By Bruce Sylvester
"Comin' At Ya"
Flying Fish (FF093)
No troupe has done more to preserve the glories of early doo-wop than the staunchly a cappella Persuasions. Since the '60s, they’ve taken songs from doo-wop’s golden era – and subsequent songs that previously had nothing to do with the genre (check their tributes to Grateful Dead and Frank Zappa) – and moved them in a direction their creators probably never envisioned. That direction is straight back to Bedford-Stuyvesant’s street-corner symphonies grounded in the hand-clapping black church.
With the falsetto’s sweetness and the bass’s bedrock grounding, "Comin’ At Ya" (1979) ranks among the quintet’s best. Sad sack “Mint Julep” gets way more vocal ornamentation than The Clovers’ original. While The Drifters’ original “Drip Drop” put the tenor in the lead, The Persuasions here entrust it to the bass. The boys with no band take Paul Simon’s gospel-grounded “Love Me Like A Rock” and rock it in the bosom of the church like Simon never could.
What other Persuasions discs would I especially single out for recommendation as they’ve bounded around the record labels and, lately, singers have come and gone? "We Still Ain’t Got No Band" (MCA, 1973), my introduction to them, has an autobiographical title track. Laden with Sam Cooke covers, "Good News" (Rounder, 1982) has a stirring medley reliving the historic black experience, “Swanee River/Old Man River/Raise 'Em Up.”