The Kingston Trio entered the '60s proper under seemingly less than ideal circumstances; founding member Dave Guard had announced his intention to leave the group early in the year, formally exiting in August, and not one single by the trio charted during all of 1961. They were hardly to be counted out, however, as demonstrated by the Close Up album, released just a month after Guard's exit. With new member John Stewart in place, the album showed the trio to be in solid musical shape, harmonizing beautifully, and with a new songwriting talent in their midst in the guise of Stewart, whose haunting, slightly bluesy ballad "When My Love Was Here" was the highlight of the record. Close Up, although not as groundbreaking as the trio's self-titled debut three years earlier, showed a surprisingly undiminished group and is a good representation of where popular folk music was in late 1961; the mix of traditional songs, well-known standards (most notably a rousing version of Woody Guthrie's "Reuben James"), gospel, humor, and pleasing folk-like originals was popular enough, rising to number three on the LP charts. The audience for folk music, especially among college students, was to shift dramatically, and into a more radical stance, in a couple of years, but this melodic and aesthetically pleasing album was perfect for its time and still evokes that relatively innocent and calm period in our past. The group was also learning how to use stereo to great effect, even as an acoustic outfit; Nick Reynolds' percussion workout on "O Ken Karanga" was some of the best binaural stereo of this period in Capitol's history. It was reissued in 2000 and paired off with College Concert.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder