The Rotary Connection

Despite the fact that Minnie's rare vocal skills made her one of the all-time solo artists of our time, as a member of Rotary Connection she used her beautiful voice to compliment the group rather than to stand in front of the group.  Perhaps, in order to sell the re-issued albums one would think the group was "Minnie Riperton and The Rotary Connection", yet nothing could be further from the truth.  The Rotary Connection was a true vocal ensemble... voices complementing one another.

I'm saddened to announce that I've lost contact with Andrew of "Discovision"  which featured the informative Charles Stepney pages.   Mr. Stepney was not only the producer for Rotary Connection and Minnie Riperton's classic "Come To My Garden", but he was one of the most underrated producers of our time.   A tribute to his genius and talent is sorely overdue... <sigh!>

On a much happier note, is honored to share links with the Rotary's co-lead vocalist, Sidney Barnes . Sidney is a very gracious and talented spirit who continues to wow international audiences.  Be sure to stop by, and tell him the webmistress sent you.  Sidney also was kind enough to speak with me about the making of "Come To My Garden" which is located in the Features section.  Just click on "The Garden Revisited.

"Rotary Connection", the debut album was released in 1967.  The covers of the Stones' "Lady Jane" and "Ruby Tuesday", as well as  Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" are ingeniously orchestrated and arranged.  Another dimension is highlighted on these songs that is merely implied on the originals.  The cover of "Amen" is definitely a personal favorite... IMHO, no other original or cover compares to this ingenious interpretation.  Followed by the "Rapid Transit" interlude, is the infamous "Turn Me On" which is absolutely brilliant!  "Didn't Want To Have To Do It" is a beautifully sad song that depicts something we are all familiar with... :)   This early version of "Memory Band" is musically beautiful, yet, it pales to Minnie's version on "Come To My Garden".  Albeit the title track, "Rotary Connection" gracefully samples each song on the album, I would recommend a track by track listen.
Rotary Connection
Play List

(click album cover for audio clip)

  • Amen
  • Rapid Transit
  • Turn Me On
  • Pink Noise
  • Lady Jane
  • Like A Rolling Stone
  • Soul Man
  • Sursum Mentes
  • Didn't Want To Have To Do It
  • Black Noise
  • Memory Band
  • Ruby Tuesday
  • Rotary Connection
Although, "Aladdin", Rotary Connection's second album was not a commercial success it is a continuation of the groups attempt to blend and mix many musical styles as well as demonstrate their free spirit.  The musical and vocal arrangements are colorful and brilliant.  Albeit, the casual or inexperienced music listener may not appreciate the nuances the substance of this album relies upon.   My personal favorite cut from this album is the mystical "Magical World" which I discovered after their third album was released.
Play List

(click album cover for audio clip)

  • Life Could
  • Teach Me How To Fly
  • V.I.P.
  • Let Them Talk
  • I Took A Ride (Caravan)
  • Aladdin
  • Magical World
  • I Must Be There
  • I Feel Sorry
  • Paper Castle

There are only two things that can get me in the Christmas spirit and drive the "Bah, Humbug!" away; Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas" and Rotary Connection's "Peace" album. 

"...But I know why; the cat is high
 Look at him; he's stoned 
        'Cause he smokes mistletoe
 Everyone should have a peace 
at least once a year.."

lyrics from "Peace At Last"

 It has been 31 years since I first heard this gem and it still enchants me from the "Opening Round" to "Silence".  Considering the theme of this brilliant album, one cannot help but to applaud the thought provoking lyrics of such tunes as "Peace At Last", "If Peace Was All We Had", "Sidewalk Santa" and "Christmas Love".   Don't wait for the season... make Christmas year-round with "Peace"!

Play List
  • Opening Round
  • Silent Night
  • Christmas Love
  • Last Call For Peace
  • Shopping Bag Menagerie 
  • Silent Night 
  • Christmas Child
  • Peace At Last
  • Santa's Little Helpers
  • Sidewalk Santa
  • If Peace Was All We Had
  • Silent Night Chant
  • Silence
Riding high on their extremely successful Christmas album, "Peace", in 1969 Rotary Connection released their fourth album, "Dinner Music".  Jon Stocklin joins the group to add yet another dimension to the Rotary Connection sound.  Two of the songs written by Stocklin, "Living Alone" and "AMuse" perfectly accentuates the purity of Minnie's vocal talents.  "Merry Prankster and "I Want You To Know" are two other personal favorites penned by Stocklin.  The brilliant interpretation of the classic "Stormy Monday Blues" demonstrates yet another example of  Minnie's vocal ability.  Needless to say, she could sing the blues... :)  Overall, this is an excellent album and highly recommended.
Dinner Music
Play List
  • Pointillism/We Will Be Free
  • Living Alone
  • Lentricks #1
  • Country Things
  • Quartet 
  • May Our Amens Be True 
  • Stormy Monday Blues
  • Love Me Now
  • Lonely Summer
  • AMuse
  • Lentricks #2/Merry Prankster
  • Pump Effect/Want You To Know

I am generally not fond of "covers", however, there are artists who can cover an original song with so much appreciation and adulation that one cannot help but love the cover as much as the original.  Rotary Connection was such a group and their fifth album, "Songs", contains the best cover work I have ever heard.  Starting with Otis Redding's "Respect",  Rotary Connection adds a jazzy flavor to the original arrangement which is magnificent.   Their soulful rendition of The Band's "The Weight" has a vocal depth you never realized was possible.  The same can be said for their cover of Cream's "Sunshine of You Love" and "Tales of Brave Ulysses" (a personal favorite), albeit Clapton's sizzling guitar styling is missing. The blues classic, "I Got My Mojo Working" would make any blues fan smile with appreciation.  The final cover on this fantastic album is none other than Jimi Hendrix's "The Burning of the Midnight Lamp".  With the exception of Sting and Michael Hedges, most covers of Jimi's music makes me want to cry.  I'm forced, however, to expand my exception list with Rotary's cover.  I'm sure Jimi would have loved to do this duet... :)  The original tunes remaining on this album are equally excellent.  "We're Going Wrong" is a personal favorite.
Play List
  • Respect
  • The Weight
  • Sunshine Of Your Love
  • I Got My Mojo Working
  • The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
  • Tales of Brave Ulysses 
  • This Town
  • We're Going Wrong
  • The Salt Of The Earth

The Rotary Connection's final album, "Hey, Love" is, in my opinion, their very best.  The light Brazilian "If I Sing My Song" will put a smile on the face of the most critical listener.  Our heart strings are gently pulled by "The Sea & She" and we remember sweetly.  The jazzfunky "I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun" takes us back to a time of self realization and acknowledgment of human spirit.  We are then intellectually reminded of the paradox and complexity of "Hangin' Round The Bee Tree".  The title track, "Hey, Love" is a bountiful and jazzy tune that is enjoyed just as much in 1999 as in 1971.  "Love Has Fallen On Me" (covered by Chaka Khan in 1978) is an upbeat blues/gospel tune.  And if all of this brilliance wasn't enough, Rotary Connection sweetly and lovingly covers the Dell's classic "Love Is".  "Vine of Happiness" is the perfect final track as is "Hey Love" the perfect final group effort.
Hey, Love
Play List
  • If I Sing My Song
  • The Sea & She
  • I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun
  • Hangin' Round The Bee Tree
  • Hey, Love
  • Love Has Fallen On Me
  • Song For Everyman
  • Love Is
  • Vine Of Happiness
I couldn't believe my own ears when I heard this CD for the first time.  Even though it had "Rotary Connection" painted all over it, I kept saying to myself, "This is FANTASTIC, but the Rotary wasn't HARD rock!".  Then I heard those all too familiar voices, and it were as if I had been struck by a bolt of lightening. " The Rotary Connection at the Texas International Pop Festival" CD is a must have for any Rotary, Minnie, or Rock fan.  If you thought (like I did) Minnie rocked on the live reprise of "Lovin' You", you haven't heard Minnie ROCK!  Whew!  I have a new found respect and appreciation for the Rotary after listening to this five track CD.  Sidney and Minnie work "Stomy Monday" to new heights... Tuesday may be just as bad, but it's never sounded so good...:) And while we're talking about "Tuesday", this version of "Ruby Tuesday"  brought tears to my eyes... simply INCREDIBLE!   Both "Lady Jane" and "Let Them Talk" have a harder edge to them.  I absolutely fell in love with the later, because it had so many rhythm changes.  "The Sunshine of Your Love" (mis-titled "Let Me Hide In Your Sunshine") is also fantastic. 

Finding this "gem" may be difficult, but offers it as a special order item.  I would also check out those funky little record/cd stores.   I was fortunate enough to find mine on Ebay, but this is too good to let go if you don't have a second copy... :)

click here for more info about the Texas International Pop Festival

Rotary Connection at the Texas International Pop Festival

Play List

  • Lady Jane
  • Ruby Tuesday
  • Stormy Monday
  • Sunshine of Your Love
  • Let Them Talk

Discography Index


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