If a cure for winter's blues is what you need, soul crooner Phil Perry feels the remedy lies within his warm, embracing new album, "Ready For Love"...
Ask Phil Perry a question, any question and chances are he’ll be able to give you an answer. The man has a viewpoint on most things. Whether it’s politics, religion, music, education, food, healthcare. The E. St Louis native is a product of his often underrated but varied career. Known initially for his skills as a background singer, Perry has been pivotal in the supporting cast of stellar names that vary from Anita Baker to Rod Stewart to Quincy Jones. As a solo artist Perry was something of a later bloomer, initially debuting with 1991’s “The Heart Of A Man” (Capitol). His latest, fifth outing and third for Shanachie also marks the first of original material for the label. A solidly, soulful collection produced by Shanachie’s in house knob turner, Chris “Big Dog” Davis, the album pin-points his penmanship, having achieved placements for the likes of Aretha Franklin, Bobby Caldwell, Najee and Patti Austin. Particularly impressive are the robust and creative vocal arrangements.
With the advent of smooth jazz in the ’90’s, Perry didn’t miss a beat, touring extensively with Lee Ritenour, and working with Don & Dave Gruisin & the GRP family. With all this recent activity in the last couple of decades, it’s easy to forget that Perry himself is a child of the ’60’s first singing on the Montclairs’ moderate sized hit, Begging’s Hard To Do” as far back as 1972. Clearly Perry’s paid his dues and is entitled to his many varied opinions, culled over four decades of working in a notoriously unforgiving business.
Jeff Lorez: This is now the third album you’ve worked on with the producer Chris Davis but the first of originals for Shanachie. How did you both decide on the direction?
Phil Perry: We talked about the direction of the album. If I had music I sent it to him. I composed things myself and laid it down at a facility close by and sent it to him. It’s a relation born of having worked with someone for a long time and trusting their musical judgment.
JL: The James Taylor cover, ironically, “Shower The People” works very well on here
PP: I’ve always loved “Shower The People”. I had an opportunity to do it on a Bob Baldwin CD and I’ve always loved it. It’s a great song. In today’s economic and political world we need to remember what’s really important. In that respect it’s one of the greatest songs ever written.
JL: Any personal favorites?
PP: I would have to say “The Shelter Of You Heart”. I like “Another Place, Another Time” too. I like “The Strings Of Love” too. The work process, the conversations that made them come about all make them personal.
JL: Obviously you’ve worked with a who’s who of artists. Any particular tours or collaborations stand out in your mind?
PP: My years with Lee Ritenour were a lot of fun and very educational. Also my years with the Quincy Jones orchestra was instrumental in my development. I learned from him the importance of being prepared for whatever job it is you’re going to do. Always remaining in the highest quality of musical integrity. There are other tours too - the Rhythm Of Love tour with George Duke, George Howard, Howard Hewett, Dianne Reeves and myself was an amazing time for me. Having an opportunity to work with Lee Ritenour, Don and Dave Grusin and Tom Scott - the originators of smooth jazz was a very enjoyable, positive section of my life and career. It challenged me because before I was an R&B singer.
JL: What’s on your iPod?
PP: I’m in a writing mode now, so I’m really not listening to anything. The next place I’ll go musically will be an islandy/Bahia/Samba kind of groove because I like that.
JL: Any election thoughts or predictions?:
PP: I won’t talk about the election until after the election. I comes from a studious, religious base and I figure whoever is in the White House God has put them there. I have faith that no matter how bad things get we are still in his control and believing that I feel that no matter how bad things get we can get through anything.
JL: If you had to highlight one trait that has distinguished your life and career, what would it be?
PP: I never gave up, I never stopped working or trying to work. I take every opportunity I have to sing in front of an audience like it’s the last opportunity that I’ll ever have.
JL: Who would be invited to your fantasy dinner party - living or dead?
PP: Martin Luther King, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughn, one of the Pope’s - Pope Pius 12th
JL: Why Pope Pius 12th?
PP: He was a very educated man and I’d like to have his take on what society is going through now and how in turn it effects people’s spirituality. It would be a fascinating conversation for us all to have.
JL: Any one else?
PP: Also John F. Kennedy, Nero, Winston Churchill - he was brilliant man as well. He mastered the art of compromise. He was able to unite the world at one time. In a 2 or 3 minute conversation you’d learn a body of wealth from him. He didn’t particularly care what people thought. It’s interesting to me because it made him so much more endearing to people around him.
About the Writer
Jeff Lorez has enjoyed a long and varied career in the music business. As a journalist he has written for a slew of publications and web sites including, Blues & Soul, Billboard, Yahoo.com and the Daily Telegraph and as a music publisher he has been involved in recent chart topping hits by Alexis Jordan and Cher Lloyd.