On his seventh album for Shanachie, singer and songwriter Phil Perry and longtime producer Chip Davis lay out a set of excellent covers, originals, and a throwback surprise. Highlights include the glistening groove in the opening title track, wherein Perry offers the set's statement of purpose -- in some way, virtually each of these ten tracks zones in on what it takes to become a better man -- in spirit, in thought, in relationships, etc. The Curtis Mayfield nugget "I'm So Proud" features the lyrical saxophone of Kim Waters, and is one of numerous tracks on which guitarist Rohn Lawrence shines: he adds elegant fills, colorful chord voicings, and his signature rhythmic approach -- check the way he plays under Waters' solo. As has been Perry's wont on earlier recordings, he takes on a true soul classic in Mayfield's Impressions hit "Gypsy Woman." Despite the iconic weight the tune is imbued with, Perry's read -- with wonderful help from Lawrence -- adds rather than detracts. Perry's vocal here is silky but finds its way right into the seam of the lyric and exposes the finer points in the songwriter's poetic use of metaphor. Slightly funkier and ripe for sophisticated clubbers is "Feelin' You," with lithe trumpet lines by Rick Braun. Just before the close, Perry delivers a stellar -- and thoroughly revisioned -- take on "Dreaming's Out of Season," which he first recorded with the Montclairs. The innovative vocal chart reveals why some songs are eternal. Reinforcing the album's theme is the closer "Stand Up," a killer duet with Howard Hewett that nods back at classic, '70s-era Marvin Gaye. Perry ups his game on A Better Man, choosing to rely on real lyric substance as well as an abundant vocal style. He hasn't left the loverman behind, he's just added more dimension and character to his profile.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek