The Persuasions - A Cappella Dreams (2003)

The Persuasions
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Wow. After 40 years and 22 albums, these guys are still hitting it out of the park. While I've enjoyed the Persuasions' "diversions" over the past few years -- a children's album and tributes to the Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa and the Beatles -- I've always appreciated them most when they're interpreting classic soul tunes of the 50s and 60s. I can't call it "covering" those tunes, because the Persuasions transform songs with their thoughtful arrangements and wonderful vocals, making them their own and sometimes making them unrecognizable, but almost always turning them into something special. And I'm happy to report that A Cappella Dreams is just that kind of album. Consisting of songs that the group has played around with for years while driving from gig to gig, Dreams is a collection of rock and soul classics recorded in the typical Persuasions intimate fashion -- almost as if you were in the car with them.

Wow. After 40 years and 22 albums, these guys are still hitting it out of the park. While I've enjoyed the Persuasions' "diversions" over the past few years -- a children's album and tributes to the Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa and the Beatles -- I've always appreciated them most when they're interpreting classic soul tunes of the 50s and 60s. I can't call it "covering" those tunes, because the Persuasions transform songs with their thoughtful arrangements and wonderful vocals, making them their own and sometimes making them unrecognizable, but almost always turning them into something special. And I'm happy to report that A Cappella Dreams is just that kind of album. Consisting of songs that the group has played around with for years while driving from gig to gig, Dreams is a collection of rock and soul classics recorded in the typical Persuasions intimate fashion -- almost as if you were in the car with them.

Like most albums on Chesky Records, the sound on Dreams is exceptional.  And the liner notes give great background of how the cuts were chosen and recorded.

The album begins with an obscure Solomon Burke composition, "I Have A Dream," in which the group recalls the civil rights movement of the 60s and the continued hope for unity and harmony. The other 14 songs are more familiar. Often the highlights of a Persuasions are their uptempo cuts, but here the ballads shine most. Best of all may be their interpretation of Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay," a song that has been done to death by others, but not like this. With Jimmy Hayes' amazing one-man rhythm section at the bottom end, Jerry Lawson gives a casual solo interpretation that is stunning in its simplicity. Similar strong moments occur on "Don't," "Steal Away," "Please Send Me Someone To Love" and Brook Benton's classic "Rainy Night In Georgia." More familiar to Persuasions fans will be the arrangement of uptempo cuts such as "Gonna Give Her All The Love I've Got"  and the Four Tops' "When She Was My Girl." 

After nearly an hour of pure delight, Dream finishes in grand fashion, with Joe Russell's empassioned vocals on a truly unique, gospel reading of "When The Saints Go Marching In."

In a catalog full of exceptional discs, A Cappella Dreams stands out as one of the best Persuasions albums, recalling their classic work on Street Corner Symphony and Comin' At Ya.  It has already become one of 2003's musical highlights for me.

By Chris Rizik

 

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