Talk of the Town
(Beyond A Cappella)
First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2007, Volume 14, #8
Written by John Metzger
Thu August 9, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
Jerry Lawson was born to sing, but after 40 years of arranging, producing, and performing with The Persuasions, he decided to pack it in. Every person has their limits, and Lawson simply had run out of steam. For all of the beautiful music that the group had created over the course of its career, the creative squabbles, the tireless touring, and the less than ideal financial rewards had grown too much for him to bear. Retiring to Phoenix with the hope of finding a more stable line of income, Lawson took a rewarding job caring for disabled adults. Although he had hoped to record an album with the Moscow Philharmonic orchestra, he had no intention of ever again working with an a cappella group.
Fate, however, had other plans for Lawson, and after several chance encounters with San Francisco’s Talk of the Town, a group that not so coincidentally had been raised on The Persuasions’ work, he rethought his decision. The result is the aptly titled Talk of the Town, a self-produced affair that resumes precisely where his output with his former ensemble had ended. Not only does the set showcase his sterling, alchemical vocal arrangements, but it also boasts a ridiculously eclectic array of material. Some of the selections, such as Billy Joel’s River of Dreams and The Andrews Sisters’ Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy are translated naturally from their original incarnations. Other tracks, such as Dolly Parton’s Islands in the Stream and the Dixie Chicks’ I Hope are considerably more imaginative.
Although it contains a medley of material from The Persuasions’ repertoire, Talk of the Town surprisingly never feels like the sort of vanity project that it easily could have become. Instead of appearing as if he is trying to build a new version of The Persuasions, one over which he has complete creative control, Lawson, instead, sounds as if he simply has rediscovered his muse. There’s an unbridled enthusiasm that both he and his new cohorts — Paul Carrington, Carl Douglas, Stan Lockwood, and Ray Ragler — brought to the project, and their joy radiates in a gospel-like fashion through every nook and cranny of the collection. The biggest problem with Talk of the Town is that at 20 tracks, which span nearly 74 minutes in length, the album loses its focus and begins to ramble. Even so, its highlights are exquisite, and as one might expect, the ensuing harmonies — which support, elevate, and inevitably illuminate Lawson’s soulful voice — are positively heavenly.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box