By Michael P Coleman
Fans of the legendary Peabo Bryson might be surprised to learn that he’s a moderate smoker. Half a pack a day. In explaining how in God’s name he’s maintained that stunning, multi octave tenor of his, Bryson EXCLUSIVELY talked about his fitness and exercise regimen.
“I’ve been a runner my whole life,” the 67-year-old legend shared by phone, “long before people in my neighborhood knew what ‘jogging’ was. But I don’t run the 100 yard dash. That’s not my thing. I’ve always been distance.”
THAT could be a metaphor for Bryson’s entire career.
Spanning five decades, Bryson’s is the voice behind hits like “Reaching For The Sky,” “We Don’t Have To Talk About Love,” “If Ever You’re In My Arms Again,” and his massive crossover hits “Beauty And The Beast” and “A Whole New World.”
It’s not often that an artist releases his best work over 40 years after his debut, but Bryson may have done so with his superb new album Stand For Love, produced by the equally-legendary Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The new album can stand toe-to-toe with Bryson’s prior projects, and the artist sounds as good as he ever did.
And as if to prove Bryson’s still got it, the final track on the new album is a scintillating medley of his classics “Feel The Fire,” “I’m So Into You,” and “Tonight I Celebrate My Love,” the latter of which is sung with Chanté Moore standing in for Roberta Flack.
“That was their decision — they wanted to do it,” Bryson says of the medley’s inclusion on Stand For Love. “They wanted to go back to the songs that made them fall in love with what I do to start with. I wasn’t feeling all that great the day we recorded that. I only had…eh, about 70 percent.”
If that’s 70 percent, I’m scared to hear Bryson at 100!
Overall, Stand For Love present the Bryson we all know and love in a contemporary setting that suits him perfectly. Other highlights on the album include “Looking For Sade,” “Exotic,” “Goosebumps (Never Lie),” “Smile,” and the title track.
Of working with Jam & Lewis, Bryson couldn’t have been more complimentary.
“My challenge to Jam & Lewis was ‘Can you make me relevant in any music conversation today, without destroying what it’s taken me a lifetime to achieve,” Bryson confided. “I just put it out there. I put my ego and everything else aside. They embraced that challenge, and they issued a silent challenge of their own: ‘If we do, will you embrace it?’
“They’re the two coolest guys on the planet,” Bryson continued. “They’re so unaffected. To work with them is surreal, but to know them is something altogether different. And their commitment to the music post-production? Second to nobody I’ve ever worked with. They knew there were going to be some raised eyebrows, questions like ‘Is he going to try to go back and sing something like that at this stage of his career, in his life? He’s not going to try that, is he?’ They knew they were going to get some opposition because of the age factor itself. And I’m gonna tell you something: they did not flinch. And they did not abandon me. They embraced those challenges, and [they] didn’t stop until it was right.”
You know I’d never lie to you: Stand For Love is right!
And there’s more good news for Bryson fans: the legend promises he’ll be touring to promote the new album, so we’ll get to hear the wonder of his voice live very soon.
“There’s a lot coming up in the next several months,” Bryson teased. “It’s only going to get better.”
Peabo Bryson’s new Stand For Love is available at all digital outlets, as well as at Wal Mart locations nationwide.