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The Persuasions

Might As Well... The Persuasions Sing Grateful Dead (2000)

3.7

March 8, 2001

Tuning / Blend 3.0
Energy / Intensity 4.0
Innovation / Creativity 4.0
Soloists 4.0
Sound / Production 3.0
Repeat Listenability 3.0
Tracks
1 Here Comes Sunshine 2.3
2 Might As Well 3.3
3 Lazy River Road 3.3
4 Loose Lucy 3.7
5 Ripple 4.3
6 Brokedown Palace 3.0
7 Liberty 3.7
8 Sugaree 4.0
9 Ship of Fools 4.3
10 He's Gone 3.3
11 It Must Have Been the Roses 3.3
12 One More Saturday Night 4.0
13 Bertha 3.7
14 I Bid You Good Night 4.3
15 Black Muddy River 4.0

Recorded 2000
Total time: 69:37, 15 songs


Tuning / Blend 1
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 2
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Here Comes Sunshine 1
2 Might As Well 3
3 Lazy River Road 3
4 Loose Lucy 3
5 Ripple 4
6 Brokedown Palace 2
7 Liberty 3
8 Sugaree 4
9 Ship of Fools 5
10 He's Gone 3
11 It Must Have Been the Roses 2
12 One More Saturday Night 4
13 Bertha 3
14 I Bid You Good Night 4
15 Black Muddy River 4

On Might As Well, classic Grateful Dead songs find themselves transformed by the soulful tones of the Persuasions. This marriage has all the promise in the world: street corner grit taking a great "trip" to a new level. Sadly, intonation and blend disasters keep track after track from fulfilling that promise. True, Might As Well is deliberately lacking in studio trickery. The Persuasions understandably went for the most honest sound they could: few punches and lots of group singing. The result is a natural, rough-around-the-edges sound. I'm all for that. But the trade-off here is accuracy. And while, in theory, the trade-off is worth it, the reality is that this CD is distractingly out of tune. Of course, this is the Dead, a group not known for their fine intonation. So perhaps some listeners with a more forgiving ear will find the trade-off worthwhile.

With all that said, there is a good vibe on this CD. You know that the singers were "there", in the moment. You know that the vibe was on. On a few standout tracks, this feel shines right through: instrumentation provides the pitch center; guest back-up voices provide a strengthened pitch center; lead voices are left harmonically exposed with little else to pull the pitch center away. In these situations, pitch problems become less noticeable and the honesty just rises right to the top. And when Persuasions performances come alive, they really come alive.

I wish I had been in the studio with the Persuasions. I wish I could have experienced the moment the way they felt it. It must have been magic. It must have been a moving in-studio concert. Tragically, the Might As Well that was actually recorded is something less than that moment. It's a moving concert, but the listener has an obstructed view.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Here Comes Sunshine 3
2 Might As Well 3
3 Lazy River Road 3
4 Loose Lucy 4
5 Ripple 5
6 Brokedown Palace 3
7 Liberty 4
8 Sugaree 4
9 Ship of Fools 3
10 He's Gone 3
11 It Must Have Been the Roses 4
12 One More Saturday Night 4
13 Bertha 4
14 I Bid You Good Night 5
15 Black Muddy River 4

The Persuasions have given us a mostly a cappella compilation of some Grateful Dead tunes. I don't really understand why they did it, but it turned out to be an innovative direction for one of the most experienced a cappella groups to go. After hearing their tribute to Frank Zappa, I was hesitant at best to review this album. While not the greatest ever produced, it still went far beyond my expectations, and I found myself enjoying it.

One thing that any listener has to realize is that these guys have been around for a while and their voices really show it. To some this might be a grating sound, but when done with the right music, it has a certain charm that younger groups cannot achieve. This also leads to some painfully obvious pitch problems, especially early in songs. Once the Persuasions get in a groove, however, everything clicks right in.

Another thing for the consumer to understand is that this album is not completely a cappella. The Persuasions employ the services of many musicians with instruments to help them out, from guitars to pianos to the ten-string Zephyr Dobro. They even brought in a vocal percussionist, another new for the Persuasions. While I usually have a problem with this, on this album it worked. In fact, some of my favorite tracks were the accompanied ones. The instruments are only used as background; the focus is still on the vocals. It sounds like they were even recorded at a softer level so as not to interfere with the arrangement.

Overall, this is a fairly good album. While not the best example of what made The Persuasions famous, it's still worth a listen, especially for the Deadheads out there who are also fans of a cappella.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Here Comes Sunshine 3
2 Might As Well 4
3 Lazy River Road 4
4 Loose Lucy 4
5 Ripple 4
6 Brokedown Palace 4
7 Liberty 4
8 Sugaree 4
9 Ship of Fools 5
10 He's Gone 4
11 It Must Have Been the Roses 4
12 One More Saturday Night 4
13 Bertha 4
14 I Bid You Good Night 4
15 Black Muddy River 4

"Might As Well" is a good title for the latest Persuasions album. A compilation of Grateful Dead covers, its name is taken from the title of a Grateful Dead song. For me, it has additional meaning. The grandfathers of a cappella are still together and guaranteed to sell albums...might as well.

This is the second Persuasions cover album I have reviewed (see The Persuasions Sing Zappa), and it is the better one. Though the album is not strictly a cappella, the basis of almost all the songs (except Ship of Fools, which is mostly a piano and a soloist) is the voices of the Persuasions.

There is a smattering of guest vocals, piano, mandolin, percussion, vocal percussion and guitar, as well as a Dobro. The stupendous Andrew Chaikin adds new dimensions to One More Saturday Night, and the effect of Ship of Fools building from a piano and vocalist to the whole group makes it my favorite song on the album. This same build is used on Ripple, but from the bass and solo to the whole group.

The overall sound quality is greatly improved by the guest voices of Mary Schmary. The raw street sound is refined by their contribution. Their solid smooth tones add blend and consistency to the backgrounds of many songs.

As the Persuasions progress through the decades in their cover albums, I envision their next project as Oops... They Did it Again: The Persuasions sing Bubble Gum Pop. Perhaps they could add some soul to Britney, Christina, the BS Boys, and 'N Sync. Just a thought.

This is a good album for Deadheads and Persuasions fans. The songs are uniquely Persuasionified, to coin a term, and the added spice of the Schmaries, Chaikin and a plethora of instruments serves the album well.


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