Barenaked Ladies / The Persuasions

Ladies and Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies & the Persuasions

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One of the more unexpected but utterly likeable Barenaked Ladies releases, 2017's Ladies and Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies & the Persuasions finds the Canadian outfit collaborating with journeyman New York a cappella ensemble the Persuasions. The story goes that a chance meeting between BNL keyboardist Kevin Hearn and the Persuasions at Lou Reed's memorial in 2013 led BNL to invite the vocal group to join them for a few songs at their Central Park Summerstage show during their 2016 Last Summer on Earth Tour. Enjoying the shared chemistry so much, BNL then invited the Persuasions to collaborate on a new studio album. In one sense, Ladies and Gentleman is a great example of what you see being what you get. Produced in Toronto by Gavin Brown (Silverball, Grinning Streak), Ladies and Gentleman features reworked songs from BNL's past catalog now fleshed out with the Persuasions' robust, doo wop-steeped vocal sound. Thankfully, there's nothing gimmicky or awkward about this pairing. Brown has smartly taken an organic, acoustic-leaning approach in the studio, allowing the tactile warmth of both the Persuasions' and BNL's vocals to shine. What is surprising is how well Persuasions' vocalist Dave Revels stands in for former BNL member Steven Page, who left the band in 2009. While remaining BNL lead vocalist Ed Robertson shines throughout Ladies and Gentleman (especially when surrounded by the Persuasions' textured harmonies), here BNL are able to believably revisit several numbers more closely associated with Page to good effect. Cuts like "Sound of Your Voice," "Old Apartment," and "One Week," so originally hinged upon Page's burnished croon, gain new life under Revels' dusky resonance. It's also fascinating to hear how tracks like "Odds Are," "Maybe Katie," and "When I Fall" are broadened and given added poignancy by the framework of the Persuasions' deep harmonizations. It's a vibe BNL ably reciprocate here on an ebullient reading of the Persuasions' catchy 1972 R&B hit "Good Times." Ultimately, Ladies and Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies & the Persuasions works because of the sheer joy and immense talent on display by both groups.

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