Phil Perry - Say Yes (2013)

Phil Perry
PhilPerry-SayYes.png
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

Having performed as a member of the soul group The Montclairs in the early and mid-1970s and later as part of the duo Perry and Sanlin, Phil Perry was known quantity to hard-core soul and R&B fans by the time he released his solo debut album Heart Of The Man in 1991. His experience in a group started a now-familiar trend for Perry: The Montclairs sported the tight harmonies and strong lead vocals as the other vocal groups of the 1970s. However, their label, Paula Records, did not have the power to transform songs such as “Dreaming Out of Season” into the kind of hit that made the Chi-Lites and other groups stars.

Having performed as a member of the soul group The Montclairs in the early and mid-1970s and later as part of the duo Perry and Sanlin, Phil Perry was known quantity to hard-core soul and R&B fans by the time he released his solo debut album Heart Of The Man in 1991. His experience in a group started a now-familiar trend for Perry: The Montclairs sported the tight harmonies and strong lead vocals as the other vocal groups of the 1970s. However, their label, Paula Records, did not have the power to transform songs such as “Dreaming Out of Season” into the kind of hit that made the Chi-Lites and other groups stars.

A couple of other factors prevented Perry’s post Montclair from taking off in the way that his talent might have dictated. Perry, a husband and father of four children, is one of the more grounded guys in the music industry.  He’s not the kind of guy who is going to make the headlines for anything other than his music. Timing may also have something to do with Perry’s lack of mainstream success. Perry released the very good Heart Of The Man at a time when the music industry was increasingly catering to the youth market. That record actually garnered chart success when Perry’s cover version of Aretha Franklin’s “Call Me” reached number one on the R&B charts. Perry was never deterred and he stayed in the studio, cutting many albums for several labels and winning two SoulTracks Readers’ Choice Awards in the process. Perry and his wife Lillian also lent their voices to many commercial jingles and he’s been a backing vocalist for artists ranging from George Duke to Bobby Womack.

Perry’s fans have long appreciated the singer’s consistency and his brand of mature jazz infused R&B, and those traits are demonstrated again on his brand new album, Say Yes. The 10-track project is a continuation of Perry’s pattern of mixing covers of well-loved R&B and pop tunes with his originals.

Perry is among the artists who can be considered the master of the remake. Although he brings soulfulness to an oft-covered tune like “The Long and Winding Road,” and a bit of church to “A Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” the standout remake on Say Yes is Perry’s version of Carly Simon’s “You Belong to Me.” Simon’s original featured an R&B infused bass line. Perry’s version explores the funk and blues aspects of the track by including percussive handclaps, some bluesy guitar playing and drum playing that leans heavily on the bass and the symbols. Of course, Perry’s vocals are absolutely hypnotizing.

The originals on Say Yes are all standouts. Perry shows the youngsters how that sensuality, eroticism and tastefulness are not mutually exclusive concepts on the title track.  Perry probably gets categorized as a love singer, but that only encompasses part of what he does as an artist. I see Perry as a relationship singer. He doesn’t attempt to separate quarter century plus of marriage from his art. He knows the ups and downs of relationships and that’s what makes a numbers such as “Can’t Hide Love” (feat. Najee) so effective in his hands. This song juxtaposes an upbeat, Latin tinged melody with a message that explores the importance of making the effort to show love when couples have reached the point where its easy for both parties to take each other for granted.

The music industry has often taken Perry for granted over the course of four decades. Part of the reason that Perry gets overlooked is that his music runs counter to the flavor of the day and his persona is the opposite of the angst and drama filled train wrecks that draw so much attention. Another reason Perry often slides under the radar is that the type of consistency and understated quality that Perry displays on works such as Say Yes are easy for folks to ignore…that is, except for lovers of well-performed, exquisite soul music. For them, he’s worthy of rapt attention.  Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
Choice Cut - Maysa - "Lovin' You Is Easy"

Leave a comment!