Peabo Bryson – 1976 – Peabo
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Early work by Peabo – smooth soul with a sophisticated feel, but not as stiff and stodgy as his later work, which could sometimes verge on the adult contemporary side. Peabo’s voice has an honest soulful quality, and the album’s got arrangements by Gene Page that move along nicely – never too fast, never too slow, with a style that shows the huge potential that Peabo could have in the mid 70s.
This is the album that formally introduced the talented singer/songwriter and producer Peabo Bryson to the music world way back in the heyday of sophisticated Soul. This was a time of classic album music production with thought-provoking compositions, expert musical arranging and top quality studio productions that sounded good coming over the airwaves and even better when you listened at home. I purchased this LP after hearing the radio single “It’s Just A Matter Of Time” and it is still one of my all-time favorites from what I often refer to as modern music’s “Golden Era” – before technology caught up with and then jumped ahead of the artistry – and changed the way people make records. Everyone I knew of who heard this when it first came out was buzzing over it and I’m glad I’ve lived to see his early career works finally getting the long-overdue re-release treatment on Compact Discs because this style of music deserves the best presentation possible in order to really be enjoyed to the fullest!
Peabo, released in 1976, is the first album from the talented singer. Even by his mid-twenties, Bryson had the clear and singular tenor and the mix of strength and vulnerability. Not yet an established lothario, the best tracks here deal mostly with regret and bittersweet emotions. Bryson wrote or co-wrote all of the tracks and serves as producer. On the first song, the country-styled “Just Another Day“, Bryson reviews a going nowhere relationship as he sings “I guess I’ll stay and see the end/Imagine I was here/For a while” with the perfect balance of restraint and self-pity. The emotional and melody rich “I Can Make It Better” has Bryson giving his best performance here. Peabo also has up-tempo tracks, although he’s not as proficient at them as he is the ballads. “Smile” and “Underground Music” are skilled, but his metier is no doubt songs with a slower pace. The bittersweet “Lovely Lady” is close to the work he would subsequently do for Capitol.
Recorded with the “LA Rhythm Section,” the track features a dramatic string arrangement from Gene Page and another smooth and assured vocal from Bryson. The last track, “God Is on Our Side“, has Bryson skillfully putting across his message without making it boring. Peabo was recorded at four different recording studios and employed esteemed session players and singers including Ray Parker, Jr., David T. Walker, Luther Vandross, and Cissy Houston. Peabo is a great debut and offers a few of his most loved songs.