Out / String Along
(Capitol CDP 7 96835 2)
|THE KINGSTON TRIO
All through the vast college circuit from Prinston to Notre Dame to Berkeley . . . in night clubs and ballrooms, auditoroums and theaters . . . at jazz festivals and folk festivals, indoors and outdoors, rain or shine . . . Dave Guard, Bob Shane, and Nick Reynolds have grown used to finding their performances "SOLD OUT."
That great in-person success is matched only by the phenomenal popularity of their Capitol recordings. Now here's another generous helping of the humor, intelligence, and vitality that have made the Kingston Trio one of the major musical attractions of our time.
Produced by VOYLE GILMORE
(J. Bowers / I. Burgess)
5. WITH HER HEAD TUCKED UNDERNEATH HER
(original Capitol release number ST-1352)
1960 was the most lucrative, productive and hectic twelve months in the career of the original Kingston Trio Dave Guard, Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane. They performed the incredible (and probably unmatched) feat of recording four complete albums that year, the first two of which comprise this third in a series of Trio "Double Play" compact discs from Capitol Records.
Sold Out was recorded in New York City in February, and released in April to what by now had become the expected "instant" acclaim. It had little trouble becoming the group's third consecutive LP to hit the #1 position [At Large and Here We Go Again are featured on Trio Double Play #2], and it made its home there for twelve weeks.
"El Matador;' the only single released from Sold Out, had the less coveted task of following the Trio's first real 45 turkey, "Coo Coo-U" [included on the excellent Kingston Trio Collectors Series CD. Capitol CDP 7 92710 2], but it managed to spend five weeks in the top forty anyway.
"El Matador" was co-written by Trio "regulars" Jane Bowers ("Remember the Alamo") and lrving Burgie ("The Seine").
Like every Kinston Trio album. Sold Out featured at least one excellent lead vocal by each group member: Bob gave his considerable all to "Farewell Adelita," the albums final track; Nick's turn came with "The Mountains O'Mourne," one of the album's very best tunes; Dave shined on "With You My Johnny;' a performance quite unique in those days in the sense that it was sung from a distinctly feminine perspective (the opposite female folksters singing from a male point-of-view was much more common). "With You My Johnny" was especially well arranged, instrumentally, and David "Buck" Wheat's bass playing really stands out.
Considerable confusion on the part of the ghost of King Henry VIII as to which of his beheaded wives has returned to haunt him provides the gist of "With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm," Sold Out's most humorous cut. The Trio also executed a playful performance on Theodore Bikel's "Mangwani Mpulele" Sea songs were almost always a Trio requirement, and few are better than the one found here, "Bimini"
But perhaps the most memorable track on Sold Out was "Raspberries, Strawberries;' a re-recording of an early Trio single [the original is featured on the Collectors Series CD]. Despite the garbling of some of Will Holt's French lyrics (one translator has actually suggested that Dave is singing "the cow is in the great cheese"), this is classic Kingston Trio: poetic melancholy with changing tempos, spirited and sincere vocals, and superb arranging.
Sold Out would be awarded a gold album the Trio's fifththe following year, but it [like String Along] would receive no Grammy nominations, as the group found themselves competing with their previous album. Here We Go Again! The Grammy "year" runs from October through September, and Capitol probably felt Here We Go Again was the band's best shot at the 1960 award. Sold Out would spend an astounding fifty-four weeks more than any other Trio LP among the nation's forty best-selling albums.
(original Capitol release number ST-1407)
By 1960, some of the Kinston Trio's stiffest competition on the charts was being offered by orchestra and chorus maestro Mitch Miller's "Sing Along With Mitch" series of albums. Mitch was grinding them out for Columbia just as fast as the Trio was for Capitol, and to add salt to the wound, it was Mitcn who had "discovered" and signed the Brothers Four, probably the Kingstons' biggest rivals in the folk field that year. "String Along with the Kingston Trio" was the group's not-so-subtle reply to this assault on their musical throne, and it kept Mitch (and everyone else) out of the #1 spot for ten weeks.
Recorded in April at Capitol's Studio B in Los Angeles, and released in July, String Along would earn the group their sixth gold album award [presented in 1962, a year after Dave Guard had resigned], but it would have the dubious distinction of being the last Trio LP to top the charts. Perhaps producer Voyle Gilmore and the boys were influenced by the album's title, as String Along is probably the band's best album, instrumentally. It's an historic fact that more strings were actually utilized here than on any previous Trio recording, mainly since Dave Guard played Gibson's first 12-string guitar on this album. Point of interest: this album sports the only cover photo in which Bob Shane is shown holding a banjo.
String Along is one of the very few Kingston Trio albums that Capitol ever released two singles from. A novelty tune with a cowboy flavor, "Bad Man Blunder's" release was fueled by the group's desire to generate royalties to pay the hospital bills of co-writer Cisco Houston, who was near death at the time. It proved to be the original Trio's last top forty hit, "The great white shark of country music" is how current folkabilly queen Nanci Griffith has described Harlan
Howard, composer of String Along's second single, "Everglades" The song is a dramatic, well-paced murder ballad with a surprise-twist ending and a delightful send-up (instrumentally and lyrically) of the Everly Brothers.
Additional humor is provided by "The Tattooed Lady" and Bob Gibson's tongue-twisting "To Morrow" Poet Carl Sandburg is the source of two riveting Trio performances. "This Mornin', This Evenin', So Soon" and the mournfully elegant "Colorado Trail" Dave's banjo work highlights "Buddy Better Get On Down the Line" and "The Escape of Old John Webb," while Bob's lead vocal distinguishes "Who's Gonna Hold Her Hand"
String Along's other memorable moments include one of the most poignant songs the Trio ever cut, "When I Was Young," a fine Dave Guard/Jane Bowers collaboration. "Leave My Woman Alone" was adaring non-folky track for the group, with Dave delivering a no-holds-barred vocal on the Ray Charles Blueser. And possibly the LP's very best song is "South Wind," a haunting ballad of loneliness and lost love from the gifted pen of Travis Edmonson (of the folk duo Bud & Travis). The song features vocals by Bob and Dave, while Nick is kept busy with the considerable percussion chores. For this track, multi-talented accompanist David Wheat (who by now owned a drum manufacturing firm) designed what he called "boo-bams," which Nick would later take along on tour for the expressed purpose of performing "South Wind"
The Kingston Trio spent part of June recording one of the most wonderfully unique Christmas albums of all time, The Last Month of the Year. released on October 3rd, 1960 [reissued on CD in 1989, Capitol CDP 7931162]. Finally, in November, the Trio would complete their fourth album of the year, Make Way [featured on Double Play #4]. From the late Sixties onward, one album per year was the norm for most recording acts, and in more recent times it is not unheard of for "superstars" to go several years between releases. That the Kingston Trio could turn out an average of three albums annually is a testament to the industry work ethic of their day. That they could maintain such a high level of quality amidst the quantity is what is most remarkable.
Musically, we remember the decade of the Sixties in terms of the Beatles and those who followed them across the ocean. The USA responded with the Beach Boys, the 4 Seasons, and the explosion of talent that was Motown. Folk music grew upor at least experienced adolescence with Bob Dylan and the Byrds leading the pack. And yet what you have on this wonderful disc is a very big chunk of the Sixties. Sales of albums had more than doubled by the end of that decade, and stilt these two records from its very first year outrank most of the heavyweights of that ten year span. Statistical research compiled from Billboard and published in Rolling Stone (August 23, 1990) lists Sold Out as the eighth best-selling album of the Sixties, with String Along checking-in at #12.
For those of us who count
ourselves as Kingston Trio fans, finding Sold Out and
String Along on one disc will no doubt provide the
emotional equivalent of Beatles fans discovering a
pairing of Rubber Soul and Revolver! Music
has gone in many diverse direction since Dave, Nick and
Bob cut these two albums in 1960, but did it ever really
get any better than this? Food for thought; music
worthy of remembrance.
[Ben Blake is the editor an co-author of the 1986 book, The Kingston Trio On Record.]
|String along with America's
BAD MAN'S BLUNDER
(C. Houston / L. Hays)