THE BERGEN RECORD
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Preview: Barenaked Ladies and the Persuasions
Brian Aberback, Special to The Record10:03 a.m. ET April 25, 2017
Kevin Hearn, the Barenaked Ladies keyboardist, is an avid a cappella fan and a devotée of the veteran vocal group the Persuasions. So when Hearn met the Persuasions by chance and became fast friends with them, the idea of recording a collaboration album soon followed.
"I played in Lou Reed's backing band and the Persuasions had opened for him," Hearn says. "When they had Lou's memorial in 2013 we both performed. That's where I met them for the first time and we kept in touch."
In 2016, the Persuasions joined Barenaked Ladies onstage during the Canadian rock band's show at Central Park Summerstage and the groups bonded further. "We felt like kindred spirits," Hearn says. Eventually I asked them if they would be interested in recording an album together and they said yes."
Barenaked Ladies' tour promoting the resulting disc, "Ladies and Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies and the Persuasions," includes a stop on Friday at the bergenPAC in Englewood. The groups will perform the bulk of the album, which was released earlier this month, as well as selections from each of their catalogs. This year marks the Persuasions' 55th anniversary.
"I love the album," Hearn says. "I'm really proud of it and it's everything I hoped it would be. I hope that we get to do many more shows together."
The Persuasions' lead vocalist, Dave Revels, said in a separate interview that the group is always open to interpreting new music. They have previously covered songs by artists including Frank Zappa, the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan.
"We fell in love with their songs," Revels said of Barenaked Ladies. "Their music is uplifting and they're such incredible lyricists. We had so much fun recording it. It was spontaneous in the studio, just a bunch of friends jamming."
Hearn says he listened to Barenaked Ladies' back catalog seeking out songs for the album that lent themselves to a cappella arrangements. "I was seeing which songs have cool harmony parts, which songs I could envision people singing instrumental harmonies to and songs that had an inherit doo-wop feel," he says.
Some songs were rearranged. For instance, Hearn says he moved the middle part of "Odds Are" to the beginning of the song. "The harmony sounded so good we thought, 'why don't we put it at the start of the song and let the a cappella aspect shine from the beginning.'"
Barenaked Ladies sing with the Persuasions on "Ladies and Gentlemen" and provide stripped-down backing instrumentation. The high points on the album include "The Sound of Your Voice," on which the Persuasions take the reins with smooth, baritone vocals. An additional treat is the groups combining for exuberant takes on their signature songs, Barenaked Ladies' "One Week" and the Persuasions' "Good Times."
Persuasions co-founder Jimmy Hayes says he can see "Good Times" becoming a feel-good hit in the coming months. "Everybody loves 'Good Times,'" Hayes says. "It's a summer song. You imagine being out on the beach with somebody close."
Barenaked Ladies formed in 1988 in Toronto. Hearn came onboard in 1995. The band also includes original members Ed Robertson (lead vocals, guitar), bassist Jim Creeggan, and drummer Tyler Stewart.
Barenaked Ladies left to right: Jim Creeggan, Tyler Stewart, Kevin Hearn, Ed Robertson (Photo: Courtesy of Matt Barnes)
The group's 1992 debut, "Gordon," featured fan-favorite "If I Had $1000000". Their breakthrough single, "One Week," was on the band's fourth album, "Stunt" (1998). "One Week" topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, while "Stunt" reached No. 3 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart. Barenaked Ladies are also well known for performing the theme song to the hit television show, "The Big Bang Theory."
Hayes co-founded the Persuasions in Brooklyn in 1962. The group has released 26 albums. Their version of "Good Times," originally performed by Jerry Butler, was released in 1971 and broke the group commercially. The Persuasions will be honored on Thursday with a proclamation by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams commemorating their 55th anniversary.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Hayes says. "After 55 years we're still relevant and going strong." Hearn says he hopes that the collaboration will inspire other musicians and the general public to come together.
"This is people of different backgrounds making a joyous noise," Hearn says. "This is what community looks like and harmony sounds like."
WHO: Barenaked Ladies and the Persuasions.
WHAT: A cappella, rock and pop.
WHEN: 8 p.m. April 28.
WHERE: Bergen Performing Arts Center, 30 N. Van Brunt St., Englewood; 201-227-1030 or bergenpac.org.
HOW MUCH: $49 to $99.
MORE INFO: barenakedladies.com and thepersuasions.info.