Let Us Persuade You (07/30/99)
The Persuasions, On the Good Ship Lollipop (Music for Little People 1999) - "Do you have more?" was the response from one of my daughter's classmates when we introduced him to the song, "On Top of Spaghetti," while driving home from preschool.
This wonderful CD is filled with longtime favorites, such as "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," "I'm So Glad," "Big Rock Candy Mountain," "How Much Is That Doggie in The Window?", and "Shoo Fly Don't Bother Me."
I explained to them that the album was a capella, an all-vocal, instrument-free sound presented by the talented Persuasions. My daughter responded, "it didn't sound like that." Out of the mouths of babes; can our most special moments be.
The Persuasions are in flight on these 14 tracks with producer Leib Ostrow at the helm for a delightful journey of sound. Jerry Lawson, the lead singer, presents his original song "Nursery Rhyme Medley," while Leib Ostrow has dedicated "A Capella Fellas" to the youthful guest background singers.
Music for Little People is in tune with the generations. Present this CD to your children, and give them the rich sounds of classic music to nurture their tastes. We have played On the Good Ship Lollipop again and again; I keep changing my mind as to my favorite track.
Find the Persuasions for your kids. It might curl your hair.
Bill Monroe, Live From Mountain Stage (Blue Plate Records 1999) - Bill Monroe has been termed the "father of bluegrass music," balancing the edginess of Appalachian life with instrumental dexterity and a blazing tempo. This live recording from late in Monroe's career in 1989 shows his vitality and energy as a live performer.
Monroe (who appeared with the Grand Ole Opry beginning in 1938) explains his collaborative efforts as follows: "I believe in hunting for the high tones for bluegrass. And the clear, brilliant sound and good time, good drive to it. And if you've got a high note, well I believe in hitting that note, not trying to dodge it or get around it.
Monroe continues. "It takes a lot of practice to play bluegrass right. And I think it's the music. The more you play it, the more you like to play it, the more you like to hear yourself play it, and you know just how good you can play it - if you fool with it long enough."
Originally recorded for the Mountain Stage Radio Program in May 1989, the album documents Bill Monroe's first and only appearance on the legendary live performance radio program originating in Charleston, West Virginia.
Joining Monroe on Live from Mountain Stage are his Bluegrass Boys, which included Clarence "Tater" Tate on fiddle, Blake Williams on banjo, Tom Ewing on guitar, and Billy Rose on bass.
With classic Monroe tracks like "Muleskinner Blues" and "Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms," the album shows Monroe in top form. Also listen for the sweet Diane Christian with guest vocals on "My Blue Eyes From Heaven." And no Bill Monroe show would be complete without his signature tune, "Blue Moon of Kentucky."
Bill Monroe Live is the 20th album from the "Mountain Stage" series, and marks the first to feature a single artist. A sharp and engaging performance, bluegrass fans should look for Bill Monroe Live.
The King, Gravelands (Ark 21 1999) - The King has returned, at least in voice. James Brown, a 31-year-old postman from Belfast with five kids, performs a whole album of songs by dead people in the style of Elvis.
Not an Elvis impersonator, the unassuming Brown just happens to be blessed with Presley's singing voice. Says the King, "The album (produced by Bap Kennedy) was not done in a tacky way. And it really is from the heart. It's a tribute, a commemoration, and the celebration of rock-and-roll's dead."
His Elvisness continues. "It's not meant to be sick and morbid. Elvis himself had a very wacky sense of humor. His favorite TV show was 'Monty Python,' so I think he would have liked this record."
The highlights on Gravelands include Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay" and a right-on reading of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (performed by Marvin Gaye). Another surprising treat is Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama."
Brown says that he didn't set out to record songs by dead persons. "All the songs on the album were basically done in one or two takes and a lot of the vibe was off the top of my head. The whole album, all in all, was recorded in about three or four days. Then we recognized that we'd stumbled upon a theme."
Adds Brown, "I haven't taken anything for granted. I've still got my job with the Royal Mail - they've given me a sabbatical to try this. I've got five children to take care of so at least I'll still have a job to go back to."
The King doesn't take himself seriously, yet comes across with a fun album. Enjoy this offbeat collection.
- Randy Krbechek © 1999
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