Peabo Bryson is among the world’s most dynamic and gifted vocal talents. Over the course of a career spanning from the mid-`60s but truly igniting in the `70s, the 2x-Oscar and Grammy-winner has amassed a fan base, critical acclaim, gold albums and an avalanche of awards by being one of the truly best friends a good song ever had…many of which he composed himself. From ballads that gracefully continued the legacy of sweet soul music such as “Feel the Fire” and “I’m So Into You” to chart-topping pop hits such as “If Ever You’re in My Arms Again” and “Can You Stop The Rain,” and a plethora of duet collaborations with artists ranging from singers Celine Dion (“Beauty & The Beast”), Regina Belle (“A Whole New World”) and Melissa Manchester (“Lovers After All”), to instrumentalists Kenny G (“By The Time This Night is Over”) and Jim Brickman (“My Heart Belongs To You”), Peabo Bryson has proven himself as the consummate vocal professional.
For Missing You - the twentieth soul album of his career, his first in eight years and his first for Peak Records - Peabo Bryson continues to do what he does best on eleven tracks that showcase the broad palette of his skills. On “Count on Me” (produced by The Heavyweights) and “To Love About” (on which Peabo plays some driving acoustic lead guitar), the man proves he still has the goods to gracefully contend with today’s younger R&B stalwarts. Elsewhere, smoothies such as “Heavenly” and “Don’t Give Your Heart” (produced by Barry J. Eastmond) and “My Last Goodbye” (produced by Peabo and Barry, who did additional production on five more) reveal that, ultimately, he is in a class of his own. “In today’s R&B market,” Peabo states, “artists are either young, longing to be young or trying to be young. “I'm only trying to be me.”
Translation: Peabo Bryson is turning his attention to another collection of top-shelf songs. First and foremost is the album’s title track, “Missing You,” penned by the acclaimed team of Ledisi (an outstanding artist on the rise in her own right) and her longtime partner Sundra Manning. Performed solely to the piano accompaniment of producer Barry J. Eastmond, this mesmerizing piece is an emotional tour de force for Bryson. “When you strip away everything and are left with just a piano and what God has given you, you tell a deeper story,” Peabo shares. “It's pretty naked out there without other instruments to hide behind. The words for this beautiful song made me think of the two women I love the most in this world, my mother and my sister, both of whom I lost. When I sing the line ‘I can't wait to see you again this side of Heaven,’ it's for them. This song is for anyone that you've ever loved in a real way.”
Also powerful is “I Promise I Do (The Wedding Song),” one of four songs that Peabo co-wrote on this 11-song project. Peabo composed this particular number with his most frequent current collaborator, Regina Troupe. Singing her praises, Peabo shares, “She’s pretty spectacular - very creative, talented and attractive. She started as a background singer of mine. During a rehearsal she was playing piano and singing something almost as a joke, but I could tell she really had the goods. She wanted to learn and do more, so I challenged her. Together, we took time to empower ourselves by mastering technology’s transition from analog to digital, and we’ve been writing great songs ever since. We are truly on the same page. I intend to produce a project on her soon.”
Elaborating on “I Promise I Do” specifically, Peabo continues, “It has such a beautiful melody. Finding the right words for a melodic structure is not an easy thing to do. That song was very complicated, but why shouldn't it be? Beyond one’s promise to give their heart and soul to God, choosing a life partner is the biggest, most lasting decision an individual will make. You don't sit down and say you're going to write a wedding song, but once the concept of a promise was established, that was the natural direction we chose to proceed with.”
The take-no-prisoners adult contemporary power ballad of this album is “Don’t Make Me Cry,” which was produced by smooth jazz pioneer Norman Connors and Duke Jones, arranged by the incomparable Bobby Lyle (“The Genie” of ivory expeditions) and features saxophone superstar Boney James. “Norman played a bunch of songs for me,” Peabo shares, “but I chose that one because it’s a real life situation that means something to people - an endearing sentiment. It’s about expressing your undying love after a long period of being afraid to expose your true feelings…only it might be too late. At that moment – in the back of your mind – you’re wondering, ‘did I blow it?’”
A Norman of another kind graces the track “10,000 Reasons,” guitarist and Peak Records labelmate Norman Brown, who he’s toured with the last two year’s on Brown’s “Summer Storm” all-star revue. Bryson praises Brown thusly: “Norman is the heir apparent to me - one of the coolest, nicest people on the planet. His singing is improving by leaps and bounds as the days go by. His commitment to excellence in musicianship is really a standard to live by.”
Finally, there’s the Missing You CD’s very special cover song “I Try,” a galvanizing ballad that deftly mixes shades of blues, jazz and soul, composed and made famous by one of the founding females of smooth jazz vocals, Ms. Angela Bofill. Never released as a single from her classic sophomore album Angel of the Night (1979), “I Try” is nevertheless the greatest hit of Bofill’s career (and her Purple Bull Publishing). Peabo, along with special guest and Peak recording artist Paul Taylor on alto sax, handle this gem with tender loving care. Peabo intends to record more of Bofill’s songs – both out of respect for her artistry and as a good will gesture to instigate income for her while she is recovering from a debilitating stroke. “Angie and I toured together quite a lot over the years,” Peabo reflects,” and night after night I watched her turn audiences inside out with that song. It is my sincere pleasure to record ‘I Try’ and contribute to her publishing. She's earned that. Everybody that knows and loves Angie should do what is in their power to do for her. Should such a time come, I would hope someone would be there for me as well.”
Born Robert Peabo Bryson on April 13, 1951 in Greenville, South Carolina, this world renowned balladeer got his start as a star of the traveling revues Al Freeman & The Upsetters and Moses Dillard & The Tex-Town Display. In 1976, he released his debut Lp, Peabo, on Atlanta’s Bullet/Bang label. The project featured Peabo composing nearly all of the songs (some with the great Thom Bell), a young Luther Vandross among the background vocalists, and sexy Black film star Tamara “Cleopatra Jones” Dobson showing him love on the back jacket.
But when he bowed on Capitol Records with the back to back gold albums Reaching for the Sky (1977) and Crosswinds (1978), he truly penetrated the hearts of soul fans everywhere with the title tracks as well as “Feel the Fire” and “I’m So Into You.” He was paired with Capitol label mate Natalie Cole for the 1979 project We’re the Best of Friends and a year later with Roberta Flack for the double-Lp Live & More (on Atlantic Records). Peabo delivered four more albums for Capitol before making a second, even bigger album with Flack titled Born to Love, a gold seller that featured the smash “Tonight I Celebrate My Love” (Top 5 R&B and #16 Pop). That led him to sign a deal with Elektra Records for four albums, the second of which, Take No Prisoners, begat the crossover smash “If Ever You’re In My Arms Again” (Top 10 Pop and R&B).
A return to Capitol in 1989 for the one-off album All My Love earned him his first R&B #1 single with a remake of the late Al Wilson’s “Show &Tell” (a song he proudly keeps the torch lit for in all of his shows). He hit the R&B chart-top a second time with the smash “Can You Stop The Rain,” the title track of his R&B chart-topping first of two album for Columbia Records.
But it was two songs for Disney animated films that earned Peabo his two Grammys and two Oscars. The first was 1991’s “Beauty and the Beast” with international pop singer Celine Dion which also topped the pop chart. The very next year, Peabo struck gold, a Grammy and an Oscar with Regina Belle for “A Whole New World (Aladdin’s Theme)” from Aladdin. Since these two milestones, he has been even more sought after as a guest vocalist and duet partner, resulting in work with Tony Award-winner Lea Salonga on “We Kiss in the Shadows” (#1 on the Classical Crossover chart from a new recording of “The King and I” score) and Kenny G’s “By The Time This Night is Over” (from the chart topping Contemporary Jazz CD, Breathless).
Peabo has since also starred on stage in the lead role of “Raisin,” as The Wizard in “The Wiz” and was featured in the Michigan Opera’s 100th anniversary production of “Porgy & Bess.” He also released a whopping three Christmas CDs, lovingly filled with music he’s performed for several years running in the annual touring holiday music extravaganza, “The Colors of Christmas.”
The last pop album Peabo released prior to Missing You was 1999’s Unconditional Love on the Private Music label. With his tremendous crossover success, Peabo has transitioned into “a whole new world” of international acclaim. It has taken the last eight years for the proper pieces to fall into place for him to find and sign with a duly supportive company through which to release his latest project: Peak Records, a division of industry giant the Concord Music Group.
Beyond his own music, Mr. Bryson is looking to help nurture deserving new artists. “I'd like to find some serious talent and give it wings,” he states. “Not that I'll stop being an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but one can't just complain about the state of music. Either you're a part of the solution or a part of the problem. One of those artists will be Regina Troupe and possibly a young gentleman named Cavanaugh.”
“As far as I'm concerned, everything is going to get better,” Peabo concludes. “I'm feeling like I’m in a really good place musically.