• SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh History and Autoformer Technology (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - NAD Viso HP50 Headphones (May 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - GoldenEar Technology's Anechoic Chamber (May 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - PSB's M4U 4 Earphones (April 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - GoldenEar Technology's Triton Two+ and Three+ Loudspeakers (March 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- KEF's LS50 (February 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Monitor Audio's Platinum II Series (January 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Pryma 0|1 Headphones (December 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- KEF's Blade Two Loudspeaker (November 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- KEF and the Uni-Q (October 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Monitor Audio Acoustics & Aesthetics (August 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- PSB's Imagine T3 Loudspeaker (June 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Hegel's H160 Integrated Amplifier-DAC (April 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- MartinLogan's Neolith Loudspeaker (February 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Prestige Series (December 2014)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Vivid Audio's Giya Series (October 2014)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Totem Acoustic's Torrent Technology (August 2014)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Axiom Audio's M100 v4 Loudspeaker (May 2014)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Muraudio's Domain Omni Series (March 2014)

Fountain of YouthPeak/Entertainment One EOM-CD-9374
Format: CD

Musical Performance ***
Sound Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***

 

In the liner notes to Fountain of Youth, guitarist Russ Freeman calls the album “the Rippingtons’ Guitar Heaven CD. My main goals here were to feature as many guitars from my collection as possible, to introduce dynamics into the songs by changing the density of instrumentation, and to feature solo instruments whenever possible.” Guitarists will get a charge out of the illustrations of the guitars and other stringed instruments Freeman used, especially a rosewood-finished Fender Telecaster.

The album’s first track, “Spice Route,” opens with the sound of a bağlama, a Turkish instrument Freeman picked up in Istanbul. It’s a relaxed piece, melodic and easy, which describes most of the disc. Freeman multitracks his guitar with the bağlama and a ukulele, giving “Spice Route” a vaguely Middle Eastern tint, and adds a touch of delay to his nylon-string guitar to give it a fuller sound. A nylon-string guitar also appears in “Rivers of Gold,” where Freeman throws in an electric-guitar solo to give the song an edge.

“North Shore” is as close to Jeff Beck as Freeman probably gets, in a jazz-rock track that deftly weaves acoustic, electric, and lap-steel guitars. Freeman’s electric-guitar work is tasteful, with some bursts of speed, and percussion and keyboard effects fill out the song. “We Will Live Forever” attempts to create a South American vibe, perhaps Peruvian, with aggressive drum accompaniment that gives body to the arrangement.

Freeman channels Pat Metheny in “The Sun King,” and again the lap steel gives the song a sweet-toned undercurrent. The first guitar solo is more overdriven than Metheny’s usual practice, and in a second set of solos Freeman trades riffs with himself on various guitars to demonstrate his versatility. The album concludes with “Waterfalls of Bequia” and “Garden of the Gods,” both in the laid-back style that suffuses the entire disc.

Freeman is a solid guitarist who at times is able to summon good ideas and moments of passion. For the most part, however, he’s not a terribly engaging player. Fountain of Youth is background music for a wine-and-cheese party, its facelessness reinforced by the fact that no other musicians are listed in the credits. Who supplies the drums that give “We Will Live Forever” its backbone? We don’t know, but as important as that backing is, it’s so lacking in character that it might be something Freeman programmed.

Freeman recorded and mixed Fountain of Youth -- the sound is digitally clean, and he’s done a good job of layering instrumental details that enrich the songs. However, he’s somewhat overemphasized the lower register, and since he seems to have used keyboard bass rather than bass guitar, the sound is a bit bloated. Bernie Grundman’s mastering goes a long way toward giving the disc some warmth and life.

Fountain of Youth is a pleasant enough diversion that will sound good through your system, but it’s not really jazz, and you might have a hard time remembering it later.

. . . Joseph Taylor
josepht@soundstagenetwork.com