The Kingston Trio

New Frontier

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The Kingston Trio's 14th album for Capitol Records appeared at a time when folk music was changing around them in ways that no one could have predicted just a couple of years earlier. Bob Dylan had not yet charted a record, but he was at Columbia Records and he was writing serious, topical, angry songs that would soon start getting attention; and a rival folk group called Peter, Paul & Mary was starting to make headway with the public doing songs that had a political and philosophical edge. The New Frontier is upbeat, basically cheerful, optimistic music celebrating youth, nowhere more so than on John Stewart's title song, a bold, optimistic celebration of the Kennedy era. The originals are interspersed with familiar standards ("Long Black Veil," which is sung in an almost rollicking manner, contrasting eerily with the Band's version of a decade later), all sung with sweet harmonies and played with winning exuberance. "Greenback Dollar" became a single (and a modest hit) and is the most familiar song here, but the album as a whole matches its most upbeat and lyrical moments. The only break in the mood is the group's version of Ewan MacColl's "The First Time" (best known as "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"), which is gloriously subdued and gentle in every detail of the playing and singing.

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