Modern Folk Quartet

Live at the Ice House, 1978

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The folk boom of the 1960s had its fair share of progressives, but few were able to lay four-part harmonies over odd time signatures and 1940s jazz motifs as well as the Modern Folk Quartet. While their two "official" albums for Warner Bros. followed the model set by artists like the Chad Mitchell Trio and the Kingston Trio, the Modern Folk Quartet maintained enough of a mischievous edge, despite relying almost exclusively on covers. That said, the records themselves were mostly forgettable exercises in genre banality, but the quartet was a veritable force of nature in front of an audience. Varèse Sarabande has managed to pull from the ashes a 1978 concert at the famed Ice House in Pasadena, CA -- now a comedy club -- where the group often served as the house band. It's here that their strengths are on full display. Whether they're goading the audience into a Hawaiian singalong ("Aloha Oe"), ripping through a sea shanty ("Bonnie Ship the Diamond"), or adapting a Bach chorale ("The Sun Is Like a Big Brass Band"), it's hard not to wish that the Modern Folk Quartet had brought a live audience along with them into the studio.

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