Two of the facets of earlier folk music albums that I loved were the number and variety of foreign language songs, most of which were at least rooted in the traditional music of their respective countries. The leader of the pack in this regard was the Weavers, who included songs from around the world in both their recording and performing repertoires from the start to the finish of their career. Bud and Travis and the early Kingston Trio are probably in second place, with the Trio emphasizing Spanish, Mexican, and Polynesian songs but also including French, African songs from different languages, and those two odd German language numbers that never made it on to an American album until the CD re-issue era. One of the things that I missed in the later KT records as they moved from what had been at least traditionally termed "folk" to singer/songwriter and pop music was their abandonment (largely) of sea chanteys and "world" folk songs, both of which had been strong components on their early albums.
There was a risk inherent in singing songs in a non-native language, not the least of which was the necessity for at least one group member or another to learn the lyrics phonetically, even given the possibility of the other singers actually knowing the language or at least the meaning of the song. Both Bud Dashiell and Travis Edmundson were fluent in Spanish, and that fluency lent an air of authenticity to the largely Mexican songs that they recorded. Bob Shane and Dave Guard both grew up in Hawaii and attended Punahou School, where classes in Hawaiian culture were mandatory; they sang a number of Tahitian songs by ear but seemed to have known the Hawaiian songs from the inside out.
I always suspected that at least Guard and Shane knew some Spanish, and given Nick Reynolds' Coronado, CA roots (near the U.S.-Mexico border), I'd be surprised if he did not as well. Their pronunciation of the language is usually good, if not quite native quality (listen to Shane's pronunciation of "Jesus" in today's recording - it ought to be "hay-ZOOS" and not "JAY-zoos"), and their feel for the music is also good (I have in the past pointed to the distinctively Mexican flavor to the guitar work on "Deportee" and could do so on other songs like "En El Agua" and even "Coplas" as well).
But even with that, the group is taking quite a risk in recording "Guardo Del Lobo"(the correct title, according to a commenter from Spain on YouTube) because of the song's age and because it is the only number I can think of at the moment that they ever recorded a capella. The actual title of the song is from the first line, "Riu Riu Chiu," said to be Spanish nonsense syllables that attempt to replicate onomatopoeiacally the sound of a nightingale. The liner notes on Goin' Places (the KT album on which it appeared) correctly indicate that it goes back to at least the fifteenth century and is a "villancico," or religious festival song, most but not all of which are associated with Christmas. It is attributed to Catalan composer Mateo Flecha, who died eleven years before Shakespeare was born.
I always thought that the KT recording was haunting and different, and its utilization of the reverb in Capitol Studio B adds to the effect. The meaning of the lyrics, usually updated into modern Spanish, appear here with our first version from the dwsChorale [sic] - which is David W. Solomons multi-tracking himself - amazing use of technology:
The Kingston Trio's version adheres to the traditional accompaniment format of the villancico - a capella except for percussion:
That's a lot of sound coming out of three guys and a bassist playing tambourine. It's also three-part harmony throughout, with Bob Shane on a low harmony.
My favorite live performance video of the song is here, from Flauto Dolce("Sweet Flute"), a chorale group from Serbia:
The costumes may not be quite exactly right for the time, but the feminine voices and mixed chorus I find fetching.
And now two remarkably good versions from teeny-bopper pop idols from whom you'd least expect it. First - the Monkees (!):
I see a distinct KT influence here - the harmonic arrangement is almost identical.
Next, American Idol runner-up and teen heartthrob David Archuleta - not half bad for an AI contestant:
Nice to end with a bang, though - so here's the version from Kalenda Maya, a mixed voice ancient music group from Norway:
I see from the comments that the "Fans Of David" site picked up this blog post, and thanks for that and stopping by. I should probably clarify that -
a) most of us over on Kingston Crossroads (the message board where I first post these blog entries) are not generally fans of American Idol and its styles of music and singing, but
b)most everyone there, including me, were very impressed with DA's treatment of this song and his vocals in general. You all are right - he's an excellent singer.
All he needs to do now is get past the AI stage and grow into his voice. He could be another Sinatra - and that's saying a lot.