The Persuasions and Friends | Persuasions of the Dead: The Grateful Dead Sessions

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Persuasions of the Dead: The Grateful Dead Sessions

by The Persuasions and Friends

The Persuasions, giants of Brooklyn streetcorner a cappella. The Grateful Dead, giants of San Francisco ‘60’s psychedelia. Together? Dead right – re-invented, updated, and expanded from the Persuasions’ out-of-print tribute of 11 years ago.
Genre: Rock: Psychedelic
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Ripple
3:12 $0.99
2. Bertha
3:58 $0.99
3. Sugaree
5:36 $0.99
4. Brokedown Palace
3:34 $0.99
5. Greatest Story Ever Told
3:47 $0.99
6. Lazy River Road
4:41 $0.99
7. New Speedway Boogie
3:50 $0.99
8. Ship of Fools
5:55 $0.99
9. Don't Ease Me In
3:47 $0.99
10. Here Comes Sunshine 1 (Excerpt)
0:21 $0.99
11. Might As Well
3:30 $0.99
12. It Must Have Been the Roses
4:00 $0.99
13. Loose Lucy
4:29 $0.99
14. Liberty
4:13 $0.99
15. Black Muddy River
4:15 $0.99
16. Suite: Here Comes Sunshine 2/ Drumz / Space
5:22 $0.99
17. He's Gone
7:18 $0.99
18. One More Saturday Night
5:42 $0.99
19. And I Bid You Good Night
2:53 $0.99
20. Stella Blue
6:30 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
To call Persuasions of the Dead a “roots” album is almost insufficient to cover the crazy-quilt of influences here: Appalachian folk, blues, bluegrass, R&B, “old timey,” jazz, gospel, street corner, African-American call-and-response, country, rock ‘n’ roll, soul, hamboning, even avant-garde, musique concrete, and yes, Chinese folk melody. It’s all here. Really.
There’s just a whole lot to be said about this remarkable work in a short space. It’s the nicest Grateful Dead album never recorded by The Grateful Dead. If it isn’t the greatest Persuasions album ever made, it’s the most ambitious. The clichéd thing to say is Streets of Brooklyn meet San Francisco psychedelia, but that’s silly. The titanic Persuasions---the most enduring American a cappella group ever---have always been eclectic, adapting everything from Zappa to Sam Cooke to The Partridge Family. And the range of styles to be found in Grateful Dead music is nothing short of encyclopedic. Putting the two groups together is really a natural musicological fit. (Besides, fans of both yelled “Jerryyyyyyy!”---whether Garcia or Lawson---at their concerts.)
Still, why do it? Simple. The Dead never really shook off hippie-dippie stereotype, thanks largely to media. And while that is no crime in the cosmic scheme of things, it did pigeonhole a body of work that merits larger appreciation. A body of work that I think amounts to a Great American Songbook of melody and myth. Yes, Robert Hunter’s words and Jerry Garcia’s tunes are that fine. Ask Bob Dylan, who has recorded Hunter’s songs and toured with the Dead. Ask the people who hear this record and say, “What? That’s the Grateful Dead? Really?”
So I thought that if the soulful a cappella of The Persuasions could realize Grateful Dead lines such as “In the end there’s just a song/ Comes cryin’ like the wind/ Down every lonely street that’s ever been,” it might open some ears and hearts---as well as please a few Deadheads. I knew lead singer Jerry Lawson’s genius for arranging and adapting, and I knew how the group could get behind any style. I mean, before the Dead sessions, The Pers had just released my first suggested project during several years directing their recording career: the critically hailed Frank Zappa tribute, Frankly A Cappella. (He signed them to their first deal.) So The Dead would be a snap, right?
Well, yes. And no.
A single CD was released in 2000 (Might As Well, out of print since ‘02), and while it was an endearing document of the sessions, I felt that’s all it was. I thought more production was needed, more work, more polishing, more … concept. A few years ago, I spoke to The Persuasions about re-doing things, and they were for it. With their support, I remixed the original tracks from scratch with engineer Marc Doten, remastered, and, really, re-imagined the whole thing. The result: this stunning two-CD work is now formatted like a Grateful Dead concert (first set, second set) with six new tracks, six new guest artists, and an entirely new feel. Painstakingly and lovingly recast, voice by voice, detail by detail, with more pure a cappella, to boot. The crowning touch: Tom Waits, an old fan of The Persuasions, coined the title, Persuasions of the Dead.
And about that Dead concert format: the relentlessly touring, marathon-inclined band-beast eventually evolved shows that followed this course: first set, with straight-ahead versions of songs, and second-set, with more stretched-out takes, extended jams, segues, reprises, surprises, the odd guest musician. Almost always with what came to be referred to as “Space”, a free-form musique concrete exploration, and “Drumz” a percussion free-for-all with Billy Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart. Well, The Persuasions have emulated that routine here---complete with versions of “Space” and an all-body percussion “Drumz.” Really.
But why the “and Friends” part? Why the oodles of guests, a huge departure in the approximately 25-album history of this group? Answer: at the original sessions in 1999, I invited my old journalism colleague and Grateful Dead Hour radio host David Gans to “help the guys out if they can’t figure out a weird chord.” David did more than that, thankfully, inviting Grateful Dead keyboardist Vince Welnick, vocal group Mary Schmary, old Jerry Garcia musical cronies Eric Thompson (mandolin), Pete Grant (zephyr dobro), and Grammy-winning bluegrass musician Peter Rowan to the proceedings. The spontaneous collaborations ranged from rousing to gorgeous, and most of this work has been retained here.
So it was in that spirit that I invited more guests to the party, starting with longtime Jerry Garcia Band back-up singers Jackie LaBranch and Gloria Jones, who now radiate on seven songs (despite Lawson’s request, “put ‘em on everything!”), as well as the great Mark Karan, lead guitarist with Bob Weir’s group Ratdog (the monumental solos on “One More Saturday Night.”) Plus: James King’s bawdy barisax helped “Sweet Joe” Russell juice up “Loose Lucy”. Alyn Kelley added lilting harmony to “Lazy River Road”, and outdid herself in replicating Garcia’s recorded guitar solo on “Don’t Ease Me In” note for note---as a “vocal trumpet.” (Yow.)

Country Joe McDonald? He recorded with The Persuasions in 1980, and the guys recorded his kids’ song, “I’m So Glad (I’ve Got Skin)” on their album, On the Good Ship Lollipop. Add to that a number of songs Joe cut with Garcia (and one or two he wrote with Hunter), and well, having him play blues harp on “Sugaree” and sing a verse of “Liberty” was a familial fit.
Finally, one night on the streets of Santa Monica, CA, I heard an erhu - the plaintive Chinese stringed instrument - finding on the other end of it one Dongming Qiao. A one-time child prodigy thwarted by the China “Cultural Revolution,” Dongming spoke no English and was very shy and self-effacing. It took considerable diplomacy and translation to coax him into appearing here, but in the end, he graciously wrote and performed the exquisite erhu solo on “Stella Blue”.
“Stella” is special for another reason. This album was no easy task due to many factors, not the least of which was that lead singer Lawson left the group in 2002. Yet he magnanimously agreed to help, consulting on this project, adding vocal overdubs here and there, and finally, reuniting with original Persuasions Jimmy Hayes, Joe Russell, Jayotis Washington and more recent recruit Raymond Sanders, just for “Stella.” This song, which closes the record, marks the very last time the original Persuasions (minus Toubo Rhoad, who died in 1988) ever sang together.
Aside from “Stella,” the new tracks are: “Don’t Ease Me In” - an uptempo old blues number that the Dead played throughout their long career; “New Speedway Boogie”, “Greatest Story Ever Told” - both shelved during the original sessions, here rescued and spruced up, and “Drumz/Space”. Every other original session has been remixed, rethought, shortened, lengthened, augmented with new parts, new solos, tweaked, and even rearranged (“I Bid You Good Night”).

From the “processional hymn”, “Ripple”, to the gentle encore “Stella Blue”, the project now lives up to the hopes and expectations I initially had for it. Legendary Grateful Dead lyricist Hunter said it best. “Ever so much better!” he wrote of Persuasions of the Dead. “In fact, enchanting.”
PERSUASIONS OF THE DEAD: Executive Producer: Rip Rense for Rensart Productions. PRODUCED BY RIP RENSE. MIXED BY MARC DOTEN. MASTERED BY MIKE MILCHNER/ SONIC VISION MASTERING. Additional editing and production: Marc Doten. Executive producer of ZOHO release: Joachim “Jochen” Becker. Original sessions produced by Jerry Lawson, David Gans, Rip Rense (exec.) “Don’t Ease Me In,” “Stella Blue,” basic tracks produced by Dave Revels. “Black Muddy River” produced by Jerry Lawson and Sean Altman. Persuasions arrangements by Jerry Lawson except “Stella Blue,” arranged by Dave Revels, “Don’t Ease Me In,” arranged by Dave Revels and Rip Rense.
Jackie LaBranch and Gloria Jones vocal parts by Rip Rense except “Ship of Fools,” by Rense, LaBranch, Jones. Cover art: Luis Genaro Garcia Original prints signed by artist available at Package design: Jack Frisch.
Recording Engineer: Mike Cogan. Recorded at Bay Records, Berkeley, California, and: “Stella Blue,” “Don’t Ease Me In,” “Drumz” recorded at Take Five Studios, New Jersey, engineered by William Weist. Jerry Lawson lead vocal for “Stella Blue,” “Might as Well” recorded at Porcupine Studios, Phoenix, Az., 2009, engineered by John Wroble. Jackie LaBranch & Gloria Jones overdubs, Alyn Kelley overdubs recorded at Bay Records, Berkeley California, 2008, engineered by Mike Cogan. Mark Karan overdub recorded at his home studio, 2008. Jerry Lawson overdubs on “He’s Gone,” sax overdub by James King, erhu overdub by Dongming Qiao, “Drumz/Space” overdubs recorded at Trend Coma Bootlegs, engineered by Marc Doten. Country Joe McDonald overdubs recorded at his home studio, engineered by Tim Eschliman.
Very special thanks: Robert Hunter, Tom Waits (for album title), Kathleen Brennan, Tim O’ Donnell, Country Joe McDonald, Marc Doten, Dennis McNally, David “Punmaster’s Music Wire” Gross, Annie Chuck, Alyn Kelley, Shirley Braunstein, Jerry Lawson, Jimmy Hayes, Dave Revels, Jochen Becker, Bernie Beck, Mike Cogan, Luis Genaro Garcia, Luis Espinosa, Mayo Yerington, Betsy Wheeler-Kollgaard, Mike Milchner, Donny Baker, Michael Ball, Lisa Ball, Betty Braunstein, Brian Kerr, Janet Dackow, Dave Allen, and Jeff, Betty & Rudy.
More at
1. Ripple (Garcia, Hunter) Lead vocal: Jerry. Guest vocals: Jackie La Branch & Gloria Jones. Eric Thompson, mandolin, Pete Grant, dobro.
2. Greatest Story Ever Told (Hunter, Weir) Lead vocal: Jayotis.
3. Brokedown Palace (Garcia, Hunter) Lead vocal: Jerry.
4. Sugaree (Garcia, Hunter) Lead vocal: Jerry. Guest vocal: Peter Rowan. Country Joe McDonald, blues harp.
5. Bertha (Garcia, Hunter) Lead vocal: Jerry. Vince Welnick, piano. Guest vocals: Jackie LaBranch and Gloria Jones.
6. Ship of Fools (Garcia, Hunter) Lead vocal: Jimmy. Vince Welnick, piano. Guest vocals: Jackie LaBranch and Gloria Jones
7. Lazy River Road (Garcia, Hunter) Lead vocals: Jerry, Jimmy. Eric Thompson, mandolin. Guest vocal: Alyn Kelley.
8. New Speedway Boogie (Garcia, Hunter) Lead vocal: Jerry.
9. Don’t Ease Me In (Traditional, arr. Dave Revels, Rip Rense.) Lead vocals: Joe, Jimmy, Jayotis, Raymond. Vocal trumpet (including note-for-note recreation of Jerry Garcia guitar solo): Alyn Kelley.
1. Here Comes Sunshine 1 (excerpt) (Garcia, Hunter) Guest vocalists: Mary Schmary
2. Might as Well (Garcia, Hunter) Lead vocal, Jerry. Guest vocalists: Mary Schmary.
3. It Must Have Been The Roses (Hunter) Lead vocal: Jerry. Pete Grant, dobro.
4. Loose Lucy (Garcia, Hunter) Lead vocal: Joe. James King, baritone saxophone.
5. Liberty (Garcia, Hunter) Lead vocal: Jerry. Guest vocalists: Jackie LaBranch, Gloria Jones, Country Joe McDonald.
6. Black Muddy River (Garcia, Hunter) Lead vocal: Jerry.
7. Suite: Here Comes Sunshine 2 (excerpt)/ (Garcia, Hunter) Guest vocals: Mary Schmary / Drumz/Space (Persuasions, Rense, Doten)
8. He’s Gone (Garcia, Hunter) Lead vocal: Jerry. Guest vocals: Jackie LaBranch and Gloria Jones, Mary Schmary
9. One More Saturday Night (Weir) Lead vocal: Jerry. Vince Welnick, piano. Mark Karan, guitar. Guest vocals: Jackie LaBranch and Gloria Jones.
10. And I Bid You Goodnight (Trad., arr. Jerry Lawson, Rip Rense.) Lead vocals: Joe, Jerry. Guest vocals: Mary Schmary.
11. Stella Blue (Garcia, Hunter) Lead vocal: Jerry. Dongming Qiao, erhu.



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