The Persuasions

Frankly a Cappella: The Persuasions Sing Zappa

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Frank Zappa gave the vocal group the Persuasions their first chance by signing them to his record label, Straight, in 1969. In 2000, the six-piece a cappella formation recorded a heartfelt tribute to the composer by recording doo wop renditions of a cross section of his songs. Some choices were inevitable, like "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing," which the group had already performed on the project Zappa's Universe, and the already doo woppy "Any Way the Wind Blows" and "Love of My Life." But by adding obscure numbers like "Electric Aunt Jemima" and "Harder Than Your Husband," the Persuasions clearly intended to surprise the fans -- and it works. Their inventive arrangements hide many gems, such as the word "duodenum" embedded in the theme from Lumpy Gravy. At the end of "Harder Than Your Husband," a man and a woman act out a fight, slipping in the discussion such Zappa conceptual-continuity icons as a sofa, a pair of zirconia-encrusted tweezers, and Frenchie the poodle. The three "Interlude" tracks attempt at experimental dialogues à la Lumpy Gravy and are less satisfying, but don't even total a minute. A tribute album would not be complete without special guests: Zappa alumni Bruce Fowler, Bobby Martin, and Mike Keneally contribute to one track each and reappear for "Tears Begin to Fall." Vocal group fans may feel a bit disoriented by this unlikely repertoire and the hermetic references, but Zappa aficionados, especially those who dig the man's doo wop songs, will find Frankly a Cappella to be an entertaining work of love.

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