Bryson doesn't simply shoot for what's hip

Popular MUSIC

December 27, 1991|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

Like anyone else in the music industry, Peabo Bryson wants his recordings to be successful. He'd like them to be big hits, in fact, to sell in the millions and crowd the top of the charts.

Indeed, he's enormously happy that his current single, "Beauty and the Beast" -- a duet with Celine Dion from the current Disney film -- is quickly climbing the charts. "I love Walt Disney," he says over the phone from his home outside Atlanta. "I grew up on that stuff, and 'Beauty and the Beast' is one of my favorite stories of all time. It's a very moving experience."

But unlike some of his colleagues, Bryson isn't so eager to sell albums that he'll jump on whatever the hot musical trend happens to be. "That would be the wrong approach, just to get whoever's hot out there," he says. If it comes down to a choice between having the latest sound and maintaining his own musical identity, Bryson would rather go with the latter.

"If the music all starts to run together, then there's no room for individual taste," he explains. "I know we all want to be part of that which is hip, and I guess that excites me as much as it excites anyone else. But it does not excite me to the point where I'm willing to compromise my own individuality for it."

That's part of the reason Bryson wasn't interested in signing up such fashionable producers as Teddy Riley or L. A. and Babyface when he went to work on his new album, "Can You Stop the Rain." "L. A. and Babyface are fine, fine producers," he agrees. "But if you work with them, you're going to sound like them."

So Bryson went with a producer better known for his results than for his sound: Walter Afanasieff.

"Walter Afanasieff works with Mariah Carey and Michael Bolton, and their music doesn't sound anything alike to me," says Bryson. "The focus is different. I don't think that any of his projects sound alike, and I kind of like that."

What makes Afanasieff so different? "He really has great expectations from you," says Bryson. "He knows what you are capable of. And when he gets something and he tells you how he feels about it and how it made him feel, he says, 'You make me want to fall in love when you sing it like that.' And you go, 'Yeah, yeah.'

"You'll see him sit there with his head down, and his eyes are closed shut, he's moving his head from side to side and he's just listening. He's so deeply into it, what you've just done, and he tries to figure out how to guide you to the next level of what you're doing. And he does it so gently and so sincerely and so adequately, you end up with some of the best vocal performances you've ever had."

Peabo Bryson

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

Where: Lyric Opera House.

Tickets: $30.50.

Call: (410) 685-5086 for information,

(410) 481-6000 for tickets.

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