front and center, setting the tone for the rest of the disc. The song is later reprised in a classical arrangement, featuring Freeman's acoustic guitar and a few subtle orchestral notes. The latter is the better of the two, since it provides the chance to hear the bandleader without the sonic wall that is behind him on the first attempt.
The "Route 66" on this disc is not a remake of Bobby Troup's R&B standard; Instead, it is a Freeman composition that nods to straight-ahead jazz, featuring a solo by saxophonist Jeff Koshiwa. Here the bandleader avoids using too much programming, instead featuring the orchestra's (uncredited) musicians as a backdrop for both his and Koshiwa's grooves and improvisations. It is one of the best tracks on the disc for specifically that reasonbecause it differs so much from the rest of the material on it. "Cougars and Gigolos" travels to old-school Nashville (Freeman mentions having had guitar lessons with session guitarist John Pell), mixing acoustic guitar riffs with well-placed slide and electric guitar grooves.
Also notable is "Monument/Monolith," a tune that goes completely out of form with a long percussion intro and then a raucous solo from heavy metal guitarist Zakk Wylde, who takes the tune to a completely different direction with his much distorted electric guitar.
Built to Last; American Panorama; Fool's Gold; Hotel Deville;Cougars & Gigolos; Route 66; In the Shadow of Giants; Black Oak; We Made a New World; Monument/Monolith; Firefly; Built to Last (Classical Guitar Reprise); Fools' Gold (Orchestra); Black Oak (Orchestra); Hotel Deville (Orchestra); Built to Last (Orchestra).