If Fountain of Youth isn't the zenith of The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman it is difficult to imagine what would be. You can't get much more Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman than a Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman album featuring only Russ Freeman. It's a Russ Freeman solo album brilliantly disguised as a Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman album.
There is no one with the surname of "Rippington" in The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman and there never has been. That's the best part of the joke Freeman has played since he dropped Moonlighting (GRP, 1987) on the heads of the contemporary jazz listener. The ever-rotating cast of players has included David Benoit, Jeff Kashiwa, Dave Koz and some guy named Kenny G, but the lone constant in The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman is Freeman is the featured player, the producer, the principal songwriter and the guiding light. The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman was always less of a band than a Freeman solo record with guest musicians. Here he drops the pretense and stripps the band down its essential core: himself.
The centerpiece of the album is the singularly impressive "We Will Live Forever" with its distinctly Native American vibe. But it's actually modern day technology as the flute sound is actually created by Freeman's synth guitar and the pounding, powerful percussion sounds like the work of a dozen drummers hard at work, but it's still just little old Russ showing off his studio wizardry.
Freeman's scintillating guitar work on "The Sun King" has a distinctly George Harrison feel to it and Harrison was underestimated as a guitarist, much like Freeman is. This is where he showcases his guitar work and this is the best reason to buy Fountain of Youth. It's a pleasant enough one-off, but not a bold departure.
Track Listing: Spice Route; Rivers of Gold; North Shore; We Will Live Forever; The Sun King; Fountain of Youth; Emerald City; Soul Riders; Waterfalls of Bequia; Gardens of the Gods