Talk of the Town isn't simply a substitute Persuasions album. While the disc does include the kind of eclectic - even risky - selection of covers that marked the Persuasions CDs of the past decade and a half (how many other male artists would sing about PMS as Lawson does on his cover of Shania Twain's "Honey I'm Home"?), the group Talk of the Town brings a different feel to the disc. Contrasted with Persuasions releases, the focus is more clearly on Lawson's lead, and TOTT's harmonies are generally tighter and smoother, providing an even greater contrast to Lawson's raspy vocals.
In the end though, the success or failure of an album like this rests on song selection and vocal arrangements, and Talk of the Town generally delivers. At twenty songs, it is about five cuts too heavy, but the hits clearly outweigh the misses. So, less appealing versions of the Isleys' "For the Love of You" and Carl Anderson's underrated "God's Gift to the World" are more than offset by surprising revelations like the traditional "Woke Up This Morning," a deft handling of Billy Joel's "River of Dreams," and the disc's best cut, a wonderful cover of the Dixie Chicks' "I Hope." There's also a pleasing medley tribute to the Persuasions, an apt bridge from the past to the present for Lawson.
Fans of the Persuasions who were distressed three years ago by Lawson's sudden retirement should find great solace that the man is back. And they'll be even more pleased that he has chosen such a solid vehicle for his reemergence. Talk of the Town is a welcome and highly recommended return.
By Chris Rizik