Vocalist Phil Perry distinguished himself by blending soul with smooth, sophisticated rhythm-and-blues. After Perry’s third solo release, One Heart, One Love, Atlanta’s Upscale magazine wrote, “This work solidifies his mastery of the r&b genre What the album (offers) is a smooth sensual sound.” This “easy-listening” r&b sound is Perry’s trademark, often geared to lovers and the romantic, and reminiscent of legendary r&b vocalist Al Green. Perry pays homage to Green in One Heart, One Love by creating a medley of classical songs from Green’s repertoire. Perry told Upscalemagazine, “All too often, legendary performers retire before we (as artists) get to say ‘thanks’ this is my way of showing my appreciation for Green and his music.” Perry’s approach is firmly rooted in gospel, accessible, and thoroughly romantic. He is also noted for having worked as a session singer with Quincy Jones, Barbra Streisand, Patti LaBelle, and Lee Ritenour.
Perry was raised singing gospel music in his local church in East St. Louis. He branched out into r&b by joining a local vocal group called the Montclairs, and they recorded two albums, generating hits such as “Dreamin’ Out of Season,” and “Make Up for Lost Time”. They also toured with the high-profile artists Rufus & Chaka Kahn, The Ohio Players, and The Miracles. In 1979 Perry and fellow Montclairs member Kevin Sanlin joined forces to record two albums for Capitol Records but the duo disbanded after only the two releases and Perry began working as a background vocalist in Los Angeles. He worked primarily at local clubs as a vocalist for lauded guitarist Lee Ritenour. His reputation as a superb vocalist prompted friend and singer James Ingram to introduce Perry to composer Quincy Jones. Through his connection with Jones, Perry began to work with a wide array of musicians, including composer Michel Colombier, George Duke, Sergio Mendes, Barbra Streisand, and Patti LaBelle, which boosted his reputation, provided useful contacts, and broadened his musical horizons. Perry was featured on the soundtrack for the comic-romance film Arthur II, and he began to tour globally around 1988. He performed in Japan, the Pacific Rim, Europe, and Brazil.
Perry attended a Hollywood Bowl concert with Ritenour and executives from Capitol Records. The executives heard Perry’s demo tape and the result was the debut solo release, The Heart of The Man in 1989. The album was a consistent seller and its single, “Call Me,” topped the r&b charts. Perry’s emotional, deft cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Call Me” led to performances across the country, several with saxophonist Dave Koz. By 1995, Perry had toured again in Southeast Asia, contributed to The Benoit/Freeman Projectfor GRP Records, and had contributed to the group Fourplay’s gold-selling release, Between the Sheets for Warner Brothers.
Performances with the GRP record label co-founder Dave Grusin and his brother Don resulted in Perry switching labels and releasing Pure Pleasure in 1994. Pure Pleasure contained the hit singles “If You Only Knew,” a cover of Patti LaBelle’s 1984 hit, and “Love Don’t Love Nobody”. Perry then made his seventh trip to Indonesia, toured Malaysia, Japan, and other Pacific Rim countries with Ramsey Lewis, and performed in the Caribbean and The Bahamas. Perry released One Heart, One Love in 1998. His vision for the record was that it would sound distinct and that he would maintain his unique vocal stylings. Upscale wrote one Heart, One Love, “Perry again enters the music scene with another album based purely on the soulful power of good r&b music.”
Perry’s third solo release marked his debut for Peak Records and the Windham Hill Group. One Heart, One Love featured an array of romantic R&B ballads, smooth singles, and soulful jams: “Pretty Lady” was reminiscent of a quiet storm, “Do What Comes Natural” was upbeat and inspiring, and “Mind Blowah”, which features the group Portrait on background vocals, was infectious and provocative. The deep soulfulness of the single “Sorry” underscored the pervasively moody-yet-rhythmic tone of the release. Perry’s wife Lillian was
Born in East St. Louis, MO.
Sang in church choirs throughout his childhood; branched out into R&B by joining a local vocal group called the Montclairs and recorded two albums, generated hits such as “Dreamin’ Out of Season,” and “Make Up for Lost Time”; band toured with high-profile artists Rufus & Chaka Kahn, The Ohio Players, and The Miracles; Perry and fellow Montclairs member Kevin Sanlin joined forces to record two albums for Capitol Records, 1979, duo disbanded after two releases; began working as a background vocalist in Los Angeles, 1980; worked primarily at local clubs as a vocalist for guitarist Lee Ritenour; friend and singer James Ingram introduced Perry to composer Quincy Jones, which led to work with a wide array of musicians, including composer Michel Colombier, George Duke, Sergio Mendes, Barbra Streisand, and Patti LaBelle; featured on the soundtrack for the comicromance film Arthur11; released debut solo, The Heart of The Man, 1989; its single, “Call Me,” topped the R&B charts; contributed to The Benoit/Freeman Project for GRP Records, 1994; contributed to the group Fourplay’s gold-selling release, Between the Sheets for Warner Brothers, 1994; released Pure Pleasure, 1994; One Heart, One Love, 1998.
Addresses: Record company —The Windham Hill Group, 8750 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90211-2713; (310) 368-4800, fax (310) 358-4501.
featured in a duet in “Do Not Disturb.” The single “We Belong Together” and “Hold On With Your Heart” were both dedicated to her.
Perry attempted to combine the playful with the soulful, the solemn with the upbeat, and the romantic with the rhythmic on One Heart, One Love, and succeeded. Upscale magazine noted that Perry spent nearly two decades singing on numerous records, and asked him if he ever considered changing his style to please a wider audience. He responded with, “I’m not changing my style, I’m still doing romantic music. There may not be much of a market for real traditional r&b anymore, but that’s what I do best. I’m thankful that I have built an audience with my previous records.” As a result, Perry’s albums have not featured special remixes, hip-hop or reggae beats, or guest appearances from the realm of alternative, hip-hop or rap music.
The messages found in Perry’s music stem from traditional, timeless themes such as love, deeply committed relationships, and the importance of spending quality time with those you love. As a result, Perry developed a reputation as an r&b vocalist for lovers, and it’s a reputation he cherishes. Perry was particularly inspired by Al Green, a vocalist with roots in gospel music, and also a vocalist devoted to romance and positive messages in his material. Like Al Green, Perry uses his natural interpretive skills to create a musical mood, to convey an emotion, and tell a riveting story. Perry is also noted for replacing vocal grandstanding with genuine feeling. Perry collaborated with Nick Caldwell of The Whispers for his third release. He’s also collaborated with George Duke, Magic, Grady Wilkins, Rickey Smith, and singer/songwriter Gary Brown. One Heart, One Love reached number five on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart for the week ending May1, 1998 and his single, “One Heart, One Love,” reached number five on the same chart in July of 1998. Perry is devoted to the notion that relationships should be deep, fulfilling, and timeless—much like his music.
The Heart of A Man, Capital Records, 1989.
Pure Pleasure, (includes single “If only you knew”), GRP Records, 1994.
“Love don’t love anybody,” GRP, 1994
One Heart, One Love, The Windham Hill Group, 1998.
Upscale (Atlanta, GA), May 1998.
“Entertainment News: The R&B Page,” http://www.rbpage.com/news07-25.html
“Galactica Tracks,” http://www.galactica.it/101/black/tlvdntl.html
“Windham Hill: Phil Perry: One Heart, One Love” http://windham.com/recordings/01005-82163-2.html
—B. Kimberly Taylor
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