A fact of life: maintaining a current recording deal is no easy feat for any established or traditional R&B artist over the age of forty. The evidence is bountiful: plenty of our favorite folks haven't made new albums in years (think Roberta Flack, Angela Bofill, Freddie Jackson and on and on) so when one can boast a catalog of five albums released over the past ten years, it's quite an accomplishment, achieved in reality by almost no other veteran R&B male vocalist that we can name!
Phil Perry, the ever-genial singer and increasingly active songwriter can lay claim to such a distinction. "I don't fit any of the moulds of stardom! I have no business making music in the industry today: I weigh 280 pounds, I have no hair," he laughs. "But what I do have is my character and a reputation for dealing with matters of the heart in music in a heartfelt way. That, as well as a very supportive audience. They may not be a big audience and I may not be the 'flavor of the month' but I get plenty of e-mails that verify that when people find out I have new album out, they go buy it and they will tell everyone they know about it."
That loyal base of Perry's admirers will be thrilled to know that Phil's latest project "Magic" more than lives up to the work he's done on his past few albums, notably "My Book Of Love" and "One Heart, One Love." With production work from Barry J. Eastmond, Chris Davis (with whom Phil toured as part of the 'Rhythm Of Love' tours with such artists as Chanté Moore, Will Downing, Vesta and Gerald Albright), Russ Freeman of The Rippingtons (and co-owner of Peak Records, Phil's recording home) and Lee Ritenour, the album is a consummate piece that is perfect if you like quality music that is smooth, romantic and naturally soulful.
The biggest departure on "Magic" for Phil is that he wrote or collaborated on almost of the songs on the album. "In the past, I left the responsibility of composing to others. This time, both Chris and Barry had tracks and I asked if I could write some lyrics and try my hand at creating melodies," Phil recalls. "Once the record company heard them, they said, 'we want more of this!' The result was probably the easiest record I've ever done. The pace was a little hectic because we did the album in different locations but this is definitely more 'me.' The subject matter is more personal than what I've done heretofore which has not always been reflected in my recordings. This time, I was writing about my life, my wife, my children and once I started writing, I was on auto-pilot! But it really wasn't work - it was a labor of love. It was easy to find the direction because I was not falling into someone else's mould of what I should be doing. A lot of times, we record material to please record companies…but it was a groove to do this."
Speaking of grooves, one of the two cover songs that Phil choose for "Magic" was The Isley Brothers' chestnut "Groove With You"; the other was the group's classic "For The Love of You.' Explains Phil, "I cut my teeth on groups like The O'Jays, The Originals and The Isleys. Coming from a multi-harmonic group (The Montclairs, with whom Phil sang in the early '70s), there's definitely a kindred feeling with certain kinds of music. I've never done any of the Isleys' songs before so I picked a couple of my favorites…"
Among the favorites that lovers of smooth jazz'n'soul will find on "Magic" are "Keep Reminding Me," "Spirit Of Love" and "In The Morning," a song Lee Ritenour wrote which Phil says "references what my own father used to say before I would go to sleep. He would always reassure me as a kid that if I prayed before I went to bed at night, everything would be fine the next morning. The song made me think about how if my Dad were alive, he would feel about my own children…and how he'd be so proud…"
Phil himself has much to be proud of with his latest project. "I'm not reinventing the wheel," he considers. "I'm singing love songs. I'm always surprised at how many people have used my music for their weddings and for making a few babies! I guess I'm becoming like the 'Johnny Mathis of smooth jazz'! That doesn't mean I get a lot of airplay but it does mean that each album is an opportunity to build my audience. I guess somebody's buying my records or I wouldn't keep being given the chance to make new albums!"
About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.