Lost Gem Reissued: Patti Austin and Peabo help Fourplay to get "Closer"

Peabo Bryson and Patti Austin’s musical output as solo artists can stand on their own. However, the two vocalists have both been a part of some of the most memorable duets in pop and R&B, particularly in the 1980s and 90s. Austin is probably best known for her duets with James Ingram, but she also sang with George Benson and Jerry Butler. Bryson was a mainstay as a solo soul singer in the 70s and 80s and it was in the latter decade that Bryson scored several hits on the pop and R&B charts by singing duets female vocalists such as Natalie Cole, Regina Belle, Melissa Manchester, and particularly Roberta Flack.

Peabo Bryson and Patti Austin’s musical output as solo artists can stand on their own. However, the two vocalists have both been a part of some of the most memorable duets in pop and R&B, particularly in the 1980s and 90s. Austin is probably best known for her duets with James Ingram, but she also sang with George Benson and Jerry Butler. Bryson was a mainstay as a solo soul singer in the 70s and 80s and it was in the latter decade that Bryson scored several hits on the pop and R&B charts by singing duets female vocalists such as Natalie Cole, Regina Belle, Melissa Manchester, and particularly Roberta Flack.

Flack scored several hits in the 1970s with Donny Hathaway. Hathaway and Flack’s 1972 album featured the mega hit “Where Is the Love” and over the years the pair also charted with “You Are My Heaven,” “Back Together Again” and “The Closer I Get To You.” And it is Fourplay’s pairing of Bryson and Austin on “The Closer I Get To You” that is featured in this new Lost Gem Reissued. The song is a bonus track on the remastered Best of Fourplay album that was originally released in 1997 and that is now being reissued in multiple formats, including vinyl. The legendary jazz fusion band formed in 1991 when four excellent musicians, drummer Harvey Mason, bassist Nathan East, guitarist Lee Ritenour and pianist Bob James, merged and took the world by storm. Their 1991 self-titled album, that included El DeBarge’s sensually buttery version of “After The Dance” was a ubiquitous presence in the summer of that year.

That song was one of the tunes featured on the Best of Fourplay record and while Austin and Bryson’s interpretation of “The Closer I Get To You” wasn’t featured on that record, it’s easy to see why the decision was made to add it now. Austin and Bryson are consummate professionals with powerful and distinctive voices who easily fall into a rapport. Meanwhile, although the tempo and pacing of this cover version is reminiscent to Flack and Hathaway’s 1977 version, the musicians of Fourplay add that element of jazz, whether it is Ritenour’s solos or Mason’s impeccable sense of timing. Check it out here.

By Howard Dukes

Fourplay feat. Patti Austin and Peabo Bryson
"The Closer I Get To You"

 
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