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Review: The Persuasions, Knockin’ On Bob’s Door

Photo by Craig Harris from his huge collection.

The Persuasions
Knockin’ On Bob’s Door
Zoho Roots

In the nearly half-century that they’ve brought the street corner harmonizing of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvestant to the international stage, The Persuasions have continued to explore new possibilities for a cappella vocalizing. Their 27 albums have included full-length tributes to the songs of the Grateful Dead, the Beatles, Frank Zappa, and U-2. With their first album in 5 years, “Knockin’ On Bob’s Door,” the latest edition of the Rock and Roll Doo Wop Hall of Fame-inducted group turn their unaccompanied singing to 14 of the songs composed and originally recorded by Bob Dylan in the 1960s. Though there are moments when adhering to the theme seems a stretch, the still-powerful singing by the Persuasions more often take Dylan’s tunes straight to Church, singing with the warmth and spirited excitement of Gospel music. Original members Jimmy Hayes and Joe Russell step into the spotlight, with Hayes’ bass leading several songs and Russell’s sweet baritone/tenor featured during “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right.” But, this is a five-way effort with Raymond Sanders, who joined in 1996; Bernard “BJ” Jones; and lead tenor, artistic director, and arranger Dave Revels solidifying the group’s sound. Though nothing but the human voice was used, the CD is propelled by oral reproductions of brass horns and rhythm sections. While Dylan’s songs remain the focus, other artists are recalled, as well. What starts off sounding like Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance To The Music” morphs into “All Along The Watchtower,” while a riff recalling the Grateful Dead/Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Turn On Your Love Light” is sprinkled throughout “Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn).”

—Craig Harris (Chicopee, MA)

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