bosun records

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Tag: studio albums

guava

sweet mother, pure guava came out 25 years ago today. that was november 10th, 1992 for anyone struggling.

the pod is the brownest album in ween’s catalogue, but this one’s the best.

i am happy to admit that that is not an original thought. it took a lot of convincing, and hundreds of listens (headphones always recommended, especially for this album) before i understood what i had been missing.

ten years ago i never would have thought i’d be saying that. many hard core ween fans told me for years that it their best studio album, but i resisted. quebec is probably still my favorite, but i thought i could objectively say it was also their best.

i’m not trying to give a ween history lesson or put this album in perspective twenty five years later. but there are some aspects to this album that don’t necessarily reveal themselves to you after one or even fifty listens.

this was the one that took the longest for me to appreciate. the pod‘s definitive brownness was clear after the first listen, but pure guava is a more polished continuation of those songs, and i didn’t understand that for a long time.

it was their first album recorded as part of a major label (elektra) after working with shimmy disc on their three previous albums. the drum machine and four track are still present, but there’s a clearer overall sound.

i started with chocolate and cheese so this shouldn’t have made any difference to someone who was as late to ween as i was. but after dissecting godweensatan and the pod for months so i could truly understand what “brown” meant, revisiting pure guava was kind of jarring. it seemed like it was pod lite, and not in a good way.

to me, the pod was the equivalent of ’68 grateful dead shows- gnarly. primal. aggressive. and not always pleasant to listen to. but absolutely essential and both things i latched onto pretty quickly with a genuine curiosity and eventual love for.

i think i went two straight years without listening to pure guava even after i was fully immersed in the boognish. what a waste.

but maybe my past ignorance can help you appreciate this album if you don’t already.

“little birdy” and “tender situation” start the album right where the pod left off lyrically (“tender situation” and “i play it off legit” are easily the two most quoted songs in my experience whenever the album comes up in conversation), leading into the album’s masterpiece and fan favorite “the stallion pt. 3.”

this is, i think, the only available video of the band recording their live album all request live, which until last week was the only time they’d ever played the entire “stallion” suite (i – v) in the same “show,” although this performance was only streamed online with no actual audience in the room with them.

listen to this version from switzerland on thanksgiving day 1997. the whole show is worth getting, but “the stallion pt. 3” is exceptional. and it’s a sbd recording taboot.

and if you happen to have one of these absolutely perfect shirts, allow me to take it off your hands for the price of… on the house.

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one thought that doesn’t have a place in any other paragraph:

i’ve always imagined the board game characters from the cover of quebec are the ones singing “the goin’ gets tough from the getgo” with those snooty voices dean and gene use.

i remember reading and hearing from a number of people that the run of “pumpin’ 4 the man,” “sarah” and “springtheme” was the best little chunk of the album. that was what caught my attention back when i first tried to really understand what everyone loved about the album.

i’d never thought of them as a mini trilogy within the album, and why would i? there are no connecting themes in the lyrics and they’re all at different tempos with vastly different melodies.

but i relistened to those three songs a bunch of times before then putting the album on repeat and waiting til it clicked. it did.

like a lot of things ween, i can’t really explain what did it for me. but whatever happened opened my entire viewpoint of the album. it just seemed perfectly ween.

it wasn’t the brownest (but it has “mourning glory”), it didn’t make me laugh the most (but it has “touch my tooter”?!?), and it’s still not my favorite (but “tender situation” and “i play it off legit” are instant classics).

but it is the single most ween album they’ve created.

listen to cowboy gener and this great little version of “pumpin 4 the man.”

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any other band would close this album with the perfect “don’t get 2 close (2 my fantasy),” but this is ween, so even though this is the highest of all high notes to go out high on, they close the album with none other than…

“poopship destroyer.”

poopship is ween’s dark star: an early song that took on a life of its own and gave the band their own unique thing where they could say “this is ours. we made it. no one else could have done it and you are lucky we’re sharing it with you.”

and as much as ween has pushed back against traditional “jamming” stereotypes, they can take this one as far out as they want on any given night, and we will lap it up like the custy brown sheep that we are because it can make your fucking night like nothing else.

check out this version that clocks in at 28 minutes, the latter half of which the ween setlist refers to as “gener’s lament.”

here are deaner’s thoughts on the show, from his old tour diaries (which if you haven’t read, i cannot possibly recommend them enough. that should be it’s own separate blog):

aaron got too drunk to…..walk…but somehow managed to channel it all into something gloriously horrible for our “concert”. i’d apologize for the 50 minute “poopship destroyer” but somehow i think you deserve it for living in ft. lauderdale.

that quote sums up the song, the album, the band, their fans, and boognish all at once.

so. if you’re still not convinced, put the headphones back on, lick your palm, and play it again.

rise, boognish, rise.

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mollusk

04

ween released their album the mollusk twenty years ago today. as was common industry practice back then, june 24th, 1997 was a tuesday. 1997 was the year before mark mcgwire broke roger maris’ home run record, and on june 24th he hit his 27th home run off of randy johnson.

this has nothing to do with ween, but i remember that summer well, and the mcgwire / sosa home run race that got so big in 1998 was just starting to percolate. another big part of that summer for me: “return of the mack.” unfortunately, discovering ween and the mollusk were still several years away.

if you’re reading this then you probably know the general background story of how the mollusk was recorded and the adversity the band faced just to get it completed, but for anyone who is unfamiliar:

in 1995 ween rented a house in a town called holgate on the jersey shore to begin recording the followup to chocolate and cheese. shortly after setting up in the house, a water pipe within the house burst and damaged and in some cases totally destroyed their gear and equipment, so they left the house and decided to write and record 12 golden country greats instead. i wrote about that album’s 20th anniversary last year.

once they finished 12 gcc at the end of 1995, they re-started and quickly finished the mollusk at the beginning of 1996. 12 gcc wasn’t released until july of that year, so for a while they had what would ultimately become two of their most popular and flat out best albums sitting on elektra’s shelf waiting to be put out. think about that for a second.

four proper albums into their career, a band that was originally just two guys and a drum machine organically evolve into a full five piece unit and embark on their first effort to record a studio album with the new members. this band encounters a massive setback that most others would never recover from and decides to completely change course and make their version of a country album that was inspired by the goddamn beach boys’ christmas album.

in doing so, they unintentionally form a new band -the shit creek boys- made up of the utmost studio session professionals in the country music capitol of the world (and who probably learned the hard way what “brown” really means). they then reconvene with the original lineup that was meant to record in the beach house and record almost two albums worth of new material. and this is still while they’re waiting for the country album to come out!

after recording is completed, they go on a successful national tour with the shit creek boys backing them on both their old and new material, do one more short tour with just gene, dean and the drum machine as a sort of last hurrah, and at the start of 1997 they become the five piece band we all know and love today.

again, if you’re reading this you most likely already know everything i’ve written so far, but it never ceases to amaze me what this band has done. we could rehash this everyday until trump ends us all and it still wouldn’t make up for the lack of recognition they’ve received. but that’s also what makes it so worthwhile to love the boognish. to love the brown. it’s group of people i am proud to be a part of.

i’m not a big fan of prog rock so i’ve never really thought of the mollusk as that kind of album, but i definitely agree with it being a concept album with a heavy dose of dark, nautical psychedelia. if 12 gcc was ween’s version of a country album then this is their version of a sea shanty album.

after finding out that it was recorded on the jersey shore, i tried setting it to the one movie that i always think of when i hear the words “jersey shore”: eternal sunshine of a spotless mind. it wasn’t exactly like dark side of the moon and the wizard of oz, but it was cool seeing the cinematography of the shore in the winter with the music on the album playing. a northeast beach in winter is bleak and desolate, but also beautiful, and a lot of those images still come back to me when i listen to these songs.

trying to put this album in perspective twenty years after it was released is interesting. i’ve listened to it hundreds of times from start to finish, and every time i think i’ve heard everything it has to offer something new sticks out to me. whether it’s a lyric that hits me in a new way or an instrument or sound layered in the background that adds a new dimension to a song, the mollusk is and always will be a rewarding listen.

in 2017, i can’t think of any bands that i’m familiar with who sound like they’ve been influenced by this album, or ween in general. and maybe that’s on me for not listening to enough new music, but it’s more likely that ween are a modern grateful dead: they’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do. and any band trying to imitate their sound and ideas are going to be called out very quickly.

“i’m dancing in the show tonight” opens the album perfectly. it’s a children’s song from the 50’s but the way they play it makes it feel like it was sung by pirate’s kids on ship-wide talent shows three hundred years ago. that segues into the title track which is wonderfully hypnotic and bleeds into “polka dot tail” that feels right at home with its playfulness.

“i’ll be your jonny on the spot” gives us our first inkling that maybe this isn’t the best album to put your kids to sleep to after all. “mutilated lips” reaffirms that notion, and has one of my favorite tone inflections (cadence, maybe?) in any ween song with the way gener kind of slowly sings “i said please calm it down… evvv-ree-thing is turning browwwn.” i love everything about that part. i’ll touch on “the blarney stone” in a little bit, but this is not just the perfect drinking song it seems on the surface.

as far as “it’s gonna be (alright)” goes, i’ve said this many times before, but i swear to god they have so many songs that if the songwriting credits read (lennon / mccartney) and not (freeman / melchiondo) many of them would be considered all time classics, and this is one of those songs that along with “birthday boy” and “i don’t want it” are some of the best breakup lyrics ever written.

“the golden eel” is the musical peak of the album. the bongo intro with the heavy synth or whatever it is comes in with the lyrics that gradually build up to the wall of sound chorus with the thundering drumbeat that comes back down again to another verse and chorus before deaner gets to really go off for the final minute while the chorus repeats and the drums keep stomping.

“cold blows the wind” is as haunting as it gets, and maybe the most shanty-esque song on the album. this sounds weird but i always picture the castle where duncan had his eyes torn out in the delightfully cheesy kevin costner robin hood movie prince of thieves. shoutout to maid marian.

“pink eye (on my leg)” is the brown instrumental break we’re all waiting for, and because of the repetitive barking in the background  i’ve always pictured a three legged dog running around a pirate ship chasing the one toy he’s been given to play with by the guys but because they’re on the high seas it keeps sliding around the ship, which sounds like it would be frustrating, much like pink eye (on your leg).

it took me a long time to stop thinking that “waving my dick in the wind” was not on 12 gcc. maybe it’s because i love the version they play with the shit creek boys on live in toronto canada (quick aside: i love how they called it “live in toronto canada” and not just “live in toronto,” just to specify to their idiot fans which toronto the songs were played in), but it definitely sounds like a b-side from the 12 gcc sessions to me.

“buckingham green.” instant classic. the string arrangements, the drums, the marching pace of the music, the vocal effects, the lyrics, the title… one of ween’s best songs period.

“ocean man” is the song that you can tell people they like when they say they don’t like ween. everyone knows this song, whether it’s from the honda commercial or the spongebob movie. but i hear it as the last bit of lighthearted reprieve we get as listeners before the heavier, deeper finale.

besides knowing the words to songs, i’ve never paid much attention to the meaning behind the lyrics (to quote white men can’t jump, i listen, but i don’t hear), so forgive me if this has been obvious to everyone but me for the last twenty years:

i read that the story in “she wanted to leave” is the precursor to “blarney stone” in that the narrator in “leave” is on a boat with his woman, perhaps on a honeymoon with his new wife, when they get accosted by three men or pirates or whomever. the pirates take his lady, and she actually wanted to leave with them because she really loved one of them and not him.

Three men is all they were.
Three men out at sea.
Three men came aboard my ship and took my true love from me.
I couldn’t believe
She wanted to leave
She wanted to leave.
I loved you so long.
Since you were a child.
I’ve cared for your every need.
I’ve tried to make you smile.
And all the while
You wanted to leave
You wanted to leave.
Go gather the guns.
We’ll blast them at sea.
She begged for me not to shoot,
“For my true love is here with me.”
I’ve never loved thee
Now I must leave
Now I must leave.
So go fetch a bottle of rum dear friends and fill up my glass to the rim.
For I’m not the man I used to be
Now I’m one of them.

 

then in “blarney stone,” which takes place many years later, this same guy, who in the current parlance of our times might be referred to as a “cuck,” is drinking himself into oblivion at a bar with no regard or care for any woman at all, still depressed at the past events on the open water.

i don’t care if either of those are true, it’s just another example at the depth of these songs that make up such a great album.

another thing ween fans say, and it’s true- that’s why we repeat ourselves on an infinite loop, is that ween’s b-sides are better than most band’s greatest hits albums. “kim smoltz,” recorded during the mollusk sessions, is a perfect example:

when they debuted this at their reunion run in broomfield last year it took people a few seconds to realize that we were actually seeing it happen, and luckily just about everyone there understood that it was a very cool moment and shut up for a few minutes so we could all enjoy it.

wash me down” is an unreleased demo that would be right at home with the other session songs, and even though i can’t make out all the lyrics it’s become one of my favorite ween songs.

the mollusk at twenty. pretty amazing. at least once a year i try to listen to every ween album in order on a long drive or over a weekend, and while the pod is always going to be the brownest thing they’ve done, this and 12 gcc are the ones i look forward to on those listening sessions. not because either are my favorite, but because when you can put them in immediate context to the music that came before and after, it crystallizes how impressive this detour from the “usual” ween music people were expecting at the time was, and you really get a sense of how creative these guys can be.

i really hope the reunion means a future studio release, but when the music we already have is this good, it doesn’t really matter.

rise, boognish, rise.

 

golden

today is the 20th -!!!!!- anniversary of ween’s out of nowhere country album 12 golden country greats. if that means anything to you then you know there’s not much to say -though i’ll try- other than it was an incredibly cool and seminal moment in the band’s history.

a risk similar to the grateful dead’s workingman’s dead and american beauty albums and yes i’ll say it radiohead’s kid a in that it was a total 180 in songwriting, live shows, and even studio albums that caught everyone by surprise.

ween was less than two years removed from adding claude, glenn and dave to the touring and then full time band, so to go to nashville with pure ween songs and have longtime session professionals sort out the instrumentation and play it on record was another huge step for two guys who up til then had been used to taking the stage with each other, a guitar, and a drum machine.

and i’m always amazed at the age of musicians when they have important moments like this in their career. dean and gene were 26 years old when this album came out. when i was 26 i was barely off my family cell phone plan and making money through what you would charitably call nefarious jobs.

dean and gene were on their fifth album and making music with men twice their age who had played with country legends in their own right. think of the balls it took to walk into a studio with these songs, telling guys that played with elvis and willie nelson to hold that solo until right after deaner sings “on your knees you big booty bitch start suckin’.” and then went out on a full tour with them! just one more example of how and why ween is on their own level.

“so long jerry” and “i’ve got no darkside” are the two songs left off 12 gcc for whatever reason or fable you want to believe, but they’re both excellent (the former having been written about jerry garcia) and deserve your attention. this just reinforces the old saying that ween’s b-sides are better than 99% of what most other bands officially release.

i’ve also included a link just below to a fan-made mix of the same fall 1996 tour that live in toronto canada was recorded on (i always thought it was hilarious and very ween to specify the “canada” part, like people would confuse which toronto they had played in).

excuse any and all incoherence in this post, it’s late i’m drunk and didn’t even know it was the anniversary til just now so here goes nothing.

mazel tov and long live ween.

country tour ’96 sbd sampler with the shit creek boys

genius

released 20 years ago tomorrow. listen. appreciate. listen again.

bones

i’m a little late to st. paul & the broken bones, but their album half the city has been playing pretty frequently in my house over the last 6 months. this album is pure soul. between the horns, the lyrics and the lead singer’s voice, there is a 50’s era rock sound that feels nostalgic but not outdated.

and it’s an album for all moods, which is nearly impossible to pull off and something you rarely see anymore. it’s rare enough for a band to create a complete album that demands listening from start to finish, nevermind one that you can throw on no matter how you’re feeling.

when i first listened all the way through i thought of back to the future and how this would have fit in perfectly at the dance that marty takes his mom to. there’s an old school, sam cooke meets chuck berry and booker t feel to the whole thing that i can’t recall any other band in modern music doing so completely.

if you love music, give this one a shot.

interview

image courtesy of shore fire media

image courtesy of shore fire media

Here is the first official bosun records interview with legendary singer Jerry Lawson, original  lead singer of both The Persuasions and Talk of the Town, two of the most influential a cappella groups of all time. Jerry has more than 50 years of experience in the music industry, as lead singer, arranger and producer of more than 22 albums.

I wrote about Jerry and The Persuasions last month here, and after doing a little more research I learned that Jerry actually lives in the area. After reaching out through his website, Jerry and his wife Julie were nice enough to welcome me in to their valley home last month to spend some time talking about his a cappella career, his debut as a solo artist with some great Nashville musicians “Just a Mortal Man” that comes out today, and the music that first brought him to my attention, the Grateful Dead.

Throughout the interview, Julie played me songs off the new album as well as older demos and songs from other albums he’s sung on from the last several decades. For someone with no journalistic background, I couldn’t have asked for a better first interview experience. The energy Jerry and Julie have for music even after all this time in the industry is infectious, and I hope I’ve allowed that to come across here.

The new album is fantastic too, so check out the link at the bottom and be sure to buy a copy or three.

B.R. – Thanks so much for taking time out of your day for this. I can’t say I’ve known about you for all that long, but after discovering the “Persuasions of The Dead” album a few years ago I was just blown away by those songs and your takes on them. “Brokedown Palace” is my favorite song of all time, and you absolutely nailed it.

Jerry – Well I’m gonna start with this story. “Brokedown Palace” is one of my favorite songs too, and while we recorded the album my wife and I were living in northern California and we were listening to the album at night and we would go out in the woods and we would listen to the album and we would think about “Lazy River Road” -we actually lived on River Road and Vince Welnick was our friend and neighbor-

Julie – They were actually in the middle of recording the album in San Francisco, which was an hour drive from where we were living. We lived near an apple orchard and I had been begging Jerry to go on this walk with me for months to check out the path that led to the river. Finally he gave in and we went out for the walk through the orchard and the woods down to the river. As we walked, we talked about the next day’s schedule. He would be recording Brokedown Palace with The Persuasions.

So while we’re on the walk, before we get down to the river we come upon this tree, and it looks like there’s these little tchotchkes, these little things stuck on the tree, and we walk up closer and someone had made a shelf and nailed it into the tree. And on the shelf were all these little charms and things and beneath the charms was a piece of paper that looked like the type of paper scroll in an adding machine hanging down, all messed up from weather and rain and whatever, and we pull it up to read the writing, and it’s the lyrics to “Brokedown Palace”! He actually accused me of planting the scroll on the tree!

Jerry – So now when you listen to Brokedown Palace, that’s really how I got into the spirit of the song, seeing that tree with the lyrics on the paper I said “Man this is heaven, this is unbelievable, this is too good” and I just sang it with a little more emotion than any of the others we recorded because I just felt it that much more.

B.R. – How did 5 black guys from Brooklyn end up making a Grateful Dead a cappella album to begin with?

Jerry – The way that album came about was because Rip Rense was a huge Grateful Dead fan, and he’d already been a friend of ours for years and helped us produce The Good Ship Lollipop and the Frankly A Capella CD, which was my tribute to Frank Zappa who gave us our first recording contract in 1969.  I think Rip was friends with some of the Dead members. So we said to Rip “Send us some Grateful Dead songs” because we had never heard them. “Black Muddy River” was actually recorded in the bathroom of a friend’s house in New York (the acoustics were great in there!).

Another quick story: I had played with Jerry Garcia at the Westbury Music Fair many years before the album was recorded. The Persuasions opened for the Grateful Dead. We went out on the stage and started singing “The Lord’s Prayer” and the audience- I told the guys “this is the Grateful Dead, we’re gonna open with ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ and the audience started throwing things at us and we all thought they didn’t like us.

They kept throwing so many things on stage at us that we finished “The Lord’s Prayer” and  I said “That’s it, we’re outta here.” We started walking off stage, and the stage manager yelled at us “What are you doing?” and we said “Man, they’re throwing things at us,” and he said “Look what they’re throwing- they love you!” and we looked at what was actually on the stage and realized they’d been throwing joints and hash at us!

So we went back out and finished our set, and as we walked back offstage the guy said “You know Jerry’s been in the doorway listening to you the whole time.” But we never met him, never saw him again, but to show you how God works in mysterious ways, years later we became part of the Grateful Dead family when we toured with Ratdog and opened for them on a monthlong tour.

B.R. – I’ve seen some videos of you guys onstage with Bob singing “Might As Well” and some other songs from the album you did. Would he bring you out for the encore after you’d already opened for them?

Jerry – When we first went out on the road with Ratdog we started in Oregon and finished in Boston after about 30 shows. We would open for them and then once in a while they’d bring us out for a song or two, usually something off the “Might as Well” album.

Now, when I got into the Grateful Dead, because I’m from a different part of music, a different era, you now? Gospel, soul background. But when I got into them I said “Wow”, I mean it opened my horizons to listen to Jerry Garcia’s lead. Being a lead singer myself, listening to him I just thought this guy is amazing. This guy’s phrasing is unbelievable. The timing is so weird and off and then at the same time it’s right on.

Oh man, “Liberty”- I couldn’t wait to get onstage to do that, especially with the band. Because we did it a cappella, but with Ratdog they’d have the full band, the sax player, so by the time we got to New York at the end of that tour we was hot. We was rollin’. And you know another song on this album that I love to sing at the end of a show is “It Must Have Been The Roses.”

I would sing that song and I mean I would have the audience in tears by the end of it. I would leave the stage and come out in the audience and I would touch some of the people in there while I was singing the song, and I’d rub their shoulders or touch their cheek and by the time I was done I would say to everyone “Isn’t that a beautiful song?” and the audience would all say “Yeah!” and then I’d say “Yes, it sure is. And I have no idea what the words mean!”

B.R. – you have a Robert Hunter song on the new album, right?

Jerry – Well about 8 years ago Rip Rense had sent us a poem that was written by Robert Hunter decades ago. When I got the poem (“Woman In White”) I thought “This is just a poem”, and I’m sitting there reading it over and over and over and, you know, it’s Robert Hunter, none of it makes sense to me!

Julie – Robert Hunter had published a book of poetry about 20 years ago, and in that book was a poem called “Woman In White.” Rip  gave it to Jerry and said that Robert said if Jerry would like to try writing music to it he would share publishing with Jerry. So Jerry did write the music but we didn’t have a band. So Rip began working with a musician to put it together. But it never happened and it’s just been sitting in the can. Then this project came about and when Eric Brace, the producer of “Just A Mortal Man” asked Jerry what songs he’d like to do we knew this was time.

Jerry – Anyway I go and wrestled with this for days and put it down and I’d go back and I’d pick it up just trying to put some music to it in my head. Then one night at 3am while I’m laying there asleep you know BOOM it just came to me. Because I had looked the song over a million times and nothing seemed to work until it just came to me in my sleep, when I just got it. I just got it.

B.R. – How does that work, when you’re trying to come up with the music for a song that just doesn’t seem like it can be done? Because Hunter and Garcia wrote most of those songs together, putting the music to the lyrics usually at the same time, whereas with “Woman In White” you’re taking a poem that was written decades ago and trying to put a melody to it?

Jerry – You gotta plow right through whatever you’ve got and keep going so you don’t lose it, because you’re half asleep and you’ll feel so bad if you lose it when you just know you’ve got it. So you just keep humming and keep humming until it comes into your head.

With these Dead songs you know there’s a million words, you got to learn them. Not just learn them, you need to know them, really know them, even when you’re not sure what the words even mean. For the audience to believe you when you sing, you need to really know the heart of the song and get to the feeling of it. You want to stay right there with Garcia, with his greatness, you don’t want to go out and just make the song… you know, the dead heads know their music, and when you are studying the words you need to be right there with them because they’ll know if you’re not. It’s just really difficult, complex music that was a great challenge for me to arrange in our style.

B.R. – The new album is both a departure from your career in a cappella and a return to your roots in the big band style of music. How did the recordings and song selection come together?

Jerry – I recorded the song “Just A Mortal Man” with The Persuasions on our album Comin’ At Ya back in the late 70’s, early 80’s, after hearing the song by David Ruffin from The Temptations. David was a longtime friend of mine and one of my heroes. Now imagine a little country boy from Florida, I used to sit at night on my doorstep looking at the stars listening to this radio station out of Nashville and I would just dream, look up at the stars and just dream, never knowing that 3 years after I finished high school I would come to New York, I come to find out there’s a place over in Harlem and you could pay $2 and sit there and look at all of these people that I had heard on the radio in my little country town of Apopka. I could see them live! And the place was called The Apollo Theatre. I would go there at twelve in the afternoon and sit there ’til they closed at twelve at night. I used to sit there and look at Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke and, man… what a time.

B.R. – David Ruffin had a huge impact on you early in your career.

Jerry – When The Temptations came out I just fell in love with this one guy’s voice. Not like Sam Cooke’s or Jerry Butler or Elvis. He would scream and holler but boy it was so intense and so fine the way he would do it. And I got to learning his technique, and when he left The Temptations I would study his technique as a solo artist and buy all his albums.Then one night, he was playing at this place called Bojangles in Manhattan. It was a rainy night, probably a weeknight, and there were only 6 people in the audience, including me.

David came out and he was singing and doing his show and all of a sudden he turned in the middle of one of the verses as he was dancing and threw me the microphone! I caught the microphone, and didn’t miss a beat and went up on stage and we finished the song. I don’t know how he knew I knew the song or what, but just like the paper on the tree with the Brokedown Palace lyrics, it’s just one of those things that happened that way. I went backstage and I sat with him and talked and I just couldn’t believe it. I was tongue tied, this is David Ruffin and I’m looking at his patent leather shoes and his fancy socks, the next day I went out and bought a pair of my own patent leather shoes and the grey socks just like him.

Julie – So David being one of Jerry’s heroes, he’s always tried to include a David Ruffin song on his Persuasions albums. So when Eric asked Jerry about songs he’d like to include this was Jerry‘s chance once again to pay tribute to David, only this time with a band! And when the album was done we were all thinking of possible titles and I suggested Just A Mortal Man, and everyone liked it. The weird thing was that 2 weeks later Jerry landed in the hospital and nearly died so the lyrics to “Just A Mortal Man” nearly became his epitaph.

Another strange thing that happened is that Jerry, being an arranger, told Eric he could hear some Gospel women on a few tracks and Eric said he had just the right group. Turned out he was talking about The McCrary Sisters who just happen to be the daughters of Rev. Sam McCrary who was with The Fairfield Four who Jerry grew up listening to! So this whole album has kind of come full circle for him. And what people don’t know is that they think this is the first time he’s played with a band, but it’s just the first time he’s recorded a whole album with a band. He grew up in a band. So this is a natural progression, just 40 years of his life devoted to a cappella kind of waylaid everything.

Jerry – And with the Paul Simon song (“Peace Like A River”) which opens the new album, well you know me and The Persuasions did Saturday Night Live with Paul. He had The Persuasions sing harmony on “Loves Me Like A Rock.” In fact I recorded it a cappella on that same album (Comin’ At Ya), but when Eric sent me “Peace Like A River” I had never heard Paul Simon do that.

There’s so much I could get into about the songs on here and all the coincidences that have made it come together, but I’m just excited because this is another side of me that my fans haven’t heard before, really, ever.

buy: just a mortal man

read: jerry’s personal site

devotion (un)ltd.

like many young people who got into the grateful dead later in their career because of age, ignorance or any other whathaveyou’s, skeletons from the closet was one of my first grateful dead album purchases (american beauty was my very first one, and i bought it along with deep blue something’s album that had “breakfast at tiffany’s” on it. i regret nothing).

“the golden road (to unlimited devotion)” is the first song on the skeletons album, and was the first psychedelic 60’s radio single i think i ever heard. i remember reading in some dead biography that jerry didn’t like playing it for whatever reason, and to my knowledge was only played 4-5 times in 1967.

when jerry died and the various grateful dead member offshoot bands emerged, phil and friends were the ones to play it first and most often, as he was reviving a lot of their early music that had been shelved for so long.

this song has long been a staple of my early morning rise and shine mix- it’s not what the dead became known for, but it’s an upbeat song that always puts me in a good mood and even moreso than touch of grey was the closest the band ever got to writing a traditional pop song.

persuasion

persuasions of the dead

the album cover to the re-release of the original “might as well,” this one is titled “persuasions of the dead.”

 

i first came across the persuasions -a five piece a cappella group from brooklyn made up of jerry lawson, jesse russell, jayotis washington, herbert rhoad and jimmy hayes- after looking for an a cappella version of my all-time favorite song, the grateful dead’s “brokedown palace.”

not expecting to find anything other than maybe a few lame covers recorded in bedrooms and basements, i was shocked to see that not only was there a professional recording of the song, but an entire album dedicated to grateful dead songs, all of them sung by 5 black dudes from brooklyn.

how i was unfamiliar with both the group and the record is still beyond me, and while i’ve tried to share it with as many people as possible, it’s clear that not nearly enough music fans -grateful dead or otherwise- know about what they’ve created, which is the whole reason for this post.

after hearing their take on “brokedown palace,” i knew right away that this was something special. this is not a traditional “tribute” album. it’s really not a tribute album at all. the persuasions sing songs written by the grateful dead, yes, but they do so much more than that. these tracks aren’t “soul” in the tradition of the grateful dead and how we look at jerry’s voice as being soulful, which of course it still is. no, this is five singers from an entirely different background and musical genre turning the entire grateful dead catalogue upside down and recreating their music as their own, and it’s unlike anything i’ve ever heard before.

“might as well” is basically reborn on this album. i always thought it was a fine jerry tune but it was never something i was pumped to see on a live album or any of those ’76 dead shows it showed up in, but the persuasions’ version is excellent and made me rethink my whole opinion on the original song. i like their version better because the phrasing and emphasis feels different from the dead’s in their focus on the verses, giving it a really cool old timey sound, which i love.

“liberty” is one of my favorite 90’s-era dead tunes because it just makes me feel good, and the persuasions’ version paints a big ass smile on my face every time i listen, there’s just something about the song that brings me back to a simpler time, even though i was like 7 years old when it came out. that’s probably the simpler time i’m subconsciously thinking about. being 7 was fucking awesome- i had a sick zack morris hair style going, i was averaging a quadruple double in my boys and girls club basketball league, and i was smooching second grade coeds like it was going out of style:

another late period song that was only performed a few times from 1993-on, “lazy river road” is perfect encapsulation of the emotions and themes robert hunter and jerry garcia were going for in their older years, and the persuasions absolutely nail it:

a really fun bertha, slow-jam sugaree, poignant stella blue, a downright mournful ship of fools, testifying greatest story ever told… what more can you ask for?

there are 16 other songs on the album and i haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of great this collection is, so just buy it for yourself and join the cause in making sure every music fan you know hears these songs too.