Like so many of the great artists I’ve met since I began my journalistic journey in the U.S. in 1975, I’ve known Peggi Blu for more years than she and I might want to mention! We met, as I recall, through one of our mutually dearest friends, the late John Simmons, a member of the New York group The Reflections and later, musical director for Stephanie Mills and Whitney Houston. I don’t know that I was aware of Peggi’s illustrious musical history back then but over subsequent years, I learned that she had been a member of both The Sandpebbles and The Crystals.
We reacquainted when Peggi cut her much-loved 1987 Capitol album “Blu’s Blowin’”. The album was a belated follow-up to her first solo set, 1980’s MCA LP “I Got Love” and was issued in the wake of her triumph as the 1986 Grand Champion Female Vocalist for the famed t.v. show “Star Search,” the precursor to current programs like “American Idol” and Britain’s “Pop Idol.” Peggi’s Capitol album was a critical favorite most especially among discerning UK music lovers who were disappointed that there was no immediate Capitol sophomore set. Not that the L.A.-based Ms. Blu was idle: rather, she spent time doing key background sessions for recordings by diverse artists including Quincy Jones, The Crusaders, Philip Bailey, Brian Setzer, Aaron Neville and the late Phyllis Hyman and performing with the likes of Barbra Streisand and Burt Bacharach and at former President Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.
In 1993, after speaking with Peggi’s husband and musical partner Ted Perlman, I suggested he contact Ralph Tee at Expansion Records. Ted sent a copy of the song “Love Is The Magic” to the progressive UK label. Subsequently, the cut was included on an Expansion “Soul Source” compilation and the demand for a new Peggi Blu album began to grow. Peggi herself was busy doing various theatrical show including European tour with the Michael Jackson production of “Sisterella” and “Wild Women Blues.” She finally began working on what would become her latest album – the 2002 Expansion CD “Livin’ On Love” – about three years and speaking from Florida as she was about to head out as a performer on a Caribbean cruise, Peggi noted that the sixteen-year gap between albums did have an explanation: “Music changed, I changed and I was not really interested so much in doing another record. I didn’t want to, it’s just that simple. Then, when the music changed again, about ten years ago, I got the urge to make another album. I had to be sure that when I did another one, it would include exactly what I wanted to sing, what made me feel good. You see, in those sixteen years, I got older, wiser and I was more in control…”
Peggi began working in earnest on her latest album about three years ago, recording at the home studio she and Ted have in L.A. “Honestly, it was absolutely delicious!” Peggi laughs. “I could work in my pyjamas and slippers and I could start after I finished doing dishes. Of course, we were using ‘downtime’ when there was no one else recording and that meant that we usually couldn’t start till around midnight or till around 1:00 or 2:00am…” Having her husband as her producer could of course be potentially problematic: “There are songs that I wanted to re-do but Ted went more for the feel of the performance and he said ‘absolutely not!’ There were some songs we could have done but we knew when it was finished…”
The resultant final album is filled with the kind of performances that have made Peggi a soul music favorite over the years. As always, she sings her heart out on tunes like “Uh Oh,” “I Never Loved A Man Before,” the quiet storm-flavored “Long After Midnight,” the standout title cut and a fine version of “Go Away Little Boy,” first popularized by Marlena Shaw. Peggi explains the approach she and Ted took to completing the album: “It was about going back to where I come from musically, generating the kind of stuff that is timeless. It was all about songs instead of tracks because, let’s be honest, people don’t walk away humming tracks but songs. It was about finding writers and songs for a woman like me. We changed the final order for the album a few times because we realized that cohesiveness was important and that we had to come up with the right flow. We had some help and input with Expansion and I really have to give Ralph Tee his props. He kept insisting we finish the album. When we first started working together At the time you first suggested we send “Love Is The Magic” to Expansion, I was really skeptical. I found out that Ralph knew me from all the things I had done before. Over the years, he kept asking for an album and I was like,’this man is not for real!’ I was like ‘who would want me and why?’ But he kept generating interest and each time he asked Ted, ‘where’s the album?’ the e-mails would get bigger and bigger! It is absolutely wonderful for me that a UK company would respond like this. I’ve loved England for so long and I’ve always had success there even with Crystals. Europeans just appreciate artists for who we are…”
In fact, Peggi performed in Britain this summer and the reaction was amazing: “We did a festival in Blackpool and it was incredible. I had the time of my life and the people made me feel so welcome.” Although Peggi is headed back to Europe in December to perform in the musical “Three Ladies Of Blues” (with dates in the UK, Switzerland and Germany), she is very committed to the release of “Livin’ On Love” in the U.S. “We’re getting good feedback. Honestly, this is the first record I’ve loved from top to bottom. I love the entire work and the songs are like my children and you don’t love one more than another. This is my third album and my eighth record…and let’s hope that it doesn’t take another fifteen years for me to do another one!”
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.