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April 14, 2017
BARENAKED LADIES – LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: BARENAKED LADIES AND THE PERSUASIONS (ALBUM REVIEW)
Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to get bare naked and sing some a cappella. Yes, indeed. Barenaked Ladies’ Ladies And Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies And The Persuasions arrives on Friday, April 14, 2017 thanks to Raisin’ Records.
Known for their hilariously fun live shows that are bursting with improvisational moments galore, Barenaked Ladies (often abbreviated BNL) are a Canadian Rock band who formed in 1988 in Scarborough, Ontario. It would not be long after their formation that Barenaked Ladies – Ed Robertson, Tyler Stewart, Kevin Hearn, and Jim Creeggan – were in possession of one truly impressive cult following.
Their self-titled debut cassette (remember those, kids?) would become the first independent release to be certified Gold in their native Canada. Of course, that segued the band beautifully into a record deal and the release of their major label debut, Gordon, in 1992. What follows is 25 years and 15 albums that have sold some 15 million records, seen a lot of faces and rocked with ’em.
The Persuasions are a Brooklyn, New York-based a cappella powerhouse, founded in 1962. With 26 albums to their credit and a cross-genre catalogue that includes everything from Gospel and Soul to Country and Blues, The Persuasions are an impressive group of New Yorkers. Featuring original members Jimmy Hayes and Jayotis Washington, along with Raymond Sanders and Dave Revels, The Persuasions have performed across the globe and shared stages with the likes of Lou Reed, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen, Richard Pryor, and Frank Zappa.
Ladies And Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies And The Persuasions is a collaborative project between Barenaked Ladies, of course, and New York’s a cappella sensations, The Persuasions. A fifteen song collection, the new album was produced by Gavin Brown at Noble Street Studios in Toronto. The album contains 14 re-imagined Barenaked Ladies’ tracks and one truly amazing classic offering. As Kevin Hearn recently told CrypticRock, the album came about amidst the tragic loss of friend and musical influence Lou Reed. While attending Reed’s memorial service in 2013, Hearn befriended The Persuasions, who were performing at that very service. Barenaked Ladies and The Persuasions would meet again several years later at Central Park’s Summerstage, performing together during the Barenaked Ladies’ Last Summer On Earth tour. Thus, the seeds were sown and, fair warning, when two truly talented, musical powerhouses collide, ladies and gentlefolk, you should pay attention!
The album begins with BNL’s “Narrow Streets,” off 2015’s Silverball. The absurdly delicious vocal harmonies of BNL and The Persuasions combine over a funky bass and piano beat to provide a fun twist to the classic BNL track. “Gonna Walk” is no different: those heart-stopping harmonies absolutely steal the show. In fact, it takes only two tracks to realize that you simply cannot help but smile and tap your toes when Barenaked Ladies and The Persuasions step into the room.
There is an almost Barbershop Quartet feel to “Don’t Shuffle Me Back,” while seventeen years later, “The Old Apartment” remains just as nostalgic and bittersweet as ever. Two thousand and thirteen’s “Keepin’ It Real” and 2003’s “For You” may have been written ten years apart, but they fit like that proverbial glove: both receive a Country-tinged remake with the latter being heavy on Americana. It is fun to note that there is, in fact, some fun studio banter preserved on the recording that shows all that personality that every Barenaked Ladies’ fan has come to know and cherish.
A true stand-out amongst the collection, the classic “Good Times” – which The Persuasions previously recorded on 1971’s Street Corner Symphony – has an infectiously positive Motown vibe. Throughout the entirety of Ladies And Gentlemen, Hayes’ rich bass vocals anchor the tracks and provide a deeply rich addition to the classic BNL sound. In fact, the minimalist arrangements throughout the album place the focus on the fact that, shock and awe, Barenaked Ladies and The Persuasions can actually sing. This is a project that turns the spotlight onto two groups of men, from very different backgrounds, who have come together to create a return to bare bones sonics bursting with passion. Do not expect any technological vocal enhancements here!
Born on a Pirate Ship’s “When I Fall” receives an acoustic update and is heavy on Barenaked Ladies, with The Persuasions merely stepping in on the choruses. “Four Seconds” is equally slanted toward BNL, with beautiful acoustic and piano work. Barenaked Ladies are known best – by American radio listeners, anyway – for their funky, fun mega-hit “One Week,” off 1998’s breakthrough album, Stunt. On Ladies And Gentlemen, it receives an acoustic remake that is anchored by the deep bass of Hayes and features those gorgeously layered vocal harmonies of both groups. The album comes to a close with a ball of fun from Barenaked Ladies’ 2008 children’s album, Snacktime!. “I Can Sing” is a perfectly fun, dancey little ending to a stellar collection.
So what exactly do a Canadian quirk-happy band and a Brooklyn cross-genre a cappella powerhouse have in common? Passion, my friends. Barenaked Ladies and The Persuasions are each masters of their crafts, musicians without borders who dance and weave their way through everything they do with immense talent and passion. The combination of the two acts on one album produces an astounding result that is uplifting, fun, and undeniably addicting. For these reasons and so very many more, CrypticRock gives Barenaked Ladies’ Ladies And Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies And The Persuasions 5 of 5 stars.
BARENAKED LADIES ARE CURRENTLY WRAPPING UP THOSE GLITTERY, MAGICAL FINISHING TOUCHES ON THEIR SIXTEENTH STUDIO ALBUM, FAKE NUDES, AND THE ALBUM IS EXPECTED SOMETIME THIS FALL. STAY TUNED TO BARENAKEDLADIES.COM FOR DETAILS.
CATCH THE BARENAKED LADIES AND THE PERSUASIONS (SELECT DATES ONLY) ON TOUR: