Phil Perry - A Mighty Love (2007)

Phil Perry
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Some of the most memorable moments in Phil Perry's solo career (as well as his guest work) have been in his interpretations of classic pop and soul songs.  His first hit was an audacious cover of Aretha's "Call Me" and arguably his career highpoint was his brilliant take on the Spinners' "Love Don't Love Nobody."  So it wasn't a big surprise when last year he released a full album of covers, Classic Love Songs, on Shanachie Records.  It was a solid return for Perry after a five year absence, but relatively trite song selection and production left the album short of his best work.

Some of the most memorable moments in Phil Perry's solo career (as well as his guest work) have been in his interpretations of classic pop and soul songs.  His first hit was an audacious cover of Aretha's "Call Me" and arguably his career highpoint was his brilliant take on the Spinners' "Love Don't Love Nobody."  So it wasn't a big surprise when last year he released a full album of covers, Classic Love Songs, on Shanachie Records.  It was a solid return for Perry after a five year absence, but relatively trite song selection and production left the album short of his best work.

The good news for Phil Perry fans is that his sequel to Classic Love Songs, 2007's A Mighty Love, surpasses its predecessor and delivers the kind of punch that made Perry one of the most sought-after vocalists in the soul and smooth jazz worlds.  As always, song selection is key, and Perry generally does fine in that regard, choosing ballads such as "Unbreak My Heart," Dionne Warwick's "Deja Vu" and the classic Skylark hit "Wildflower," all of which lay well for his expressive falsetto.  A surprise treat is the album's only original tune, a tender Gospel composition by producer Chris "Big Dog" Davis, "Honor" that holds its own between the classic tracks.  But the album's gem is Perry's version of the oft-covered Harold Melvin hit "If You Don't Know Me By Now," which evokes the passion of his decade-old take on "Love Don't Love Nobody" and really completes this album.  Davis's production is still too mechanical and electronics-reliant for my taste, but his smart addition of guitar and saxophone solos on "Unbreak My Heart," "Everything Must Change" and "If You Don't Know Me" take those songs to a higher level than anything from Classic Love Songs.

A Mighty Love reminds us again of the phenomenal voice that Phil Perry has brought for over thirty years and is a welcome addition to his already strong discography.  And while we'd love to hear more original material from Perry, few artists can match his ability to take even well-worn pop and soul songs and completely make them his own.  Highly recommended.

by Chris Rizik

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