Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Here are two facts that might persuade you that you're in the presence of greatness. The Persuasions are such a great a cappella group that you can sometimes forget that there's no piano, drums or guitars to enrich the sound. And despite having no big hit songs, they've been around for 50 years. Pretty great. Behind the slogan "we still ain't got no band," they're still gettin' it done, always, whether it's old school touring (they'll be at the Fur Peace Ranch in Pomeroy Ohio August 10-12th) or trying to work up ways to keep fresh (they've done entire cover albums on The Beatles and U2 as well as their new one on Bob Dylan).

I became a fan decades ago, via a Warner "Loss Leader" track called "It's All Right." The song has a message, and a simplicity to it…a series of anecdotes and a philosophy. It's not quite right for every occasion (check Pearls Before Swine and "These Things Too Shall Pass" or George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" for a heavy all-purpose phrase) but at times, it'll do. It can change your way of thinking, a little bit.

The first time I heard it, "It's All Right" gave me a brief moment of inspiration, and I've remembered it and played it in my mind from time to time in moments when I needed to be reminded of what's worth righteous rage and what should be ignored. It was certainly different from other tracks on the Warners compilation record. Amid samples for various rock acts and folkies, here's some soul guy and his doo-wop group speaking about some miseries and how to cope with them.

Fast forward some 30 years, and The Persuasions are still out there. Still largely unknown. And they're covering Bob Dylan. Bob, of course, has a deep well of songs that you can count on in times of trouble, and plenty of philosophical numbers that can help you change your way of thinking (and find a different set of rules). "Every Grain of Sand" or "Serve Somebody" come to mind as songs The Persuasions could easily get behind.

But listen to "Things Have Changed." This Dylan track is just about the opposite of "It's All Right," or gospel Dylan songs. It's a song filled with conflicting emotions, and the narrator is turning in all kinds of directions, with fight or flight tensions ("trying to get as far away from myself as I can") dissolving into a bleak mantra of "I used to care but things have changed." Only he still cares. And he's still twisting in the wind where a gallows noose might encircle him. And talk of existential agony: "I'm in love with a woman that don't even appeal to me."

The Persuasions take this along a pretty bumpy road…it's a long song to be do-wopping to, with mouths imitating bass and harmonies trying to substitute for guitar chords. But damned if they're gonna throw in a guitar, or even a Bob-type harmonica.

If you think about it (assuming you actually think about lyrics, and most listeners don't), you might wonder if "It's All Right" from over 30 years ago is just another way of saying what modern Dylan's declared: "I used to care, but things have changed." What, me worry? Now it's in your lap. If you paid attention, you'd be worried too. (Newman!) Two songs more than a generation apart… both songs may help you cope or hope. Or, you might listen and say yeah, both songs are all right, but who the fuck cares? ThePersuasions.info is the website to check out more on this legendary group.



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1 comment:

julie713 said...

If I knew how I would contact you privately so as not to be misinterpreted in a blog post. My husband is Jerry Lawson the lead singer, arranger and producer of The Persuasions for 40 years and 22 albums. That is Jerry singin' "It's Allright" - He made it up in the studio. There is more to it than I have time to tell you about in a note here. - I appreciate your support for The Persuasions but I want to make you aware that the group who is singing the Dylan stuff and the tribute to U2 and performing around the country calling themselves The Persuasions is not the Persuasions. Jerry left in 2003,Joe passed away,Toubo passed away, Jay left years ago leaving bass man Jimmy Hayes. He went and got a revolving door of singers so he could continue making a living by using the name. Anyone who really knows the sound of the Persuasions from their 22 albums ( the last one being "A Cappella Dreams" on the Chesky label knows and has been saddened deeply by the break up in 2003. If you are interested in hearing the Jerry with his new A Cappella group NBC TV honored Jerry's legacy the past 2 seasons on The Sing Off - go to www.jerrylawson.biz and view some of those episodes under the video tab. And the closest thing to a Persuasions Album came out in 2007 titled " Jerry Lawson & Talk of The Town" -

Julie Lawson