In the past three years, America's premier a capella doo-wop group has been on a creative roll, issuing a gospel CD, a children's album, the brilliant Frankly a Cappella tribute to Frank Zappa, and last year's gloriously surprising Might as Well, a collection of Grateful Dead songs. After all that, tackling the Beatles' songbook may not be as eyebrow-raising as the Persuasions' other choices, but the results are refreshing, especially considering how many times these songs have been covered.
The 14 songs were recorded using a single microphone in a Manhattan church, without any edits, overdubs, or even remixing added. Lead singer/arranger Jerry Lawson and his mini-choir fill every song with fresh turns of phrase, adding reverence to some and doo-wop glee to others. On this record, even such overdone standards as "Yesterday" and "Imagine" shine anew. Lawson imbues the Beatles' love proclamation "Don't Let Me Down" with a gospel fervor, and "Eight Days a Week" is a flat-out frolic. A startling choice is the sociopolitical "The Ballad of John and Yoko," with the group surging on the chorus, "The way things are going, they're gonna crucify me." This is one collection that pays homage to the beauty of the material while adding the Persuasions' distinctive personality. What fun.