Phil Perry - Ready for Love (2008)

Phil Perry
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Throughout a four decade career that has often flown under the radar of R&B radio programmers, Phil Perry has accumulated a following of soul music lovers, smooth jazz enthusiasts and straight-up fans of vocal music. His musical protagonists, vulnerable men unafraid to poetically express their romantic feelings -- returned or unrequited -- to their women, have connected with an expansive generation of men and women.  And at a time when most soul artists over the age of fifty are struggling to release anything on CD, it is no small feat that Phil Perry has actually increased his output, with three full new releases in the last five years. 

Throughout a four decade career that has often flown under the radar of R&B radio programmers, Phil Perry has accumulated a following of soul music lovers, smooth jazz enthusiasts and straight-up fans of vocal music. His musical protagonists, vulnerable men unafraid to poetically express their romantic feelings -- returned or unrequited -- to their women, have connected with an expansive generation of men and women.  And at a time when most soul artists over the age of fifty are struggling to release anything on CD, it is no small feat that Phil Perry has actually increased his output, with three full new releases in the last five years. 

It is for his longstanding fans that Perry's newest disc, Ready for Love -- his first disc of primarily new compositions in seven years -- will be the biggest treat.  While Phil and producer Chris "Big Dog" Davis did a creditable job on their previous two albums of classic soul covers, Perry's lyrical poetry was the missing puzzle piece there and is the found treasure on Ready for Love.

The album starts melodically enough with "Desire" and the catchy title track. But the real meat of the disc is saved for the middle, when the gorgeous "Another Place, Another Time" begins a three song ride that truly makes the disc.  "Another Place" and "The Shelter of Your Heart," Perry's only solo compositions on the disc, rank among his best ballads, each expressing a complete lyrical opening of male emotions that works beautifully with his always-expressive tenor and falsetto voice.  And he follows it with the the snappy "Why Why Why," a terrific done-me-wrong song (featuring Davis's sister-in-law Selena and saxophonist Kim Waters) that should be on the playlist of every smooth jazz station in America.

The disc includes its only covers, the oft-recorded "Shower the People" and "Walk On By," in the latter third before closing with the very nice wedding ballad, "The Strings of Love."

Ready For Love is a departure for Shanachie Record, which over the past several years has largely pushed its classic soul roster toward "covers" albums, but it is a welcome change.  While a unique singer, Phil Perry has long been an underappreciated songwriter, and it is the combination of the two talents that has established his fiercely loyal fanbase over his forty year career.  Fortunately, the two are joined again on Ready for Love, making it Perry's most enjoyable disc of the decade and hopefully paving the way for other "senior" artists to flex their songwriting muscles again.   Highly recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 
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