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The Persuasions

On the Good Ship Lollipop (1999)

4.0

July 22, 1999

Tuning / Blend 3.2
Energy / Intensity 4.4
Innovation / Creativity 4.0
Soloists 4.0
Sound / Production 4.6
Repeat Listenability 4.0
Tracks
1 Persuasions' Nursery Rhyme Medley 3.8
2 Teddy Bears' Picnic 4.2
3 Good Morning To You 3.6
4 A Cappella Fellas 4.0
5 My Daddy Do, Too 4.4
6 On The Good Ship Lollipop 3.6
7 I'm So Glad (I've Got Skin) 3.8
8 Big Rock Candy Mountain 3.4
9 How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? 3.6
10 On Top of Spaghetti 4.0
11 Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me 3.4
12 Train Song Medley 4.4
13 Swing Low, Sweet Chariot 4.4
14 I Love You (There's No Doubt About It) 3.6

Recorded 1999
Total time: 45:34, 14 songs


Tuning / Blend 2
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Persuasions' Nursery Rhyme Medley 4
2 Teddy Bears' Picnic 2
3 Good Morning To You 3
4 A Cappella Fellas 3
5 My Daddy Do, Too 3
6 On The Good Ship Lollipop 3
7 I'm So Glad (I've Got Skin) 3
8 Big Rock Candy Mountain 2
9 How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? 3
10 On Top of Spaghetti 4
11 Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me 3
12 Train Song Medley 4
13 Swing Low, Sweet Chariot 4
14 I Love You (There's No Doubt About It) 3

The Persuasions have a long, successful history behind them; surprisingly, On the Good Ship Lollipop is their first children's album, a collection of mostly traditional songs aimed at the younger set. As a reviewer, it's hard to know how much importance to give the fact that this album is not aimed at the adult a cappella listener, but at children in general. As a childless individual, I decided that I can make some assumptions about what children may like but I can't review the album from their perspective, so I can only partially take the intended audience into account when assigning scores (e.g., repeat listenability is a 3 — for myself it would be lower, but for kids I'm sure it would be higher). Overall, if you're just a regular a cappella listener who wants to buy a Persuasions album, I'd recommend looking into one of their other 22 albums; if you're an a cappella fan with children and you want to share your enthusiasm for the genre, this album seems like it would be a hit with the kids. If I did have kids, I'd rather they listened to this CD than Barney or his ilk, but for myself, I'd look at getting something from earlier in the Persuasions' career.

Musically, it's sometimes hard to get past the tuning issues that arise on the majority of the tracks. When even the unisons are sloppy (as on On the Good Ship Lollipop and Big Rock Candy Mountain), it's hard to put aside the tuning problems and enjoy the songs. Other songs are simple and peppy enough (like Good Morning to You and I Love You (There's No Doubt About It)) that they're hard not to hum along with, and they're sure to be picked up by younger kids. The most engaging songs for me were the two medleys — Nursery Rhyme Medley was upbeat and varied with nine familiar rhymes represented, and solos by each member of the group, and Train Song Medley has a great variety of themed songs, from People Get Ready to I've Been Workin' on the Railroad, which will be fun for adults as well as children.

The Persuasions utilize a chorus of children (the "Lollipop Kids"), which would probably draw in younger listeners of the album; the two soloists drawn from this group, Rebecca Hale and Bernie Steinberg, do a respectable job. Overall, I found most of the non-musical elements on the CD to be distracting rather than entertaining: spoken introductions to some songs were fine (On Top of Spaghetti and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot), but anything skit-like (especially involving the children — they should sing but not speak!) tended to fall flat. Kids would probably find those parts more amusing than I did. If you have a child that you want to expose to a cappella through some classic children's songs, this would be a good album to get, but if you just want some music by the Persuasions, I'd recommend going for one of the other albums in their catalog.


Tuning / Blend 2
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Persuasions' Nursery Rhyme Medley 2
2 Teddy Bears' Picnic 5
3 Good Morning To You 3
4 A Cappella Fellas 4
5 My Daddy Do, Too 4
6 On The Good Ship Lollipop 4
7 I'm So Glad (I've Got Skin) 4
8 Big Rock Candy Mountain 3
9 How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? 2
10 On Top of Spaghetti 4
11 Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me 3
12 Train Song Medley 5
13 Swing Low, Sweet Chariot 5
14 I Love You (There's No Doubt About It) 3

The Persuasions venture into uncharted waters with their debut children's album, On the Good Ship Lollipop. Steering the ship are the Persuasions themselves, full of heart, soul, energy, and a clear love for the classic songs and their audience. As crew for their captains, young Rebecca Hale and the lollipop kid chorus add pure tone and pure fun. The mood is upbeat, the messages are wholesome, and kids are sure to get on board this a cappella voyage.

The rest of this review is aimed at our normal viewing audience and should be read in light of the following givens:

  1. The Persuasions are the unassailable living legends of street-corner, soul-style doo-wop;
  2. singing kids are really cute and when they sing on albums they're even cuter;
  3. the aforementioned numbers one and two flat-out trump any other musical considerations.

Having sung their praises, here's the dirt:

Lollipop gets off to a bad start with an energetic but poorly intonated, dynamically lacking and badly arranged hodge-podge of children's songs snippets. But immediately things pull a 180. Teddy Bear's Picnic is an absolute gem! Jimmy Hayes voice is deep (this is a serious understatement; he's more like a human sub-woofer), soulful and captivating. Rebecca Hale is perfectly adorable. The song is simple and wonderful!

Without giving a song by song evaluation, the first two songs anticipate the remainder. The worst of the songs (Doggie, Good Morning) are painfully out-of-tune. The best (Train Song, Swing Low) are so honest and moving that even one of them would make this album well worth the price.

The production values are simple and solid: no noticeable effects, just a clear, true Persuasion-style street sound.

If you are a stickler for classical musical values like blend and intonation, this album may fall a bit short. But if, like me, you love the gritty, soulful sound that is the Persuasions, this album is as perfect as it needs to be.


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Persuasions' Nursery Rhyme Medley 4
2 Teddy Bears' Picnic 4
3 Good Morning To You 3
4 A Cappella Fellas 4
5 My Daddy Do, Too 5
6 On The Good Ship Lollipop 4
7 I'm So Glad (I've Got Skin) 4
8 Big Rock Candy Mountain 3
9 How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? 3
10 On Top of Spaghetti 4
11 Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me 3
12 Train Song Medley 4
13 Swing Low, Sweet Chariot 5
14 I Love You (There's No Doubt About It) 3

Well, the promotional materials I received with this album basically had me convinced I would be delighted with this album before I even got to opening the album. This is the latest in a long line of albums from the Persuasions, and to my knowledge, one of the first a cappella albums geared directly to children.

It's hard to look at this album critically. The audience that they geared this album to will LOVE this album. The songs are very well chosen, lighthearted music that are meant to make kids happy. The thought of five grown men who have been in the business for over 30 years singing Teddy Bears' Picnic is just so overpoweringly CUTE that it's hard to resist. This is an ingenious tool to bring a cappella to our next generation from the ground up. And songs like My Daddy Do Too and I'm So Glad re very positive songs that kids need to hear more of nowadays. It also helps that kids will hear kids singing a cappella with the guys (albeit in unison lines... =) .

However, I fear that for a cappella fans, the album is average at best. They have a new singer since the last time I heard them, BJ Jones, and he does fill their sound out a lot. There are still some tuning and tempo problems throughout the production, although it's harder to notice with these guys because of the raw emotion they put into the music. They have a performance sense that can only come with having basically the same lineup for 30+ years. That having been said, you cannot deny the spirit of the album, nor the spirit of Jerry Lawson and company. Longtime fans will get a kick out of On Top of Spaghetti, which starts out as a blues song that is REALLY funny, with Jerry testifying as strong here as he ever did on Lookin' For an Echo.

I wholeheartedly recommend this album for the children of a cappella fans, as well as Persuasion-heads who want to hear the group try something REALLY different. =)


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Persuasions' Nursery Rhyme Medley 5
2 Teddy Bears' Picnic 5
3 Good Morning To You 5
4 A Cappella Fellas 4
5 My Daddy Do, Too 5
6 On The Good Ship Lollipop 3
7 I'm So Glad (I've Got Skin) 4
8 Big Rock Candy Mountain 4
9 How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? 5
10 On Top of Spaghetti 4
11 Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me 3
12 Train Song Medley 5
13 Swing Low, Sweet Chariot 4
14 I Love You (There's No Doubt About It) 4

The mighty Persuasions have been belting out solid, heartfelt, genuine-article a cappella for well over 30 years and — incredibly - don't show signs of quitting any time soon. When I ran into them in April, they were super excited about the upcoming release of this CD, and now I know why. The fun they had recording this project is evident on nearly every track, and their love of making music together shines through.

The most striking aspect of this whole recording for me is the juxtaposition of a run-ragged group like The Persuasions — who have recorded such classics as Women and Drinkin' - with an album aimed mainly at children. A small group of kids even joins the masters on a number of tracks (the most tender of which is Teddy Bears' Picnic, but How Much Is That Doggie is a treat too), which makes it all the more interesting.

I'm nowhere near having kids of my own, but I hope I'll still have this CD lying around if that day ever comes. Probably my favorite childhood album (back in the days of vinyl) was a solo effort by Ken Blackwood, bassman for The Blackwood Brothers. I loved to hear him woof out solos and would smile my whole way through, dreaming about the day when I could make all those crazy sounds. The Persuasions' resident sub-woofer, Jimmy Hayes, has a few moments here that remind me of that, and I imagine it's great fun for kids to listen (or feel, if you play it loud enough) as he thunders out notes below low C again and again.

Any fan of The Persuasions should have this album. Any fan of a cappella who remembers anything at all from their childhood should have this album. It's a rollicking good time from the godfathers of a cappella; a fun listen for both kids and oldsters and pretty much everyone in between.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Persuasions' Nursery Rhyme Medley 4
2 Teddy Bears' Picnic 5
3 Good Morning To You 4
4 A Cappella Fellas 5
5 My Daddy Do, Too 5
6 On The Good Ship Lollipop 4
7 I'm So Glad (I've Got Skin) 4
8 Big Rock Candy Mountain 5
9 How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? 5
10 On Top of Spaghetti 4
11 Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me 5
12 Train Song Medley 4
13 Swing Low, Sweet Chariot 4
14 I Love You (There's No Doubt About It) 5

The Persuasions...enough of an intro. If you've never heard of them, you're late, and if you have heard of them, you're still late — because this recording is for the tiny tot crowd. A collection of covers, originals, and medleys designed to entertain Junior for a good 46 minutes.

As this is a children's album, I've had to regress somewhat to that childhood brain pattern to seriously enjoy this album. So going back to last year (yeah, right), I realized that the Persuasions were well-suited to presenting kids a well-polished album. If anything is to be criticized as they were trying to cater to the Sesame Street crowd, it's the length and repetition in some songs. Given that it's audio and not visual, I had a hard time visualizing children sitting patiently listening to Nursery Rhyme Medley and being captured by it. Otherwise, the tracks are extremely easy on the ears, and the addition of the kids chorus in several tracks will allow kids to sing along to the CD. The messages of some of the songs are simple and may have an impact on kids as they grow...a healthy message for the future, such as I'm So Glad (I've Got Skin).

It would also be good to see what effect this recording has on kids musically. It can only be positive, and maybe even build some mini-Persuasions as well.


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