THE PERSUASIONS / “The Persuasions Mixtape”
These guys are the best existing, a cappella, doo-wop group—nobody else is even close. They started at the beginning of the sixties and have been going strong ever since. Sure there have been some changes in personnel over the years but the basic sound remains the same and remains sterling. Their forte is tight harmonies and emotive vocal soloing that can go from silky smooth to gutter gritty and back again with nary a slip. You have to love the music to maintain their level of consistency and devotion to a signature sound. The Persuasions are Jerry Lawson – lead vocals, Joseph Russell – tenor, Jimmy Hayes – bass, Herbert Rhoad – baritone, and Jayotis Washington – tenor. Unlike many vocal groups, none of the members knew each other before forming the group. Indeed, although they played ball together in New York City, it was all informal gatherings. They didn’t even know each other’s names before deciding to form a singing group around 1962. “Looking For An Echo” is a narrative describing the origins and aim of The Persuasions. Their repertoire focuses on music from the fifties to the seventies. Whether singing early classics such as “Sixty Minute Man,” “Ten Commandments Of Love,” and “Let Them Talk” or whether interpreting Motown or The Beatles, The Persuasions are absolutely without peer. They can blow you away with power or seduce you with sweetness. Singing like this is a lost art, especially singing without a backing band. They remind us that the voice is humanity’s first musical instrument and oh how they regale us with vocal stylings that make anyone who can talk feel like singing. I especially appreciate their sense of humor and candor. On “T.A. Thompson” they gently skewer Baptist preachers, yet later in the Mixtape they gift us with a memorable and sincerely delivered, original interpretation of “The Lord’s Prayer.” If there was ever a question about the power of male voices in close harmony, the Persuasions provide a powerful answer. While we all know about gospel quartets, The Persuasions remind us that we have other musical traditions that should be honored. They have made a career of steadfast devotion to a cappella singing. The Persuasions are a functional definition of doo-wop. Anywhere you find teenagers, you’ll probably find spontaneous sing-alongs. Perhaps the penchant for singing harmony in the stairwells is in our DNA, but then again, surely we were singing before we were trapped in tenement stairwells or cutting class in high school. Although the African antecedents may be undeniable, what is equally undeniable is that our music is always mutating, always changing with the times. Unfortunately, as we move forward, we sometimes ignore our older musical treasures. Thankfully, The Persuasions are keeping alive the doo-wop branch of our musical heritage. —Kalamu ya Salaam The Persuasions Mixtape Playlist Man, Oh Man 01 “T.A. Thompson” 02 “Tempts Jam: Don't Look Back/Runaway Child, Running Wild/Cloud Nine” 03 “Gypsy Woman” 04 “The Sun” The Persuasions Sing the Beatles 05 “Come Together” 06 “Yesterday” 07 “Don’t Let Me Down” 08 “Imagine” Chirpin' 09 “Moonlight and Music” 10 “Looking For An Echo” 11 “Women and Drinkin' ” 12 “Sixty Minute Man” Comin' At Ya 13 “One Mint Julep” 14 “Let Them Talk” 15 “Just Because” 16 “Love Me Like A Rock” Spread The Word 17 “Ten Commandments Of Love” 18 “The Lord's Prayer” 19 “Heaven Help Us” 20 “Three Angels (Reprise)”
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