Saturday, May 9, 2009

Variations From The Theme: "The Best Of The Kingston Trio"

The previous 39 posts in this series have more or less adhered to the same format of presenting different interpretations of songs traditional and modern that might be termed at least loosely as "folk."

However, as the margin note to the left indicates, all of these pieces appear originally on the Kingston Crossroads message board, and last week and this week I've posted essays there that don't quite fit the pattern. Last week's post was simply a collection of YouTube videos of the twelve songs included on the 1962 album The Best Of The Kingston Trio, and this week's is a consideration of the Rod McKuen/Jacques Brel song "Seasons In The Sun," which cannot be stretched in any way to be called folk or roots or Americana.

But Kingston Crossroads doesn't archive posts, and a few friends have asked that these two entries be preserved, so I'm uploading them here.

Next week - back to CompVid.

In celebration of the fortieth post in this series and twenty-ninth consecutive weekly entry, I've decided to forgo the "comparative video" approach just for this week and use the miracle of the internet to present a video version of the 1962 album The Best Of The Kingston Trio.

When I began uploading videos to YouTube in July of 2006, about seven months after it came into existence, a search for "Kingston Trio" was likelier to pull up my Chilly Winds group than anything by the KT, simply because nothing at the time had been posted of the greatest of all folk groups. In fact, I attribute the (to me) astounding ongoing popularity of Chilly Winds videos on YT to that fact - people found us early on and continued to look in even after the KT began to appear in first dozens, then scores, and now hundreds of video uploads.

A telling point is that of the twelve videos herein presented, ten were already on the internet when I conceived of doing this a couple of weeks ago. Only "Everglades" and "Billy Goat Hill" were created by me specifically for this post. The rest of the videos include seven actual (if not always complete) performance videos by the Trio, one amusing home movie, and two video montages.

It's a testament to the amazing popularity, longevity, and durability of the Trio and its music. So, without further ado and presented in order by side of the original LP -The Best Of The Kingston Trio.

Side A

(Note: The original KT video of "Rasberries, Strawberries" was removed, so here's the current KT.)

Side B

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Comment from NORM:

I was never a fan of this tune. I'm still not. I thought it sounded "choppy" for lack of a better term. After Bob's verse phrases, the 12-string with that little riff (sounds like the key of D to me)-choppy. Anyway, I couldn't warm up to it.

As far as TTT went, yes...most definitely "political," and perhaps the most salient point (maybe I missed it): the assassination of JFK, which served as background for the one studio cut done in its wake, "Song For A Friend," speaking of moribund: the death of one of John's heroes. Frankly, we were all in a major funk then, even at my immature age.

Now, this becomes a chicken or egg kind of spin-off. No KT albums came close to duplicating the raw joy and bounce of "New Frontier" (also my favorite BNJ album) with the possible exception of an attempt with Decca to get back to their roots ("Stay Awhile"). I remember Bob talking about the album just before its release, and being very enthused about it--the harmonica tunes, the banjo tunes (sorely lacking on N-B-J) etc. Many good points made by Jim however. "Seasons..." was just a symptom...

Back to TTT: NOTHING from that point on was the same musically, or culturally. Sociologists can debate this ad infinitum, and I'm sure many a fine book, and theses were written post 11/22/63. Speaking only as a child/teen of that era, things in general got darker. Much darker. 'Nam bloomed into the horrid, choking weed it became, leaving many of our peers wounded in more ways than physically. The so-called "protest movement" kicked into gear...prior to TTT, it was in its nascency. The Civil Rights movement took on new wrinkles with LBJ, and a Congress more-than-willing to do his every bidding.

And then...the rest of the MURDERS: RFK, MLK and the rise of militant, race-riot engendering polarization of ethnic groups and of the vast "silent majority" Nixon would rely on to be elected--this time with NO Kennedy-mania.

Some great music from that era, but the soon-to-be meteoric rise of John, Paul, George and Ringo was just cresting the horizon. It would be a blinding glow that has yet to fade. The Trio was about to be deemed an anachronism by Capitol, and while a vibrant and mostly sold-out live act, was exiled to record-sales oblivion. Well, almost. "Ally Oxen Free" DID get some radio-play in Rochester back then.

Personally, it wasn't much longer after my "folk group" (The "Hard Core"-before that had ANY porno implications) started to incorporate the "folksier" pop-tunes into our coffee house/hootenanny shtick, and by the time of the Beatles and Stones, actually rip off tunes whole-heartedly. Imagine 3 kids with guitars and banjos singing "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction!" .

My point in this essay is that TTT was a child of the culture more so, IMO, as much as the Trio simply riding coat-tails. It was a watershed album in many ways, and yes, far "darker" than "Make Way" (take "Oh, Yes, Oh" as a Guard-era fancy). The serious countenance of NBJ on the cover (still a fan favorite foto based on polls done here years back), and of course the material-well, it really WAS a "Time" to think!