When Frank Zappa and his wife Gail heard The Persuasions singing over the phone they flew them to L.A and signed them to Frank’s label, Straight Records. This is their first album. It’s partly live and part studio recording. It’s raw & unpolished and the beginning of their next forty plus years of performing, recording another 22 albums and traveling the globe.
1971 We CAME TO PLAY
One journalist wrote that if you had to pick one desert island Persuasions album this would be the one. This was their debut album for Capitol. From Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” to Curtis Mayfield’s “Man Oh Man,” this is classic Persuasions material. Bass Jimmy Hayes’ turn on “The Sun” still makes my speakers rattle. It’s almost below the range of normal human hearing! The vitality, the joy, the soulful singing and yes Jerry Lawson’s tremendous phrasing—certainly one of the signature voices of the last fifty years—make this album nothing short of sensational.
Of all the instruments out there the first and still the finest by far is the human voice. This CD makes the point emphatically. This is five part harmony at it’s best. Stunningly tight and rich A Cappella. So much music today is sloppy and self-indulgent with technology covering up the shabbiness. This is pure music. The virtuoso level of performance is consistent throughout with no drum kit in sight. When the Persuasions take you through their tribute to The Temptations you’ll find yourself wondering if you actually heard what you thinkyou heard. The energy, passion and sheer joy contained in these tracks is enough to blow the spots off a leopard.
The Persuasions’ fourth album finds the harmony-vocal group still fanning the doo-wop flame (a major uphill battle in 1972), refurbishing then- contemporary songs like Bob Dylan’s “Three Angels” (which both opens and closes the album) and Bill Withers’s “Lean On Me”in their own gospel-derived style. On the more old-school side, there are remakes of doo-wop classics like the Moonglows’ “Ten Commandments of Love” alongside such pre-doo-wop standards as “The Lord’s Prayer.” Highlights include “T.A. Thompson,” an anti-Vietnam war song that (as implausibly as it sounds) gets a terrific doo-wop arrangement, and “When Jesus Comes,” a gorgeously sung return to the group’s gospel roots. Originally released on Capitol Records (ST 11101). Includes liner notes by Mark Marymont. Personnel: Joseph Russell (vocals, tenor); Jerry Lawson (vocals, baritone); Jayotis Washington (tenor); Herbert Rhoad (baritone); Jimmy Hayes (bass voice). Liner Note Author: Mark Marymont. The Persuasions: Joseph Russell, Jerry Lawson, Jimmy Hayes, Herbert “Tubo” Rhoad, Jayotis Washington.
Maintaining their high level of consistency, The Persuasions shy away from Motown here and delve into the blues, tackling Jimmy Hughes’s “Steal Away” and a medley of Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me to Do?” and “Bright Lights, Big City.” Superb. This was never available on CD.
Maintaining their high level of consistency, The Persuasions shy away from Motown here and delve into the blues, tackling Jimmy Hughes’s “Steal Away” and a medley of Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me to Do?” and “Bright Lights, Big City.” Superb. Also it was never available on CD.
The middle of the 1970’s was a period of change. The Persuasions tried a couple of albums for A&M Records which had bands backing them up on a few tracks. They received a lukewarm reception. For a period of several years Jayotis Washington left the group. It was during that period that the remaining quartet did one record for Elektra Records. Chirpin’ was a return to their A Cappella roots. It shares once again the joyful intimacy of four guys pouring their hearts out. Most of the songs are varieties of love songs except for one of the best A Cappella tunes ever sung, “Looking For An Echo.” It so captures the The Persuasions history that even if the rest of the album weren’t great we would still recommend it for any fan.
Since the ’60s, the Persuasions have taken songs from all genres and moved them in a direction their creators probably never envisioned. (check their tributes to Grateful Dead and Frank Zappa) That direction is straight back to Bedford-Stuyvesant’s street-corner symphonies grounded in the hand-clapping black church.With the falsetto’s sweetness and the bass’s bedrock grounding and that undeniable soul stirring lead of Jerry Lawson, “Comin’ At Ya” ranks among the quintet’s best. Sad sack “Mint Julep” gets way more vocal ornamentation than The Clovers’ original. While The Drifters’ original “Drip Drop” put the tenor in the lead, The Persuasions here entrust it to the bass. The guys with no band take Paul Simon’s gospel-grounded “Love Me Like A Rock” and rock it in the bosom of the church like Simon never could.
This 1982 album, which was reissued on CD in 1991, included a nice rendition of the title track, outstanding treatments of “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” and “I Won’t Be the Fool Anymore,” plus a credible cover of Sam Cooke’s “Cupid.”
On this Rounder Records release Joe Russell is absent but we have a unique addition. Bev Rohlehr appears on a few songs adding a sweet lightness on this recording. The version of “Still Ain’t Got No Band” is in the grand tradition. Overall it is a traditional Persuasions mix of some gospel mixed among gems like Roy Hamilton’s “You Can Have Her,” Clyde McPhatter’s “The Treasure Of Love” and a Drifters Medley of “Under The Boardwalk” combined with “Sand In My Shoes.” The real rouser of the record is “Victim.” Magnificent! The sound is characterized by a significant blues and gospel influence. Intense performances and strong material distinguish this collection: “Slip Sliding Away,” a rambunctious “Sweet Was The Wine,” “I Was Wrong” (originally sung by the Moonglows), “Under The Boardwalk/Sand In My Shoes,” and their A Cappella mantra, “Still Ain’t Got No Band”
Tremendous vocals, wonderful harmonies, and genuine audience reaction are the selling points for this concert recording. While the response sometimes seems a bit contrived, there’s nothing artificial about the blistering uptempo or moving ballads that The Persuasions provided, whether doing love songs, novelty items, protest works, folk or pop.
The Persuasions beloved friend and baritone, Herbert “Toubo” Rhoad passed away while on tour. Toubo was very shy but there was one song he enjoyed singing lead on. It was Ray Charles’ “You Don’t Know Me” But they never recorded Toubo singing it, so here we have Jerry singing it for him and in memory of him. This album is very different for the group as there is musical accompaniment on several tracks.Additional personnel: Elliot Randall, Jock Bartley (guitars), Jim Pepper, “Blue” Lou Marini (saxophone), Jimmy “Creeper” Smith (piano, keyboards), Steve Conn (keyboards, harmonica), Bill Rich (bass), Rufus Steddy (drums, percussion), Ed Greene, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie (drums). It can be purchased here.
With Right Around the Corner, the Persuasions continue their trademark A Cappella vocal stylings. Through their choice of material and interpretation the group retains a sense of freshness and vitality. Though a song such as “Oh, Heavenly Salvation” is an enjoyable yet standard choice, covering Frank Zappa’s “Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up” or reworking the overt sexuality of “Little Red Rooster” until it is almost a spiritual, shows just how modern and irreverent the Persuasions can be.
Listening to the Persuasions sing can be an enlightening experience. A true A Cappella group in the sense that they use no instrumentation other than the human voice, their songs are as rich in tone and texture as any full-scale band. Jerry Lawson’s powerful lead singing dominates the album and its standout tracks such as “Building a Home” and “Five Hundred Miles,” while Jimmy Hayes fills out the bottom, adding depth to the sound and taking lead on “Can’t Do Sixty No More.”
After 30 years, the A Cappella vets The Persuasions still sound energized, proving they can sing it solemn (”Do You Hear What I Hear?”) or sassy (”Silent Night”). Among the highlights, a finger-popping ”Hey Santa Claus” and Jimmy Hayes’ rumbling bass rendition of ”White Christmas,” which might endanger weaker-willed woofers.
After more than three decades of spreading the gospel of A Cappella, The Persuasions recorded their first album for children. Though it’s aimed primarily at the little ones, say one- to five-year-olds, it’s hard not to enjoy it no matter your age. There are a host of treats, including “Teddy Bears’ Picnic,” “A Cappella Fellas” and the title track. The story that Jerry Lawson spins to frame “On Top of Spaghetti” is not to be missed.
The Persuasions have received a 1999 Parents Choice “Gold” Award for their children’s album, “On The Good Ship Lollipop.” Parents’ Choice is a nonprofit consumer guide to children’s books/videos/toys/software/television/magazines founded in 1978. Its honorary advisory board includes Julie Andrews, LeVar Burton, Barbara Bush, and Mister Rogers. The advisory board is made up of prominent educators, psychologists, children’s literature scholars, and writers.
“On The Good Ship Lollipop,” a diverse collection of everything from the Shirley Temple title tune to “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” has also won the 1999 National Parenting Publications (NAPPA) “Gold” Award, recognizing “the best in quality children’s media,” and the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio “Gold Seal” Award for “outstanding new products that enhance the lives of children.”
The Brooklyn-based Persuasions, together since 1962, were named Amazon.com’s “Artist of the Year” for children’s music in 1999, and their album was chosen #1 in the top-ten recommended Amazon.com children’s albums of the year.
The remaining albums will be posted soon.