Since the Rippingtons do Russ Freeman's bidding, he hasn't found it necessary to do a full-fledged, regular solo album since he founded the group in 1986. (There have been duo albums with David Benoit and Craig Chaquico as well as a solo holiday record, however.) But listeners "started encouraging me to 'step out' more and to play more guitar," he writes in the liner notes to Drive, and "hence, this album," his first such release since 1985's Nocturnal Playground. That statement is the key to what distinguishes the disc from a Rippingtons album. Although Freeman has called upon a few guest musicians, with Chris Botti contributing muted trumpet work to "Soul Dance," Jeff Lorber keyboards to "Brighter Day," and Eric Marienthal sax to "Anywhere Near You," the tracks are designed as showcases for Freeman's guitar playing, not otherwise leaving room for other soloists. The Freeman fans who encouraged him no doubt will find the result satisfying, but the overall musical direction is no different from that of the Rippingtons. As usual, Freeman has built a series of bright, bubbly percussive tracks (he and two others are credited with "rhythm programming"), over which he solos melodically on either electric or acoustic guitar for three to five minutes, after which the tunes fade out. A version of Don Henley's "Boys of Summer" hews closely to the original, and the take on Grover Washington, Jr.'s "East River Drive" is another homage; the rest are originals. There are hints of R&B and Latin influences, but they never become more than hints as the music rolls along pleasantly. Anyone supposing that Freeman might take the opportunity of the altered billing to try something new would be mistaken; for better or worse, Drive isn't going to change anyone's mind about the guitarist.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann