Phil Perry possesses one of soul’s most distinctive voices. During his days with the Montclairs and through a long solo career, he’s produced album after album of high quality smooth soul and each new release has been eagerly awaited by fans who appreciate his sophisticated yet passionate approach to soul. For the past few years he’s found a home with the Shanachie label and ‘Ready For Love’ is Phil’s third release for the resourceful indie. Where the first two efforts were generally collections of covers, this one’s chiefly made up of original songs and therein lies the problem. You see some of those original songs just aren’t that distinctive and in places the only thing that saves them is Phil’s remarkable voice. Let me give you a couple of examples: – ‘Melody Of Love’ and ‘Strings Of Love’ are fairly dreadful, cloying ballads that stray deep into Mills and Boon territory. I understand why they’re there. They’re pitched directly at the lucrative US wedding song market and I understand that Phil, producer Chris ‘Big Dog’ Davis and the label need to make money whichever way they can, but I believe that THAT voice deserves something better. We almost get it with the opener ‘Desire’ – a good, clipped, mid-paced beater and we’re nearly there on ‘Why Why Why’. On that one, Perry shares vocal duties with a lady called Salena… and it almost rocks. Elsewhere, ‘Ready For Love’ is a decent quiet storm moment while ‘Shine On Me’ offers some Latin swaying rhythms, but it’s not too distinguished. The two covers on the album provide the best moments simply because they’re two exceptionally crafted songs – James Taylor’s ‘Shower The People’ and Burt Bacharach’s ‘Walk On By’. The sweet Baby James song is treated respectfully while ‘Walk On By’ receives a great makeover. Perry and Davis throw out the Dionne Warwick template – indeed in the back up vocals the chief inspiration seems to be the late Isaac Hayes’ version – and add some delicious Ramsey Lewis-style piano to concoct the LP’s standout cut.